Back in my college days there was a diner that I frequented. What still stands out in my memory even today was how the bill arrived — always a personalised thank-you accompanied by a complimentary chocolate. This little token of appreciation was not expensive, but its effect might as well have been.
Reciprocity is a social norm. It plays an important role in the development and continuation of relationships. As such, it is equally relevant at the scale of organisations and brands.
When it comes to the relationships organisations and brands have with their audiences, the nature of reciprocity varies and takes different shapes.
For commodity brands, like US Air, which cultivate transactional relationships with their customers, reciprocity can take the form of programs rewarding loyalty.
For more values-driven brands, like Harley Davidson, customers are not looking to earn points, their commitment to the brand goes deeper. Therefore, a more sincere form of reciprocity is expected, and Harley Davidson has been legendary in their commitment to giving back to devotees of the brand.
I founded Aegis, a relational design firm. Aegis helps create emotionally-intelligent brands and organisations.