There is definitely a new bandwagon everyone from here to Timbuktu is jumping on and it's almost toppling over. Kindness seems to be the hottest ticket in town and brands are falling over themselves to get a piece of this marketing magic.
Now, traditionally, businesses have always been focused on gaining customers and growing their business by using hard-hitting sales campaigns and measuring strict ROI. But what a wealth of forward thinking companies, such as Waitrose and Pret, now understand, is the added benefit to their business by just being kind. Without a shadow of a doubt those days of hard hitting bottom lines and snaring sales techniques to lure unwilling customers to sign up to 12-month contracts are gone. Instead, those who are savvy enough now take a softer and kinder approach to business, gaining brand loyalty and repeat customers off the back of just being a nice old' bunch.
Being an avid 'nice guy' myself and now making a living out of doing good deeds, I can completely relate and empathize with this strategy. I know for a fact that we live in a society where we have been conditioned to think that accepting kindness from strangers is wrong; that there's always a catch. "You don't get anything in life for free" was the hard-hitting motto I was brought up on in my household. You work for every pound and pay your taxes on time. You want something; work for it. Yet, in this seemingly baron landscape of ignoring the good nature of others, we have unfortunately become somewhat resistant to kindness. Unwilling to accept a kind gesture on the basis that they want something in return.
So when a company or brand offers you a free coffee, just because they feel like it, most people's initial and pre-set reaction is "no thanks". I've seen it myself. Spending a year paying it forward, I've had countless rejections for my kind gestures. Buying a coffee for a complete stranger isn't as easy as you think. Trust me, I've done it plenty. You would not believe the amount of times I've had abuse hurled at me for simply trying to be kind. So imagine what happens when a company tires this!
Pret, the leading high-street coffee shop, have confessed that they allow staff to give away free coffee to anyone they choose; a simple nod to kindness to perk up somebody's day. Yet they get nothing directly in return for their gesture, they're just sending out a simple message - that they care. They care about their customers and those they do business with so much that they are willing to give away a free coffee to prove it.
I myself am yet to go on the wondrous free coffee pilgrimage and to be honest, I'm pretty intrigued to try and snag one. However, it does seem a little self-seeking to traipse the streets of London in search of the Holy Grail of the moment. Much like a verified tick on twitter, it looks as if gaining a free coffee from Pret has become somewhat of a temporary symbol, a status in our bizarre social culture and something to brag about online. And of course there are those hitting Twitter and Facebook in anger, the ones not deemed worthy of this freebie. Naturally and ironically this almost goes against what Pret wanted. They've created a divide - those worthy of kindness and those not.
It's a catch 22 really, in non-ironic terms, because we're told that there's always a catch when something free is attached. So overcoming this initial reaction is, of course, pretty tough for brands to overcome. We at our core are skeptical individuals but as the 'Pay it Forward' and kind conscious mentality flourishes, accepting corporate kindness is becoming less alien and more expected. We have come to understand and appreciate the dancing world of marketing and its ever-changing landscape.
In today's society, that no longer means big adverts with an 'As seen on TV' sticker. It's simple moves like writing your name on a cup or walking down the isle with you to find that missing product from your list. The human factor of kindness one would come to expect from their friends is now, the new tool to enticing you into a store. And more interestingly, when we don't receive a level of kindness that we expect, there can be a terrible backlash.
Personally I think it's a great idea, but one that has to be approached with caution. Kind is swiftly becoming the new cash. A currency exchanged for loyalty and brand affiliation. Those days of taking a free coffee and expecting to pay for it somewhere down the line are slowly diminishing and we are now, slowly, getting used to the idea that even big corporations care about us. Well, in terms of their brand anyway. So next time a company or indeed an individual offers you something for free, take it and then pay it forward. Because who needs money when you have manners?