Branded Acts of Kindness and SXSWi


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There was a common thread at SXSWi in 2014. It was a concept called “Acts of Kindness.”  Rohit Bhargava even went as far a calling it the best marketing strategy of the event,

“Among the chaos and rush, there is one thing that has stood out this year as the ultimate marketing strategy: kindness.”

In my research, there are three types of AOK’s:

acts of kindness

Version 1.0 – Random Act of Kindness – we’ve all seen this type before. Total surprise and delight. Good deeds/unexpected acts such as paying tolls, filling parking meters, buying gas for consumers or picking up the tab. Usually a one-off feel good PR activation. This type draws upon gift economy principles. Giving with no expectation of immediate return, except maybe for potential PR value.

Case in point: Go Daddy picking up meals unexpectedly this year at SXSW.

evan carroll go daddy lunch

This was brought to my attention by Evan Carroll via Twitter. Here’s a picture from Deepina Kapila:

go daddy free meal sxsw

Version 2.0 – Branded Act of Kindness – next level AOK.  Here the item given is usually tied closely with the brand and its positioning.  It’s less random, more planned and potentially a series of activations/experiences.

Case in Point: Zappos nailed this back in 2008 at SXSW. One day it monsooned at the event. Here was Zappos at every entrance at SXSW handing out ponchos. To steal a line from a post in TrendHunter, “When it rained in Austin, it poured ads.”


According to Bhargava this year,

“Everywhere you look here in Austin, the smartest brands are skipping the temptation of putting up big banners and instead offering value, creating moments for people to share ideas freely and connecting them face to face in spaces like 3M’s Idea Exchange Lounge, or Paypal’s Blogger Lounge. Each offers the rare chance to have “lean back” moments where participants can put devices away to just enjoy an experience.”

Version 3.0 – D.N.A. Acts of Kindness – This is kindness imbedded into your brand. What I commonly refer to as a Purple Goldfish. Giving little unexpected extras as part of your product or service. This is rooted in the idea of “added value” to the transaction.  It echoes the sentiment of my recent article in Forbes, “The Future of Marketing – A Little Less Campaign and a Little More Action.” It’s not a campaign focused on prospects, but an everyday practice that’s focused on current customers of your brand.

Cases in Point: Let’s test your knowledge of some of the top brands:

  1. When you check-in to a Doubletree Hotel, you get a ___________
  2. Returning customers to Zappos frequently get shipping upgraded to __________
  3. Renters at Enterprise, have the added benefit to getting  either __________
  4. Flyers on Southwest don’t have to pay for this _____________
  5. Buy a iPod from Apple and you can get it _____________
  6. In addition to fixing a cracked windshield, Safelite will also ___________
  7. At Five Guys Burgers & Fries, you get to help yourself to free ____________
  8. TD Bank stays open _______________
  9. Buy something from L.L. Bean and the product is ______________
(Answers: 1. cookie, 2. overnight, 3. picked up or dropped off, 4. baggage, 5. engraved, 6. wash your windows and vacuum your interior, 7. peanuts, 8. seven days a week, 9. guaranteed for life)

This is kindness embedded into your brand D.N.A. These are the little things that reflect that you truly care about your customers. And similar to the efforts at SXSW this past week, they serve to differentiate your product or service, drive customer loyalty and promote positive word of mouth.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want to see some more brands who embody the Purple Goldfish philosophy? Here are my PG Hall of Famers from the last four years courtesy of Slideshare:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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