Customer, Now. 04

We before me

We go deeper with customers to discover a growing sense of gratitude as a function of interdependency.

Showing gratitude is said to have very real health and life benefits. And yet, it feels a bit “soft” on the surface. Saying “thank you.” Appreciating others. Acknowledging the positive impact other people have on you. It’s all very feel good stuff. Further, showing gratitude is logically secondary to the primary action someone shows gratitude for, i.e., someone does something kind and THEN someone acknowledges it. By nature, showing gratitude is a return for kindness invested.

However, what happens when the return is greater than the investment? When gratitude becomes greater than the primary action? Can gratitude for others overtake self-interest as motivation?

We are seeing an interesting human truth emerge through COVID-19, where gratitude is self-interest. Where people are realizing their self-interest is more than simply connected to others’ wellbeing, but others’ wellbeing is GREATER THAN my own self-interest.

This is very meta stuff. But it’s also quite simple: When the quality of my survival is dependent on the quality of yours, I NEED you to do well. I NEED you to be healthy for my health. I NEED you to keep your distance, wash your hands, not come into work when you’re sick…so that I stay healthy. I NEED you to return to work…so I can go to a restaurant, travel, socialize, etc.

People are increasingly realizing their impact on others and others’ impact on them. At a rate and global scale never before experienced. Beyond debates of independent vs. collective responsibility, we are seeing an increased recognition of interdependence…for survival.

We need each other. Beyond emotional love and belonging, we need each other in an important functional shift to an idea we’ll call “self-reliant interdependency”, i.e., I must do my duty to maximize my own survival, but so must you and you and you to maximize mine (not to mention your own). Individual actions create a greater collective outcome AND a better individual result.

When we see our success as a function of others’, we can’t help but show gratitude. To encourage others in my own survival. It’s in our best self-interest to do so: gratitude as motivation; as a way of survival; as a need serving our own interdependent self-interests…by prioritizing others. There is no greater health and life benefit…putting we before me.


Agreed with the statement

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has made me realize how grateful I am for others in my life.’


Agreed with the statement

‘Covid-19 has taught me how much we all rely on one another’

“This experience is what we needed to remember that without each other and all aspects of workers, we are nothing.”

“It has made us a community to support the wearing of masks and social distancing and thinking of others before our selves so that we won’t get sick or others won’t get sick.”

“Everything I rely on to make my life normal is because of countless others. If those people stopped working or became ill, my life would be much worse off and more difficult.”

“It takes so many people to make things happen, and you also realize how peoples jobs are dependent on other people. Many who are out of work are because people can’t come interact with their business.”

“I know that we are all interdependent upon one another, but seeing how much others are willing to make sacrifices for those suffering shows me that we cannot make it if we don’t look out for our community.”

“This situation has made me think more about community and how I fit into it instead of being in my own personal bubble.”


Gratitude as the center of gravity.

As people increasingly practice gratitude as a function of their interdependency, brands need to do the same. Traditionally, businesses have demonstrated acts of corporate philanthropy and sustainability, executed as charitable extensions of the business, at best, tied to a brand’s purpose. Moving forward, we see a need and opportunity to build gratitude and interdependency into the business model – making shifts in their business to mirror those of their customers.

We offer the following simple framework as a way to understand where and how brands can create more meaningful — and mutually beneficial — exchanges of value with their customers.

My world

People’s most intimate and connected world.

A world of introspection (where we’ve been spending A LOT of time recently) and a world of the most meaningful connections to those closest to us. How can brands enter this world to help us adapt to the physical constraints we are experiencing between us and our loved ones. This is the world most guarded, most valuable and one in which people are unwilling to sacrifice their connection to those closest to them.

Our world

The world people rely on…increasingly so.

This is where we see the biggest shift toward elevated levels of interdependence.  This world has become much more important to people as they realize how much they depend on others and others depend on them.  This is the world where brands may have the biggest and new opportunities to help their customers meet changing needs.  However, this will require the biggest shifts for most brands that don’t have gratitude and interdependence built into their business.

The world

The world people see in the media.

It is the greater context in which people live and where people also have the least control.  While this world is the biggest stage, it is where the biggest gaffes can be made.  This is where the Marketing Machines of the past will have the biggest difficulty adapting to the changes happening with their customers in “our world” and “my world.”

Brands need to be thinking about how they show up in all three of these worlds – consistently and yet adapted to the context of each. Gratitude provides a center of gravity for brands in all three worlds. However, practicing gratitude is where brands arguably have the least experience and face the biggest challenges. Gratitude is so quickly and easily seen as insincere. But the brands that can demonstrate gratitude – beyond gestures – as actions essential to their business will better match their customers’ needs now and in the longer-term.