Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 25, 201411:55 PM

Be Kind To Brands

My holiday wish: be kind to brands.

I know what you're thinking. For some, it's a holy day. Should we not be saying that a better holiday wish might be: brands should be kinder to their customers? No. I would argue (happily) that brands should always be thinking about new and better ways for them to be kinder to their consumers. This is the true brand imperative. Today, on this holiday, as we (especially, in Canada) get primed for Boxing Day, we need to be thinking about how we - as consumers - interact with brands. There are going to be line-ups of people looking to buy stuff on special. There are going to be line-ups of people trying to return gifts that they don't love. There will not be enough inventory of some items that everyone really wants. The weather may even make us crankier than normal. It's easy to hop on Twitter and blow a digital gasket. Perhaps, if not for a moment, don't.

Why be nice?

It's easy to think of businesses as being cold and heartless. Especially, when things are busier than normal, or it feels like all they're trying to do is to make a quick buck (and, doing so with as little impunity and recourse as possible). That's what the next few weeks are like. It's a great, big fire sale to get rid of everything from this past year, before the New Year rolls in and it's time to re-stock the shelves with a bunch of newer and shinier flashy objects to grab our collective attention. Say what you will about capitalism, democratic society and consumerism, but this is the standard cycle of business, how things go and the human condition. We - as consumers - tend to forget the human part. We become savages to get that extra fifteen percent off, and barbarians when the return line gets too long, or the sales associate can't bend the company policy in our favor. Still, remember, this is the holiday season, not Lord of the Flies.

Be kind to brands, because we all are a part of what makes the brand work.

This is the work that we do. This is the new-ish way of thinking that gets us all excited. Around the time that I first started blogging (2003), it became apparent to me (mostly after reading The Cluetrain Manifesto that what makes marketing so appealing and interesting to me, was the idea that brands can (finally) shift away from shouting at people, to the newly-available opportunity of creating real interactions between real human beings. It was this humanization of business - and how it connects in a world where every consumer is connected to one another - that the best brands could truly thrive. On one hand, this new way of thinking would force businesses to be on guard - and more transparent. On the other hand, it would enable the marketplace to come alive. Alive with conversation, reviews, perspectives, instruction, assistance, collaboration, engagement and more. For the most part, this has come to pass. It's happening. It's exciting. And, with each passing day, more and more businesses are realizing the value and merit of this opportunity. They're also beginning to see it much more of an opportunity as opposed to a threat. It's changing business in the best possible way.

Where this leaves us.

Goodwill to all. Let's not leave our goodwill at home when we go to work. Let's not leave our goodwill at home when we go shopping or try to buy anything. Let's not forget our goodwill when it may be easier to elbow our fellow human being in the head for that last Zoomer Dino on the shelf. Let's not forget our goodwill when there is something we can do about it, even it may just be easier to push that consumer off with the all-too-tired, "I'm sorry, but that's our company policy." We all might argue that brands are not human beings, and that they should not be afforded the same rights as human beings. Fine. We all should never argue that brands are still made up by people like you and I. These people are not evil (and least, the vast majority of them are not), because these people that work for brands are our family, friends, neighbors and fellow human beings.

Let's ask for more.

We have an opportunity. And, let's not just think like this because it's the holiday season. That opportunity is right in front of us. We can laugh at this sentimental way of thinking, or we can be the change that we want to see in this world (as someone once, so brilliantly and famously, said). We can push our fellow human beings. Not to get ahead of them in line at the store, but to raise the bar. To treat one another in a way that is respectful and valuable. To be equals. Great brands don't just thank their clients for their patronage. Great brands celebrate their employees and develop them into better world citizens. Great brands encourage their customers to be more (not just to buy more). Maybe, we can spread this way of thinking in business to all the players. Kindness could well be a great place to start.

Happy Holidays.

By Mitch Joel

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