5 Jan 2009

The lost art of kindness

I’d like to share with you a truly brilliant essay published in the Guardian Review dated Saturday 3rd January.


The article runs to some nine pages so allow me to summarise: kindness is dead.

Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor (just Taylor, not Bradford) put it much more eloquently:

“Most people appear to believe that deep down they (and other people) are mad, bad and dangerous to know; that as a species - apparently unlike other species of animal - we are deeply and fundamentally antagonistic to each other, that our motives are utterly self-seeking and that our sympathies are forms of self-protectiveness.

Kindness - not sexuality, not violence, not money - has become our forbidden pleasure. In one sense kindness is always hazardous because it is based on a susceptibility to others, a capacity to identify with their pleasures and sufferings. Putting oneself in someone else's shoes, as the saying goes, can be very uncomfortable. But if the pleasures of kindness - like all the greatest human pleasures - are inherently perilous, they are none the less some of the most satisfying we possess.”

I believe there is a learning herein for, believe it or not, brands. Yes, brands - the very pillars of capitalism. The economic downturn represents a great opportunity for brands to show some compassion and understanding for their consumers (and store up some goodwill while they’re at it).

‘Nichetributes’ are a great example of how they could do this. The brilliant http://www.trendwatching.com/ coined the term, which denotes attributes/features/additions to existing products, making them more attractive to specific user groups, while at the same time signalling to those users that the brand ‘gets’ it, that it cares. For consumers, anything practical and useful will go down well in these leaner times, while anything that speaks their language will be reciprocated with appreciation and goodwill.

N.B. This trend is NOT about tailoring your advertising message; it IS about tailoring your product.

So, there you have it. Be kinder. If there’s a better New Year’s resolution out there, I’ve yet to hear it. NG