It took an unheard, unknown, unheralded virus to improve the levels of compassion, empathy and kindness displayed by human beings. While some old habits will surely resurface but it is hard to argue that humans as a race have generally become kinder towards one another and the world around them.
However, for the past two decades universities and researchers across the globe have been working on discovering a ‘Kindness Gene’ that determines the level of kindness an individual exhibits. The Kindness Gene is the biggest factor followed by a person’s experiences and environmental factors that impact how kind a person is. Simply put Kindness Gene is responsible for higher levels of Oxytocin-a hormone linked to increased trustworthiness, empathy, and selfless behaviour. The variation of the oxytocin receptor is known as the GG genotype. In genetic parlance a person with a GG genotype is more likely to feel and be kinder to others as compared to an AA or AG genotype.
Now this suddenly gives a magic wand to all the big brands and the marketing mavericks who are always on the lookout for such mystical terms that will resonate with the consumers. And if the genesis of such a term is medical science, it just adds to the gravity and credibility. There will be opportunities galore in the health, wellness, FMHG (Fast Moving Health Goods), health tech sectors for starters and not to forget the CSR Initiatives that all organisations are obliged to implement.
If the Kindness Gene is the hook, the four potential segments that can be used to target products, services and offerings are as follows:
Conditional Kindness– This is the most basic form of kindness and is carried out with an expectation in return. It may not always have a selfish intent but is met with disappointment if the favour is not returned. Brands that appear woke and want to be seen addressing cultural biases (race, religion, myths) and prejudices (skin colour, body type, hair loss) can target this segment. They will want to be seen as a brand with a bigger purpose, however they will have to tread with caution. There is a very thin line between being woke and tokenism.
Evident Kindness-This is the most common form of kindness. Human beings inherently are kind, compassionate and empathetic. Incidents, experiences, and uncontrollable factors may have an impact on their levels of kindness. These people choose kindness not because it is rewarding but they genuinely believe it is the right thing to do. Love for animals and caring for their well-being falls in this segment. Brands catering to kids and senior citizens can lean on this kindness. With the kids, it is about inculcating kindness and with the senior citizens it is about being kind to them.
Selfless Kindness- This is the form of kindness which everyone aspires to but seldom achieve. Their intuitive mindset is to think about others, society, and the world at large before even having an iota of thought for self. Organisations like Coca Cola, Nike and Tata, through their products, services, initiatives, and offerings have managed to display selfless kindness. It may appear that a leader brand with heft and legacy will be front runners to achieve this, but smaller brands with the right ambition can also make an impact. It comes from a genuine ethos and value that a brand/organisation believes in and should not masquerade any commercial motives.
Utopian Kindness-This is the ultimate form of kindness which very few aspire, let alone achieve. This literally means being kind to everyone including people who have ridiculed you, betrayed you, caused you hurt and in general let you down time and again. The person with Utopian Kindness is nice to everything- animate and inanimate. Humour has it that this person can have an adorable conversation with his doorknob. It becomes a state of mind and moves from the conscious to the subconscious. Philanthropical organisations like WHO, UNICEF, CRY and NGOs with the right vision and intent operate in this mode.
With the media cohorts slicing the target group even further, reaching the potential audience with varying levels of kindness seems to be a promising prospect.
So, in the not-too-distant future we could have innovative products like Kindness Supplements, Health Apps monitoring your kindness levels through different times and diverse situations and service providers offering discounts depending on how kind you are. Imagine the tagline of a nutraceutical- Health Bhi, Taste Bhi, Kindness Bhi or a Kindness Discount every time you display a certain threshold of kindness.
The R&D and product innovation teams will have their hands full. But the strategic and marketing teams will also be burning the midnight oil conceptualising terms like Kindness Quotient and Kindness Index which could be the manifestation of the Kindness Gene. The media teams can cast their nets wide and then pinpoint to specific audiences to amplify the kindness wave. A medical science discovery, followed by a marketing masterstroke coupled with an evangelist framework can work wonders.
13th of November is celebrated as World Kindness Day annually in a few countries. Going forward with a lot more organisations getting involved with the Kindness Gene, we can have a Kindness Week or a Kindness Month across varied geographies. Social experiments, kindness events, on ground activations can be used to galvanise the kindness wave.
The world does need a lot of kindness to heal and rebound. We are on our way. And then if there is a realisation or we are told often enough that there is a gene in us that does it, it can be fun. It needs the coming together of the scientists, the innovation drivers, the R&D, the marketing, the sales and the communication teams to create a kinder planet. But above all, it is in our DNA.
Kindness Gene, it is about time we tap into.
PS: Try and keep the camera/phone in the pocket while carrying out the kind act. Do not make it a photo opportunity or a selfie moment. Defeats the purpose.
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