The KIND Snacks company recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. In honor of this exciting birthday, founder Daniel Lubetzky released his book, Do the KIND Thing, which discussed his belief in the idea that it is possible to both do well and do good. KIND was founded on the principle of providing healthy and delicious snacks while also making the world a better place. How is it attempting to do that? The mission is right in the product name: by spreading kindness.
It may sound surprising a company who sells tasty and nutritious snacks could have been formed with social impact goals at its core, but it is precisely through these bars—and the message these bars send—that founder Daniel Lubetzky has set out to change the world. Through KIND’s AND philosophy, PSFK explains, Lubetzky urges all of us to “challenge conventional wisdom through the dual pursuit of objects that are in a fight for attention with one another.”
Snacks, Lubetzky believes, should be both healthy and taste good. Companies should be able to provide a valuable, successful service and inspire positive change in the process. It is possible, he says, to both make money and do good. That good-doing need not come after a company finds success. Rather, companies can be founded on the principles of doing good in conjunction with the rest. It is why Lubetzky calls KIND a not-only-for-profit business.
The KIND Movement, as it is called, encourages KIND customers to commit acts of kindness in their communities. “Big act or small, we encourage it,” the website says, “from writing a letter to someone who inspired you to planting thousands of trees to simply taking the time to say ‘thank you.’”
Lubetzky’s father, a Holocaust survivor, inspired him to begin this movement. When his father was starving in a concentration camp, he was once given a scrap of food by a soldier who noticed his suffering. While it may not sound significant, Lubetzky says this was an incredible risk for that soldier and it was acts of kindness like this that helped his father through it all.
The Movement seeks to conquer seemingly simple tasks that could have profound effects on people’s day-to-day lives. “How can we make people smile more?” and “Why does kindness make humans happy?” are questions posed on the KIND website.
One way it begins to answer these questions is by hosting kindness events, such as a recent partnership with Zulily to host Kindness Safari at zoos throughout the United States. The event was part of the Kind Parents, Kind Kids initiative and sent kids on a kindness-themed scavenger hunt though the zoo. The activity encouraged acts of kindness, such as asking kids to write a thank you note to the caretaker of their favorite animal.
This past May, KIND launched an initiative in honor of National Military Appreciation Month. They encouraged consumers to tweet a thank you message to a soldier with the hashtag #thankskindly, and turned all tweets into handwritten notes. The KIND team later delivered those notes to deserving military and veterans around the country, and each tweet resulted in a $1 donation to military nonprofit Cell Phones For Soldiers, up to $10,000.
KIND also encourages customers to share the kind things they do with the hashtag #kindawesome. Photos and text shared with this hashtag appear on a special page on the KIND website.
Every month, KIND donates $10,000 to a different crowd sourced charity, suggested and voted for by the KIND community. All of this perpetuates the concept most lauded by consumers today: co-creation. Consumers want a say in what their favorite companies are doing. KIND not only gives consumers a say, but it gives them an opportunity to have a hand in doing good.
Through this philosophy, KIND has established itself as a very special type of omnichannel brand. Here, I do not only use omnichannel as a reference to the combined digital and physical strategies that lead to sales, but rather as a reference to the holistic presence the message to be kind has given the brand. When customers hold open doors for their friends, KIND is in their heads. When they plant a tree or write a thank you note, KIND is on their minds. When they want to raise money for their favorite charity, they can go to KIND for help.
Of course, KIND takes it many steps further by allowing them the ability to share those acts with hashtags and attend special kindness events. Thus, a more complete type of omnichannel then we’d even think possible. KIND provides customers emotional satisfaction through doing good, social satisfaction through sharing those deeds, and physical satisfaction through providing good food that’s good for them. This is the KIND AND philosophy.
Of course, KIND acknowledges that the success of a movement seeking to spread kindness could be a bit difficult to measure, but it has decided to start by keeping a running tally of KIND acts committed and submitted online by customers. The ticker has reached over one million kind acts so far.
Back in 2013, Lubetzky told the Stanford Lawyer:
“Companies have combined businesses and social causes before, but the small way in which I think I’ve contributed is by pioneering a model where the social and the business are integrated with the DNA of the entity. And the business model actually advances those goals together, rather than separately. You advance the business objectives in tandem—the more products that are sold, the more you can foster cooperation, the more you advance the social and business mission.”
This idea seems to be gaining traction, with companies like BucketFeet being founded with a specific social movement embedded into its core mission and brands like ModCloth reinventing themselves to operate with a change-evoking cause. This is, in my opinion, where the majority of retail is headed. Consumers, especially millennials, want the places they buy from to help them make a difference.
While social impact is a driver of the KIND brand, Lubetzky acknowledges that no one is going to remain loyal to a company that doesn’t sell a good product, which is why his major focus has always been on producing a bar that is both delicious and healthy and also only contains ingredients people can recognize and pronounce.
With this in mind, KIND sold one million dollars worth of bars in its first year alone. While KIND products used to be sold exclusively in high-end stores, they can now be found virtually anywhere. It was reported in January that KIND currently sells about 20 million bars per month.
In addition to social impact and superior products, Lubetzky believes that a company culture that encourages disagreement is key to innovation. He told PSFK that he encourages his employees at all levels to bring up their points of view and that he prioritizes creating an environment that is open to sharing ideas. You must be willing to be self-critical and to bring in people who are better than you at certain things, he said.
Every morning, Lubetzky rides the subway to work and hands out #kindawesome cards to people he sees committing acts of kindness. The recipients are encouraged to redeem the cards online for a package containing KIND snacks and another #kindawesome card. The latter empowers them to celebrate someone else doing something kind. It is little things like this that can spark big change, that, as Phillip Haid explained the company’s goal in The Financial Post, can “trigger a chain of random acts of kindness around the world.”
Through all of this kindness, Lubetzky may also be triggering a new type of retail.