What does that ‘need’ look like? Down and out, a home crushed from a natural disaster, job loss, medical matter, need for information, an elderly person unable to drive for the groceries or change the light bulb, or someone just plain depressed over the loss of a loved one.
There are many reasons why someone needs to receive an act of helpfulness or kindness, but this is not about challenging you to do more of that. Person-to-person helpfulness is simpler to ascertain, isn’t it?
When you put helpfulness into the same discussion with branding, then the understanding is somewhat blurred. Humanity is helpful; is a brand?
Helpfulness is an element of our heart core. Within you as a human, your heart core is a desire to be kind, genuine and helpful. It forms your person, it becomes your personality, and it is visible in your aura. What’s also apparent is whether this helpfulness philosophy is genuine, or not.
Helpfulness in Branding
On The Heart of Marketing podcast, John Gregory Olson and I discuss branding frequently. It still confuses me when a business becomes a brand and whether to use ‘brand’ instead of ‘business’ in conversation.
As I’m in public relations at my core, branding is more marketing, and my work is to build relationships and position the brand. Kind of like splitting hairs, right?
To position a brand to an audience, it needs to be understood, clarified, dissected, and storified.
Culturally, is your brand helpful?
This is a huge question because there are three anchor words that need to be addressed before the question gets answered:
- Culture – How does your company behave? Is it out for the bottom line with worker bees and robots that have no personality and are merely oriented to the bottom line? Is it an environment like the failed Zenefits that had young people partying in the stairwells and drinking adult beverages daily in the workplace? Or is it a culture that wants to be designated “best workplace” by its employees, like Radio Flyer?
- Brand – A business becomes a brand. When a business is born, it is not a brand. There is no recognition, credibility or history of activity to make it memorable to consumers. A business earns its brand, and culture has a lot to do with it. When people are asked their opinion about Brand X and there is an immediate reaction, whether positive or negative, then that business has earned its brand.
- You’re asked your opinion of Foot Locker. Immediately, you envision the store in the mall with tons and tons of Nike shoes lining the window and walls. Maybe you bought your favorite pair of shoes there, or maybe your experience was negative due to customer service. Regardless, you recognized the ‘brand’ based on your retail experience and recollection of the interaction.
- How about TOMS? Did you know that TOMS is probably one of the very most helpful and giving brands you’ll find? In fact, (extracted directly from its website)
“One For One:Through your purchases, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need.”
I bet you were able to visualize TOMS shoes and even perhaps its blue flag adorning the brand. Maybe you read an interview by the founder and chief shoe giver, Blake Mycoskie, who created the One for One business model? You recognized the brand based on your impression from reading, purchasing, trying on the shoes, interacting, and becoming a customer.
- Now think of Rocky’s Boots. Anything? Exactly. What comes to mind is the movie series with Sylvester Stallone, right? There is no recollection or image of Rocky’s Boots, not even online, because that business doesn’t exist. It’s not a brand because it’s not a business. Had it been a business, it would need to work hard to create a memorable brand among customers.
- Helpful — Like the description above, being helpful is simple to understand when you break it down on an individual basis. One person can give to another person simply and genuinely. That pattern of giving and that pattern of giving selflessly become human nature. If it feels good, and you can make another feel better, then rinse and repeat, right?
With a brand, helpfulness is not so simple. Unless the culture of a brand is to be helpful, then that act of giving will not emanate from the corner office.
Helpfulness begins in the heart. It begins in an individual’s heart.
That individual, perhaps the president, chief officer, or unit director, need to push helpfulness forward so another’s heart embraces the philosophy of helpfulness.
The Bottom Line And Helpfulness
So, is there a place for helpfulness when the company is oriented to a profitable bottom line?
If you are asking that question, then your brand has much to do.
- You’ll need to identify whether helpfulness already has a place in your culture and if it doesn’t, then you need to find the path toward helpfulness.
- Select the individuals who have naturally embraced helpfulness as part of their heart core. They won’t be hard to find IF your own heart core is oriented to helpfulness.
- Strike the balance. Absolutely positively can a brand enjoin helpfulness into its culture and influence a profitable bottom line.
Because human nature at its purest includes helpfulness, your role as a leader in business is to peel away the hardened shell to find the soft middle and consistently make cultural change inside that creates wonder outside.
In my Chicago agency days, each public relations firm did pro bono work, much like lawyers. It was a necessary practice to give back to the community, but it wasn’t without the intent to get something in return. This is not true helpfulness.
Quarterly, corporations have a giving day. Employees are allowed to take the day off and volunteer at a local charity for the day whilst still earning a paycheck. Is this helpfulness? From the corporate perspective, it completes the need for community giving, and it may or may not be deemed truly genuine. From an employee perspective, being helpful in a community is difficult because the day belongs to an employer, so the ability to ‘take the day off’ and donate time can be deemed helpful.
If a company culture is oriented to giving consistently and not on a given day, then helpfulness is part of the very fabric of that culture. It spreads throughout the heart core of each employee, and it becomes part of the mission.
Go back to the mission statement. Is helpfulness part of the mission, vision, and values of your company? Is it part of your culture? If it’s missing from either, then there is, indeed, more work to do.