It may seem incongruous, but in hard times, people are becoming more generous. This relates to my previous post on changing social currency. Being less reliant on money for happiness, they’re finding meaning in generosity of spirit - the mutual-support of family and friends. This is apparent in community co-operatives, in a willingness to reduce their working hours, so co-workers can keep their jobs, and, in greater engagement with brands that support communities. Sociologists at Harvard Medical School point to the contagious nature of happiness and generosity, which are transmitted via social networks.
By reflecting consumer values of generosity and kindness and supporting communities, brands stand to gain. For example, I've previously highlighted ColaLife.org, whereby Coke’s global distribution network will help deliver medicines to the world’s poor.
Nestle flooded Tokyo with cherry blossom, as a symbol of goodwill towards exam takers, helping to defuse a highly stressful situation.
Brands that trade on optimism, helping people celebrate the good things in life, will be remembered. In Australia, insurance company IAG’s ‘Unworry’ campaign captures the mood. This is in keeping with theories of social influence. Spending time with positive people - and brands - reinforces positive feelings and behaviour (which is why people have exercise partners).
In general, brands that offer better deals and/or better experiences, helping consumers through tougher times, will generate goodwill.