The Kindness economy is made up of businesses and corporations that care for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. This includes internal and external individuals that are impacted by the brand or organisation, such as employees, customers and wider social groups. Our job as marketeers is to help organisations present themselves to their target audience in the best way possible and adding social value is now intrinsic to business success. Consumers want more from the companies they spend with, from experience led retail to a guilt-free, convenience led approach to product purchase.
Doing good isn’t just about feeling good. It makes business sense.
Millennials have become the most-powerful consumers in the world, yet 40% of respondents in the 2018 Deloitte Millennials survey stated that the goal of business should be to ‘improve society’ (second only to ‘generate jobs’ in terms of priorities). The 2019 version of this same report indicates that trust in businesses has further dwindled, with the bleakest perception of the economy since the survey began in 2013. It would appear that many brands simply aren’t listening because the chasm is widening.
Millennial perceptions aside, 2019 saw a number of high-street heavy-weights in the UK collapse completely – a fact that cannot be ignored. These more traditional retailers didn’t close from a lack of shopping despite what is said about a tough retail climate – people are still spending – but they stopped listening to the needs of the consumer and took their eye off the ball when it came to the market and customer service. Silent herds started voting with their feet, moving away from the high-street and preferring direct to consumer models that often prioritise social responsibility as well as convenience and quality.
How being kind is shaping the digital landscape
As digital marketing experts, we need to stay in touch with broader shifts in consumer behaviour and business trends, as well those online and this is where we can see the Kindness Economy converge. Many of our favourite websites are built on the sharing of personal experience. Leaving reviews or sharing a relevant link – imparting any information that may benefit someone else – can all be viewed as an act of kindness. As Bill Connerly wrote for Forbes in 2017 – kindness drives the new economy. He was referring to how the eruption of people sharing their thoughts, from how to fix a washing machine to the best places to eat – No-one has to do any of this stuff but they do in order to help someone out.
Surely self-interest is the driving force, not kindness?
It would be naive to say that self-interest isn’t a factor. For every person genuinely trying to help someone else out online, there are people fishing for likes and self-promotion. Businesses are also looking for good PR opportunities as much as they are genuine good causes. And yet, the old school structure of being the biggest and the cheapest isn’t working anymore. Trust with companies and traditional media is at its lowest with an ever sceptical consumer. The only thing that can help to repair that trust is by genuinely aiming higher and doing better.
Research has revealed that businesses within the purpose-driven B Corp movement, are growing 28 times faster than the national economic growth of 0.5%. There is an obvious demand for increased transparency in business practices and greater awareness of corporate social responsibility.
There has been an emerging shift in the value framework that consumers respond to. Price is still a factor but so is fairness with how the company treats people and how the business impacts the planet. This increased awareness of company ethics from the consumer is still in the early stages and there is a long way to go before “more” isn’t the main measurement for success. Nevertheless, change is starting to take place and will continue to become more important to the biggest groups of consumers who are millennials and Gen Z.