Can a simple, unexpected compliment make a difference in a stranger's life? Research has found that small positive exchanges between strangers, or prosocial behavior, can drastically lift both the giver and receiver’s moods, and even improve long-term mental health. While helping a stranger with directions on the street might seem inconsequential, these types of interactions are actually good for our individual health and the health of society. With the Starbucks Kindness Initiative as both our anchor and jumping off point, we set out to share that wellness education with the world. We sought to demonstrate how any individual can benefit from engaging in prosocial behavior, and how that can lead to even greater positive outcomes—like those with Starbucks partner Kelsie and regular Starbucks customer Robert, who is Deaf-Blind.
We look at the phenomenon of kindness through the lens of revered behavioral psychologist Dr. Mavis Tsai, and how it can actually change a person’s life and health to have someone like a barista wish them a good morning (and/or know their name in their preferred language!). By amplifying Dr. Tsai’s knowledge through Kelsie and Robert’s story, we hope to empower others to act on their own kind impulses. We witness firsthand how a small act of kindness can make a big difference; and highlight how stories like Kelsie’s can be replicated; reiterating how in an increasingly digital and physically distant world, it’s more important than ever to take a leap and demonstrate kindness.
Upon taking a journalistic lens to the Starbucks Kindness Initiative, we developed a creative approach that sought to educate and empower viewers, promoting kindness and wellbeing through voices of experience and expertise. We partnered with Starbucks and their media agency Spark Foundry to cast the perfect pair, demonstrating our thesis of the power of prosocial behavior. In tandem, the Mission Studio team did an expansive search on academic institutions with prominent behavioral research departments/divisions to find the perfect voice to provide the groundwork for the holistic narrative.
We worked closely with our expert, Dr. Mavis Tsai, to ground our content in true behavioral science, ensuring a strong foundation of factual credibility in an otherwise poignant and touching story. Pre-interviews, documentary format beat sheets, and pre-production outlines shared with talent ensured we captured real-time organic answers that maintained journalistic and scientific integrity.
As with any Mission Studio project, we approach our projects with intentionality so that everyone on set is committed to practicing in real-time what our stories share. For this production, that meant creating a positive environment that fostered prosocial behavior in practice, as well as ensuring equitable communication resources for all needs on set.
We recognized early in our story development that centering a Deaf-Blind main character required representation on all fronts, and made it a priority to hire a consultant and interpreter fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and Tactile Sign Language (TAL) as an integral part of the team. Our expert and consultant, Lighthouse for the Blind, worked closely with the Mission Studio, Spark agency, Starbucks client teams to guide the piece and ensure our talent Robert’s narrative was approached in an authentic and the camera. We dove deep into research on nuances in communication between tactile sign and ASL, which ultimately added a beautiful additional layer of meaning to the friendship between Starbucks partner Kelsie and her friend Robert. Most importantly, we ensured that communicating in ASL and TAL was not the singular focus in a story about Prosocial Behavior, but rather that Robert and Kelsie were able to add more to our story because of who they are.
The biggest challenge during this project were the inherent communication barriers we encountered and adapting our overall communication workflow. We were communicating through ASL, TAL, Braille, and spoken English—this is technically our most multilingual project to date. Even when being as mindful as possible, building a communication infrastructure to ensure that talent and crew never felt out of their comfort zone was a challenge. Every single crew/client/agency member on this project walked away humbled by the experience and eager to share their newfound knowledge and empower others—our own cycle of prosocial behavior, if you will.
Our campaign was an ultimate and objective success. As of submission, our story of Kindness has reached 14M+ impressions and counting, across social media platforms and O&O. This video is outpacing historic SELF Facebook/Instagram post benchmarks by 250% and over-delivering video views by more than 4.5M views. The social video post CTR outpaced benchmarks by 136%.
Most importantly, we worked in lockstep with our proud partners Starbucks and Spark Foundry to provide a major platform for our subjects and their stories, told through their own voices—whether literal or metaphorical.