The Brand Logic Behind Prosocial Behavior

When you're doing the right thing, one plus one equals three.

In Judaism, the holiness of marriage is embodied in this concept. Husband and wife cleave to each other, but they are whole when together they behave properly. Only then does the Shekhinah, or holy presence, descend from Heaven to dwell with them.

I watched a movie called A Child's Voice over the weekend ($3.99 to rent, Vimeo, highly recommend). Without giving too much of the plot away, it's about a little boy who is tortured to death by child traffickers, and how he returns from Heaven to speak to a young man whose job it is to make things right. The filmmakers don't show you the violence, but you can feel it in your body; you can hear the child's plaintive cry. "Help me. Help me."

The most poignant moment in the movie comes at the end. The young man also helps a woman who has nearly been forced to kidnap kids for the traffickers herself. There is a moment where the two of them hold hands, and a luminous Heavenly light is superimposed over their hands at that moment. Suddenly they both know what the mission is here, and in that moment of their knowing together, they are able to formulate a plan much more stronger than if only one or the other were to tackle it.

In our daily work lives, we see this principle at work too. I remember working at USAID many years ago, and how smart the people there were and how fast their brains worked. It was amazing to me, on so many levels, that they could take such a relatively small amount of money and turn it into so much good for the world. At a time when people are deeply cynical of government, and all types of accusations fly around, I challenge you to visit their Headquarters one day and simply look at the images on the wall.

I wondered to myself how this tiny agency could do so much, and soon I realized that it was not only their advanced education or commitment to the cause of helping the world's most desperate people that mattered. What made the difference for them, and still does, I believe, are the enduring and powerful relationships both within the agency and between the agency and their partners around the world and on the ground. 

The emotions are so deep I still remember one ceremony we held for someone who had passed overseas. I did not even know this person, but the energy in that moment was extremely, extremely holy and real.

The typical organization is not a funded government agency, though. It is a small business scraping by to survive, and the people in it fight for every bit of money they earn. In fact many people these days, who are working either for a business or for themselves, are working more than one job, as they simply try to hustle enough daily bread to make ends meet for the day. 

Given economic desperation, it is easy to forget the importance of being holy. Of making a long-term investment in caring for other people, for the society in which you live, for the environment. It is easy to forget that every step you take toward building a responsible organization is going to pay you back a hundredfold in reputational benefits, in the desire of other people to do business with you, because they trust you and think you're a good person or company. In my view, this is what made Amazon succeed so mightily -- not just the prices and the availability of a wide variety of merchandise, not just the customer service, but the fact that they offered objective reviews and also allowed multiple self-starters to sell the same merchandise they already had on the platform.

This morning I read in the news that someone saw a gigantic rainbow in the sky. Jewish people believe that the sighting of a rainbow is supposed to bring to mind God's promise to Noah after the Great Flood, which occurred because the people were deeply and irretrievably immoral. The rainbow (particularly a double rainbow) is a message that God will never again destroy humanity as He did in the past--but it is also a warning that we need to examine our deeds. Implicitly the message is that our behavior would warrant such destruction otherwise.

In a certain sense, branding is the language of relationship currency. When you do it right, when you treat people well, you're investing in a long-term base of goodwill that you will one day need when the chips are down. (Even the best stocks I've invested in have had a bumpy road up the chart.) 

But when you're shortsighted, and do it badly -- when you lie and cheat and steal, and maybe worse -- karma has a way of taking all that equity away, and more.


Copyright 2018 by Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal. All opinions are the author's own. Creative Commons photo via Pixabay.