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Giving thanks: brands need gratitude, too

As we enter the holiday season, we are bombarded with appeals to “be grateful” and “be thankful.” Social media and ads both on and offline direct our attention to ways we can give, and then give a little more.

It may be tempting to tune out these requests, because, in reality, we can’t express gratitude to everyone who deserves it—even though the benefits for the gratitude giver and receiver are so wonderful. But this is why “thank you” should be integrated into the fabric of our lives year-round, rather than saved up for one or two months out of the year.

And are you already a gratitude giver? Think about who you offer up these expressions of appreciation to. You likely thank your friends, your family, your customers—you may even thank your mail carrier, hairdresser, and favorite barista. But when was the last time you said “thank you” to a brand you regularly support? Do you give brand gratitude?

Gratitude is a two-way street

Mark Bonchek, Founder and CEO of Shift Thinking, writes “By definition, gratitude is ‘a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.’ Note that gratitude is inherently reciprocal. It also combines both emotion and behavior. There is a feeling of appreciation and an expression of that appreciation through some kind of action. Gratitude, therefore, can serve as the basis of a relationship beyond the transaction.”

“Gratitude, therefore, can serve as the basis of a relationship beyond the transaction.” - Mark Bonchek

Most of us love it when brands say “thank you”—be it through hand-written notes, a personal message, or even a well-crafted email. Brands who support and foster expressions of gratitude are building the foundations for loyalty. Authenticity is key. As customers, we can tell immediately if a brand is not expressing genuine gratitude

But why should a customer thank a brand? One might ask “what is the purpose?” Brands are non-feeling, non-human things. But consider this: brands are not merely representations of the people that work there—a brand is the representation of a set of ideals, a visual manifestation of a mission and core beliefs.

By saying “thank you” to a brand that you support, you are saying that you believe in and appreciate the same things and support the same values. Shared values and beliefs. . .

A thank you is an exchange, a way to converse on a deeper level, by using similar language and expressing similar values. It’s what Bonchek calls the “basis of a relationship beyond the transaction.” This foundation leads to a sense of belonging, personal satisfaction, and increased optimism for the relationship ahead for both customer and brand.

A thank you makes life better. Seriously.

Gratitude is one of the best things you can do for your emotional well-being and sense of connectedness to those around you. The New York Times published an article discussing Jimmy Fallon’s famous “thank you” notes, (thank you, cotton candy, thank you, woman who cut in front of me) says, all jokes aside, the simple act “supports recent scientific findings linking gratitude to increased optimism, stress reduction, and a better night’s sleep. Few who sit down to write a bread-and-butter note are likely to be aware that by doing so they are not only on trend but also on their way to becoming happier and more sociable people.”

“Few who sit down to write a bread-and-butter note are likely to be aware that by doing so they are not only on trend but also on their way to becoming happier and more sociable people.”

Now, a thank you note need not be handwritten (although bonus points for those who take pen to paper!) but it should be honest. Open. And express what you appreciate and why. Think about a time when you wrote a note of gratitude to a friend; it probably made you feel good, and it more than likely solidified in your head why you are friends with that person in the first place. The same rules apply when you are a customer thanking a brand, or company, who has earned your continued patronage. The act of gratitude can even open up awareness about yourself, and your values,

Expressing gratitude creates channels of communication and trust while building an emotional connection that reminds us: we are all people.

Don’t know how to begin—here’s a positivity primer! Who are your three favorite, most trusted, or needed brands? Write down a few things about each that inspire you, or make your day-to-day life better. Is there something you hope they keep doing or that you wish other brands would start? Write that down! And make it personal. Now, send each brand a brief email (or letter if you are so inclined) and copy us on it—hello-relate@zendesk.com. We’d love to read and reprint your Brand Love Letters. This isn’t about getting free things from a brand, it’s about reaping the substantial emotional benefits that come from the process of gratitude.

Rachel Henry is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. She's a firm believer in having chocolate every day and is an avid reader of just about anything. Find her on LinkedIn.

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