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Alpenliebe Kindness Movement
Alpenliebe is the flagship brand of Perfetti Van Melle, a global manufacturer of confectionery. The rich, milky caramel toffee entered the China market 15 years ago, and was the number one confectionary brand in China in terms of volume.
In 2011, Alpenliebe launched a year-long initiative to catalyze a kindness movement and inspire millions of Chinese youth to appreciate, share stories about and engage in everyday acts of kindness.
Importance for Alpenliebe
Alpenliebe realized that while it was still recognized by consumers, it wasn’t known for anything in particular. It was at risk of becoming perceived as irrelevant and outdated, in a market that was awash with brands creatively engaging with consumers.
The Alpenliebe Kindness Movement was the first step in reviving the brand and helping it stand out in a cluttered market.
Research showed that happiness, kindness and human potential are the most important opportunity areas in which brands can bring about positive change – and in China in particular, young people were looking for warmth, reassurance and kindness.
Moreover, urban Chinese youth needed an outlet for the relentless pressures of China’s economic progress. Alpenliebe provided this to them in the form of the kindness movement.
In his book Marketing 3.0, Philip Kotler mentioned the importance of brands creating an emotional relationship with customers in the digital era:
“Marketers should approach customers as whole human beings with mind, hearts, and spirits, because consumers are looking for solutions to their anxieties about making the globalized world a better place.”
You Zhihai, founder of non-profit 1kg.org – partner to the Alpenliebe Kindness Movement, described kindness as:
“Charitable and kind behavior are not all about giving money. They are more about taking care of others and showing concern for others.”
Acts of kindness define people
Social standing and wealth are important aspects that define people in China. People without these aspects shared that their actions served to define them, and acts of love and kindness increase their dignity.
As one member shared:
“City needs love. We might not have prominent status or earn less than others, but love makes our life more dignified.”
Stories that inspire & shape the world
People shared stories that inspired them believe in positivity and love, as well stories that inspired them to make a difference and shape the world they live in.
A wedding dress designer shared her story:
“I am a wedding dress designer. In the past few years, many beautiful brides have held my hands gracefully when they saw my designs. They told me that I helped them express the romance they had always dreamt of. But what I want to say is that I appreciate all of them. Because they give me the chance to help them design the most significant dresses in their lives, and also the chance to help them fulfill their dreams. Thank you all for sharing the happiness and sweetness with me, and thank you all for letting me witness love and believe in love.”
Another story inspired people to take action and shape the world with their acts:
“There was a postman who rode about 50 kilometers every day, sending joyful or sorrowful stories to thousands of families. The path which he had to take everyday has nothing but dust. “How long will I keep going along such a desolate way?” Until one day he went to a flower shop for a hand of flower seeds, he scattered the flower seeds on the path. Colorful flowers bloomed along the bleak way by the side all four seasons. The fragrance of flowers made villagers more joyful than any mail the postman had delivered. And the post man whistled and rode his bicycle filled with happiness and fulfillment.”
Rich collection of stories
By the end of the campaign, Alpenliebe had collected a rich database of personal stories, stories that resembled old wives tales, and stories picked up from the internet.
One community member shared their reaction on a touching YouTube video:
“I used to see a video on line: A bleeding cat lay by the wheel. This wounded cat might have stopped breathing, but its partner reluctant to leave. He waited there for over two hours. During that time, he tried to save the wounded companion by all kinds of artificial respiration action, such as mouth-to-mouth breath, the chest compression, etc. It seemed that he was waiting for his companion to open his eyes the next second. More people stopped near the cats. Some of them recorded the scene using their phones; others just stood there, witnessed, and felt touched inside…”
Another shared the story of 6 year old Elena Desserich:
“A six year old American girl named Elena Desserich, was suffering from brain cancer. During the last 9 months of her life, she left many notes with paintings and words like I love you and hid them in her father’s briefcase and mother’s handbag without their notice. Some notes had been sandwiched between books or plugged in the corner of wardrobe and cabinet filled with bowls and planet. Some of them had even been hidden in the corner and gap of relatives & families (sic). They started to sort Elena’s articles after she died, the tears blurred their eyes when they found those notes.”
Local stories, local pride
A theme of local pride emerged as people shared kindness stories from smaller towns and cities, where local communities had rallied together to make a difference.
One community member shared the story of a vegetable farmer in Changchun:
“A seventy-nine-year old vegetable farmer from Jiu Tai, Ji Lin, is often seen riding a motor tricycle, carrying his forty-year old son, who is suffering from epilepsy, selling green onions on Changchun street. One traffic officer ran into this during his shift, and determined to help the old man sell green onions. As this moving story spread, more and more citizens followed the example of the traffic officer. Many passers-by left 10 – 20 RMB quietly on the old man’s booth and walked away. The deeply moved vegetable famer said gracefully: ‘Changchun is filled with human touch. It’s the friendliest city!’”
Another, shared a story about the kindness of people from Wenzhou:
“Right after the accident of train D3115 happened, a non-profitable community ’ firefly volunteer’ gathered more than forty private cars, volunteering as shuttle bus for families of the injured. Taxi drivers volunteered to join them and offered to transport people for free. Furthermore, any Weibo about wanting more volunteers received many positive responds from Wenzhou citizens. Many citizens queued to donate blood that very night. Kind Wenzhou people proved by actions that they are more of a united and kind group of people than just good at doing business.”
Inspiration from animals
Several participants in the kindness movement shared inspiring stories of kindness amongst animals.
One community member shared the story of dolphins protecting humans:
“Maybe you have seen the cute dolphins in the zoo, known they are best friends of ours. But that isn’t all. In the field of New Zealand seas, a group of dolphins suddenly surrounded swimmers into a circle. When the circle concrete strong, the dolphins started to arouse spray in the sea. The people in the water found out a group of shark were closing to them after seeing the dolphins’ aggressive behavior. The kindness dolphins were protecting human being in their own way at the desperate hours.”
People from the greater online community pointed out that humans should learn compassion from these stories. As YouTube user blunter1929 commented on the video of the two cats:
“Animals are better than humans real talk”
YouTube user Daniel Ecoff commented:
“Compassion. Something Humans need to practice more !!!!”
The Kindness Bible
The most popular of the stories shared were compiled to create Kindness Bibles. 300,000 copies of the book were distributed during Alpenliebe’s seasonal sales promotion around the Chinese New Year.
Candy and kindness
Alpenliebe encouraged people to share their “sweet moments” with Alpenliebe during the movement, and also received stories in which candy was used to spread kindness.
As one community member shared:
“After working overtime till 1am, my head started spinning. But I still had to push the last mile for the proposal tomorrow. So I went to toilet to wash my face, tried to refresh myself a bit. When I got back, I saw a box of candy on my desk! My team mates were still working in front of their computers and no one said anything. Suddenly I felt so warm in my heart. Maybe this was what we called team spirit.”
The emotional connect with kindness, and the campaign’s widespread reach both online and offline translated into a 16% increase in sales revenue. 151,000 kindness stories were shared, and 8.7 million people touched.
Trend: crowdsourcing kindness and cheer
Alpenliebe’s success with its Kindness Movement in China shows that kindness is an attribute that is in demand globally, and one that can lead to an increase in sales.
As Henry Mason, head of research and analytics at independent firm Trendwatching commented:
“For consumers long used to (and annoyed by) distant, inflexible and self-serving corporations, any acts of kindness by brands will be gratefully received.”
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