What’s More Important To Your Business?

What’s more important to your business…?

Deep behavioral analytics of your customer’s every engagement with you that are then fed with all your appropriate Brand messaging linked to your ROI and internal processes…

Or

Employees, who in their own day-to-day behavior, act in compassionate, kind and caring ways towards your customers – ignoring, perhaps, the very analytics, ROI and process that you think define your Brand.

Bill Taylor asked that same question in a post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network where he posits that “It’s More Important to Be Kind than Clever.”

This is a must read for all, as its message resonates way beyond business; way beyond technology and analytics; way beyond ROI; and way, way beyond how many look at Branding. In fact, I believe the insight is core to our very existence as humans and it’s a message that gets lost in our frenetic, frantic belief that somehow digital social connectivity has changed the DNA of our deepest personal interactions.

Taylor shares a beautiful and simple story of a manager at a Panera Restaurant whose seemingly small act of compassion towards a very sick woman delivered a swell of Facebook responses and the usual following swell of “expert” commentary on the power of social media and “virtual word of mouth” to boost a company’s reputation.

No doubt this little mini-case will be used by some to justify marketing spending and others to “prove” Brand power.

Taylor takes a counterview and suggests that there is “the hunger among customers, employees, and all of us to engage with companies on more than just dollars-and-cents terms. In a world that is being reshaped by the relentless advance of technology, what stands out are acts of compassion and connection that remind us what it means to be human.”

I will go a step further – I can make the company/brand liking itself to more than a commerce case and go back years and years to prove that point – ever see the movie Miracle on 34th Street? Macy’s, a US-based retailer, latched onto the compassionate and turned themselves into the Brand that represents the “true spirit” of Christmas and some 150 years later is still successful, with a new movie and a parade that is still viewed around the world.

However – the point here is well beyond brand. Of course you can make the case that the Brand encourages that kind of behavior from its employees – that its website is all about caring and little acts of the same. And that its marketing efforts are boosted by that behavior.

But it is the employee that makes the difference – not the Brand. And I believe we are all craving human acts that seem somehow revolutionary in their execution – think Hunger Games (“They needed someone to set the whole thing in motion.  They needed you.”) – that help us remember who and what we are. People – not postings in some social network.

It amazes me that so many still don’t get it. Social media and “virtual word of mouth” (as opposed to real word of mouth…come on!) exist, as I have written before, because we are human; because our DNA demands it; because it is what makes us the species we are.

Technology is an amplifier and an efficiency mechanism. And Brands are stories we tell and share – the best last; the rest fade into oblivion.

Panera was lucky – you cannot program compassion; you cannot create business rules for sympathetic response; you cannot make kindness a corporate program driven by ROI. You either encourage the right behavior or you don’t, and you hope that you have hired the types of people who don’t just represent your Brand – they represent the best there is in all of us.

Imagine what a better world this would be if the behavior of one wonderful person in a small store somewhere was viewed as SOP (standard operating procedure) for the human race instead of a major marketing coup – and personally I find that it wasn’t to be a sad commentary on who and what we have become.

Two quotes to end today…listen:

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” Simone de Beauvoir

Read as: nothing has value unless we attribute value to the life of others….

And the second…:

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” Dalai Lama

Read as: not even brands can survive….

The message?

Seems to me it’s pretty simple – value is driven by human passion – not by Digital contact….

So I thank Bill Taylor for writing this piece and I thank my dear friend and teacher Sam K. for having called it to my attention.

What do you think?

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