Looks like Yahoo is the latest marketer to jump on the resurging "Random acts of kindness" bandwagon, announcing a year-end giving campaign called "You in?" This month, both Clinique and Macy's asked people to commit these random acts on behalf of their brands. And in recent months, Cosmopolitan partnered with Estee Lauder for its Cosmo Karma project, and Servus Credit Union, a Canadian bank, handed out $200,000 in $10 increments to finance small good deeds.
Experts expect to see more marketers work the "Random Acts" thinking, a phrase that last soared in popularity in the mid-'90s, into their cause-related efforts. "It's a natural extension of the trend we've seen among companies to offer consumers choice through their cause programs," says Sarah Kerkian, senior insights associate at Cone Inc., a Boston-based cause-marketing agency. "Consumers get to select the issue or organization the company will donate to, and in some cases, even nominate organizations close to their hearts. It helps shift the consumer cause relationship from passive to active."
For Yahoo, the randomness isn't new: The "You in?" campaign -- which encourages users to post their kindnesses on social media pages to inspire friends and families to do the same -- is an extension of its year-round Purple Acts of Kindness campaign, which has been in place for several years. And the World Kindness Movement, along with its American arm, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, surged in popularity about the same time as did the Spice Girls.
But because of the recession, Kerkian says, the idea of small, inexpensive interventions is gaining new traction. "Americans are so aware of the struggles their neighbors are facing, and there is a real desire to help one another, even at a time when they themselves are facing financial hardships. So the ... approach helps -- it's bite-sized enough that we all can feel a sense of doing good, even if we don't have a lot of charitable dollars to spare."
Kerkian says there is a parallel "think small" trend developing in nonprofits. Smallcanbebig.org, for example, is a Waltham, Mass.-based charity that allows readers to zero in on a specific Massachusetts family they would like to help, sorting through such categories as "Fending off eviction" and "Keeping the power on."
And she says there is also a connection to the increase in marketing campaigns that don't even ask for money, just gratitude. Xerox, for example, is continuing its "Let's say thanks" campaign, which enables people to send personalized thank you's to soldiers, while State Farm's "Thanks for Being There" addresses that area.
This Thanksgiving, Genworth Financial broke a TV campaign called "Ovation," where ordinary caregivers are showered with applause everywhere they go. Genworth has said it intends to run the ads through December, and includes a Facebook fan page for families to post their gratitude for caregivers.
Adds Kerkian: "Giving thanks is another way people can give back, in small ways."