Random Acts of Kindness

A new buzzword has come to the attention of global marketers and brand consultants in a random kind of manner. Coined “Random Acts of Kindness”, it features prominently on Trend Watching as a crucial consumer trend to watch out for. Does it warrant any real benefits to brand marketers or is it just another marketing gimmick? Marshall Ward takes a closer look.

Mars Canada Random Acts of Kindness


The definition of Random Acts of Kindness (R.A.K.) goes something like this: human brands prevail in a connected society and for consumers fed up with distant, inflexible and self-serving corporations, any act of kindness by any brand will be well received and hopefully shared amongst recipient’s online community.

For brands, the ever-growing open communications channel both with and between consumers online means it’s become simple for brands to surprise and possibly even entertain audiences. Whether sending a present or responding to consumers’ expressed moods, R.A.K. could prove to be a worthy contender for return on engagement.

However, researchers from the U.K trend company state that just to be clear R.A.K. is not about rewarding customers for tweeting or liking a product, nor is not about giving away free product samples but is deeply seeded in the notion of – as the name suggests – random acts of kindness.

So while consumers are increasingly disclosing their moods and feelings publicly online, via social networking sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, brands are able to access these status updates as they happens, in real-time creating real brand relevance.

“When Biothem Beauty wanted to promote their anti-fatigue cream, they could offer free samples to Twitter users who were saying they were tired at that very moment, making the gesture more relevant and therefore more appreciated,” says Trend Watching head of research and analysis Henry Mason.

Biotherm UK Twitter Offer

With more consumers sharing their experiences with their friends and wider online network, R.A.K. has the ability to spread far beyond its original receiver but brands do need to keep in mind that social media is frequently a very personal space, despite its openly public accessibility.

“For example, when Interflora sent flowers to people who were having a bad day, they needed to check that it was appropriate to reach out to people,” explains Mason. “That’s why R.A.K. only really works for what we call ‘human brands’. Consumers aren’t stupid, and the very social media that enables R.A.K. to be such a winning strategy, also empowers consumers to reject any acts that are seen as overly self-serving.”

Social media commentator and director of strategy and engagement at SR7, Thomas Tudehope, knows all too well the personal versus public debate on social media engagement having worked as the former social media adviser to politician Malcolm Turnbull. He believes that this privacy blur is an inevitable part of online social networking, but without authenticity staging these connections becomes just another blatant avenue for marketing.

“Real conversations between real people build real ideas,” says Tudehope. “Leaving that aside, a profile which seeks to simply propagate the virtues of a product will have less success than those authentic profiles which are engaged in genuine conversation in a sincere fashion,” he adds.

Another example of R.A.K. in action is Vitamin drink Emergen-C’s “Share the Good” campaign. Launched in August 2010, it’s a Facebook app that encourages users to surprise their Facebook friends who need a pick-me-up. Using the app, users “tag” a friend who’s having a bad day, and Emergen-C will mail that person a free sample packet.

Emergen C Share the Goodness

Tudehope believes it’s difficult to determine whether or not this kind of marketing tactic will survive beyond its gimmick stage: “It will take only a highly successful campaign to make it stick as a lasting tool for companies.”

Although he has not come across a campaign that has successfully implemented this kind of strategy in Australia, he believes that brands with a product to sell will find it easier than a service or issues based company. Tudehope says the organisations that appear to be executing the strategy most effectively are charity groups. “That said, with the right simple idea any company can effectively implement this strategy,” he adds.

As far as I can tell, the rules of R.A.K. are pretty simple; be genuine, make it shareable, don’t intrude, be responsive and be thoughtful. As Trend Watching points out, the thing to remember with this marketing strategy is to be compassionate, not crass.

Marshall Ward is managing director at Blue Marlin, Sydney. Republished with permission from trendwatching.com

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