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When Random Acts of Kindness Aren’t So Random: 3 Tips on Connecting Your Brand to a Movement

Images credit: Sesame Street / Random Acts of Kindness Foundation

You’d be hard-pressed to find a “kindness” pillar in any company’s strategic plan — it’s not exactly part of the corporate lexicon. But that’s just what the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Foundation was promoting when it dominated social media with a coordinated campaign designed to fulfill its mission: encouraging the spread of kindness worldwide.

For the hundreds of brands that participated in #RAKWeek and #RandomActsofKindnessDay in February, it was the perfect pairing of brand storytelling with an authentic, human and timely message. Kindness is cross-disciplinary, after all. And the campaign’s stellar results provide important insights on effective cause marketing.

Coordinating kindness

The RAK Foundation didn’t actually start Random Acts of Kindness Week. That was the creative inspiration of the World Kindness Movement at a meeting that took place some 15 years ago — coincidentally, around the time the RAK Foundation was established. The foundation took a lead role in promoting the global event starting in 2010, and created the social media campaign in 2015.

Building a global campaign with a small staff and limited resources meant leveraging the power of big brands and individuals alike, all with a shared desire to experience and promote positive human connection.

Kindness is contagious

The message clearly hit home. After seeding the campaign with a few influential brands in advance, the message took off. On February 17, #RandomActsofKindnessDay was the #1 top trending hashtag on Twitter with almost 170,000 tweets in one day. The Foundation also crossed Facebook’s 800,000 “like” threshold. By the end of the week, the Twitter campaign had over a billion impressions with a reach of over 600 million.

How did they do it? A powerful, relatable and timely message was key, with kindness providing the perfect antidote to our increasingly negative and cynical public discourse. The results were 100 percent organic.

“It’s easy to forget what connects us,” says RAK Foundation Communications Director Kelsey Gryniewicz. “This campaign reminds companies of that connection, and gives them a no-cost, simple and creative opportunity to share that with their customers.”

All of this is good news for the RAK Foundation, but the bigger story is how brands and individuals from around the globe — corporations, celebrities, influencers and everyday heroes — took the campaign to a whole new level.

How brands amplified the kindness

For Sesame Street, the brand fit was a no-brainer. With a mission of helping kids grow smarter, stronger, and more conscientious, kindness is in its DNA.

“We look for partners who can help us reach more people, share our mission, and accomplish the same good,” said Dan Lewis, Sesame Street’s Director of Digital Marketing. “Every week should be #RAKWeek as far we we’re concerned.”

Sesame Street’s social media team tied #RAKWeek to their communication goals. Using Julia, a character with autism, they talked about accepting differences and celebrating uniqueness. They also connected the kindness message to their environmental story, creating their own version of a popular Oscar the Grouch meme to drive the point home v with over 192K Facebook impressions, five times more than an average Sesame Street post. And by using the #RAKWeek hashtag in every post that week, Sesame Street was able to leverage the reach of the campaign to spread their message to a new audience.

A host of brands “took the idea and ran with it” in ways that connected them to their audience — sometimes serious, sometimes fun and lighthearted: The New England Patriots sent their mascot, Pat Patriot, all over Boston to give out flowers, coffees and smiles; while Verizon gave away free lunches, the Pittsburgh Steelers held a random fan drawing for a player’s helmet, and Columbia Records gave away Hozier music. Scores of celebrities also joined the conversation, including Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Ellen DeGeneres and Beyoncé’s #BeyGood.

Three takeaways for smart cause marketing partnerships

Ripple Strategies spearheaded the outreach for #RAKWeek 2016 and has worked on dozens of other campaigns on behalf of clients with social missions. For purpose-driven brands, there’s a lot to be learned from this particularly successful campaign. We’ve condensed some of this wisdom into three tips:

  1. Join a movement that’s already on the move. A worthwhile cause with built-in momentum provides the perfect opportunity for companies to join in. By leveraging RAK’s timely message and global reach, participating companies forged a powerful connection with a movement, and with the millions of individuals worldwide who wanted to be associated with it.
  2. Make the movement your own. Brands that truly stood out during #RAKWeek took the campaign to new levels, experimenting with creative executions and giving their customers and other audiences creative ways to engage with the campaign, and with the brand itself.
  3. Rethink ROI. Brands that participated in — and benefitted from — RAK Foundation’s campaign were looking beyond sales and profits (Kindness isn’t exactly a line item on quarterly financial statements). What these brands gained was a memorable, human connection with their customers, one plainly devoid of profit motive. This kind of connection pays dividends far down the road in customer loyalty and brand reputation.

Companies today have more ways to tell their brand story than ever before. But for brands looking to build a more authentic connection with their customers, a little kindness goes a very long way.

To learn more about Ripple Strategies’ unique approach to purpose-driven communications, download our white paper, How to use the Media for Social Change.


Shayna is a co-founder and partner at Ripple Strategies, specializing in cause marketing and media campaigns for social change since 2003. An expert in cause marketing campaign strategy and implementation, Shayna helps clients tell their stories, galvanize support and build movements… [Read more about Shayna Samuels]


As co-founder of Ripple Strategies, a communications agency focused on social change since 2003, Glenn Turner brings his background as a technology and finance entrepreneur into play, helping mission-driven brands navigate the complex interplay between business objectives and social…
[Read more about Glenn Turner]


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