Why B2B brands need to start thinking about ‘The Kindness Economy’

Ledger Bennett Marketing Strategy, Opinion

“The Kindness Economy is a movement for how consumer culture needs (and wants) to change”. Mary Portas, How to Thrive in the New Kindness Economy.

Mary Portas who has coined the phrase ‘Kindness Economy’ ran a TED talk on the subject in December 2019, just a couple of months before the pandemic really got its claws in. Her company, The Portas Agency had already begun to implement changes and embrace more purposeful behaviors. The pandemic gave everything they had been thinking about a new sense of urgency and a deeper understanding that what will get us through most business challenges is in fact human empathy, not clever marketing strategies.

Historically, business has been obsessed with the bottom line. But as Portas says, focusing on growth and profit doesn’t leave much space for human kindness. This idea doesn’t ignore the fact that as businesses of course we need to be commercial and we need to make profit, the change in attitude now though, is that we need to achieve that with human kindness and decency which (largely) isn’t how it’s worked in the past.

This movement has been sped up significantly by the pandemic and sits against the backdrop of increasingly polarising social change we’ve seen become part of the fabric of society, particularly over the last couple of years. #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, climate change, gender pay gap and even the Presidential appointment of a divisive figure like Trump, everything leads back to one message – that things need to change.

The challenges faced through the pandemic have reminded us all of the importance of community; creativity and purpose. Both in life and in business. This reminder needs to stay, and it needs to start to infiltrate the way we think about and conduct all business, whether B2B or B2C. It’s all Business to Human in the end, so brands need to start thinking about how to embrace the kindness economy in their own organization.

This approach may feel more obvious for B2C brands. For B2B, it’s potentially more complex and less immediately clear, but plugging your brand into ‘people culture’ rather than ‘consumer culture’ is a good way to think about it as what we buy, is not who we are – but how we buy is a cultural mirror of how we live, and the last couple of years has seen some of the biggest and most impactful changes on the way we live than we’ve ever seen before.

Full organizational change isn’t going to be solved in a blog post, for simplicity, building authenticity is a great place for B2B organizations to start approaching the idea of the kindness economy, especially if you can begin with a compelling vision and kindness values at your core.

As a starting point, consider the following best practices to convey your company’s authenticity:

Company values

Revisit, or even run a project to rethink your company’s values in line with the idea of kindness. Use them as your North Star when developing any messaging strategy whether internal or external.

Customer centric

Really take some time to consider how the past couple of years have impacted your customers and prospects, how they think and where their biggest challenges lie. Post pandemic marketing will never be the same as it used to be, you need to understand your customers all over again, and understand the impact the pandemic has probably had on their values and how they want to work with, and buy from people.

Consider your language

Clarity, simplicity and honesty have probably never been more important to customers. It’s what they’re hearing in the media, and it’s the language for change that’s being used across so many of the most significant social movements we’ve seen over the last few years. Brands need to embrace that, replicate it and stay consistent.

Develop wholehearted positioning and messaging

According to research from the Economist Group, “three-quarters of business executives seek out content in order to research a business idea (‘substance’), while 93% of marketers focus their content to some extent on connecting directly to a product/service their organization offers (‘marketing’).” There is so much information available today; make sure your content is relevant, helpful and reflects kindness at its core.

Make kindness organization wide, the marketing message will follow

With so many ways to connect with people, an authentic brand can be reinforced, but it can also be diluted. When employees give people mixed messages, online content doesn’t match what people have been told or solutions don’t deliver on their promise, the brand suffers. Keep everyone in the organization up to date on personas, positioning and messaging. Help them understand the value of authenticity in building trust.

What’s next?

The idea of implementing the ‘Kindness Economy’ into your organization will be easier for some than for others, but either way – fundamentally moving the core values of organizations from growth and profit, to kindness and profit has to be on the agenda.

Authenticity, care for others and a genuine sense of corporate social responsibility is no longer a nice to have for a small number of businesses. Thanks to the cultural backdrop we’re all living in, it’s an essential business strategy for survival and success, so you might as well start thinking about it now.