Cashing In On Kindness

Kindness Is Your Currency

At first, it seemed like a tried-and-true idea – aligning a shopping mall brand with good will.  In today’s tough economy, the standard “come to our mall” pitch wouldn’t likely work; especially in light of the fact that a much larger destination with highly recognizable brand name stores was about to open in the same community.

“Through ‘Kindness Is Your Currency,’ we will reward people who already spend time and money to support organizations in our community,” said Larry Hunt, Property Manager of The Summit. “But more importantly, we want to encourage others to be kind as well. These are challenging times and we want people to focus on the positive, get out and help each other.”  The campaign could be monitored through their “Kindness Is Your Currency” website, a Facebook page, twitter account and “numerous Reno blogs”.

A shopping mall dedicating its resources to create a campaign that encourages and acknowledges random acts of kindness?  Shocking, in a way, given the tough economic climate we’re all facing – let alone the advancement of real competition in the retail market locally.

I applaud The Summit for engaging their agency to do something different that might have a positive effect on us all.  The launch of their “Kindness Is Your Currency” campaign was both brave and innovative.

But then came the monetary payoffs for this random kindness:

Kindness Is Your Currency-1

They were never shy about this pay-off aspect of the campaign, and made it perfectly clear at the onset that not only is kindness a currency, but that you could be rewarded with shopping incentives for engaging acts of kindness in your daily life.

“Karma Cards” were  issued to individuals “caught in the act” of kind deeds.  These Karma Cards, unsurprisingly are retail marketing mechanisms to drive traffic to their retailers: 15% off coupons at Dillard’s, etc.  In addition, they also served as “drawing tickets” for final prizes that include The Summit gift cards, a top prize of $3,000, two $1,000 prizes and two $500 prizes.

So there you have it.  Kindness is apparently a physical currency as well.  Be kind to your fellow wo/man, and you might be rewarded with cash and prizes.  What kind of message is that about those acts of kindness that go unrewarded?  What motivation might inspire new acts of kindness based on the desire to be recognized?

As an avid supporter of non-profits, with a deep personal appreciation for the rules of Karma, I’m conflicted about this whole retail manipulation of something that should be ingrained in our personalities – and not positioned as a promotional campaign for a shopping mall.

While they may have their retail oriented hearts in the right place – why is it necessary to physically reward anyone with shopping money for something we should all do as part of our daily lives without compensation?  Doesn’t it take a bit away from the Pay It Forward philosophy that the act is the reward itself?

If I follow the logic, the reason I may now engage in a random act of kindness is in hope that I’ll be recognized on the campaign’s site and be physically rewarded with cash?  What does that say about those acts of kindness that are done without expectation of reward and return?  Granted – this is retail, and you can’t simply have a “do good” campaign out there for the sake of promoting goodness – there must be a financial payoff.  But is that a smart marketing position for a retail mall to take, however altruistic its intent may have been?

A shopping facility of this size and nature must spend its marketing and advertising dollars wisely; and they’ve dedicated a great deal of budget and energy to positioning themselves as the “kindness” place to shop.  But I’m concerned that this kind of positioning may not be sustainable – and kindness may run its campaign course when the chill of the holiday shopping season arrives.  Will kindness be tossed aside for the consumer dollar then?  And if it’s not sustainable – does it make The Summit appear as though they leveraged good deeds for the sake of short-term retail sales?

As I mentioned, I’m conflicted here, and welcome your thoughts and perspective on this effort – whether positive or negative.  What do you think about this campaign?

One Response to “Cashing In On Kindness”

  1. Says: tracking back – Cashing In On Kindness… tracking back – Cashing In On Kindness…

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