September 7, 2012
There is a justifiably popular cupcake shop between my house and the supermarket, which I visit from time to time with my daughter. On her birthday this year, we dropped in to pick up a solitary cupcake so we could sing happy birthday to her after dinner. We walked to order our little cake and my daughter was quick to announce it was her birthday; we were then told about the store's policy that birthday girls get a cake for free. The customer behind us was so impressed by the store's generosity she bought my daughter another cupcake so "mummy could have one too".
Since then, we can't drive past the shop without my daughter pointing and yelling "that's the place we got two free cupcakes". Needless to say, we return often.
Small retailers have always used random acts of kindness to enhance customer loyalty. Increasingly, larger retailers and brands are trying to do the same.
Last year the finance company ING Direct - as part of their Charles the Orangutan campaign - shouted random customers of Crust Pizza a free order. The promotion wasn't advertised. My husband turned up one Thursday evening to be told our two pizzas with garlic bread were free courtesy of ING Direct. (The order didn't come with a free trip to the gym afterwards, but I'm quibbling.)
Last week at a trendwatching seminar in Sydney, I heard about how global brands are surprising and delighting customers with random acts of kindness. These RAKs are often facilitated by social media. Like Kleenex Israel contacting individuals through Facebook and inviting them to send a sick friend a surprise care package (the sick were identified through their status updates). Or Kotex Israel sending customers boxes of goodies based on the content of their Pinterest pages. (Is Israel a RAK hotspot for some reason?)
According to trendwatching, these RAKs work to humanise brands. Their aim is to enhance brand awareness and loyalty through surprise and delight. "For customers, long used to (and annoyed by) distant, inflexible and self-serving corporations, any acts of kindness by brands will be gratefully received," trendwatching tells us.
Why don't retailers do this more often? Australians are becoming increasingly jaded with loyalty programs that are complex and deliver blah benefits. RAKs might be one way to warm the hearts of the increasingly cautious consumer.