Some years ago, Luka Apps spent used all the money he got for Christmas to buy a Lego Ninjago Ultra Sonic Raider set. Against his advice of his father, he brought one of the figures with him to the supermarket -- and lost it.
(Yep: Apply a little selective hindsight, and fathers are always right.)
Luka then wrote a (much better than I could have written when I was seven) letter to Lego:
My name is Luka Apps and I am seven years old. With all my money I got for Christmas I bought the Ninjago kit of the Ultrasonic Raider. The number is 9449. It is really good.
My Daddy just took me to Sainsburys and told me to leave the people at home but I took them and I lost Jay ZX at the shop as it fell out of my coat.
I am really upset I have lost him. Daddy said to send you a email to see if you will send me another one.
I promise I won't take him to the shop again if you can.
(Yep: Proving that when things go south, kids instantly want your advice.)
Lego quickly responded. A customer service rep named Richard said he talked to Ninjago master Sensei Wu, the mentor of the Ninjago clan, as well as a fictional character with a serious backstory.
Here's what Richard wrote:
Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.
He told me to tell you, "Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!"
Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.
So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!
Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: Keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.
The story quickly spread on social media and became a branding coup for Lego, although I doubt that was the intent.
Planning, strategizing... seeking to make something go viral is both impossible and a terrible marketing strategy.
But making a seven year-old's day? That's easy. Especially when you take the time -- because the time involved is always the key -- to turn what could have been a transaction into something more meaningful.
The Power of Being Thoughtful
Here's another example.
I pulled into a service bay to get my oil changed. As I got out of the car one of the techs said, "Man, those are nice wheels... too bad they're so dirty." He smiled to show he was teasing.
"I know..." I said. "My next stop is the car wash." Then I went inside to wait.
When I walked to my car to leave he was just standing up, filthy rags in his hand. "Took some work, but I got 'em all clean," he said.
Every rim sparkled. Every speck of brake dust was gone.
"Wow, that's awesome... but you didn't have to do that," I said.
"We're not very busy," he shrugged. "I had time. Figured I would make 'em look better." Another car pulled into another bay and he hustled away, saying over his shoulder, "Have a good day."
That was almost eight years ago, but I obviously haven't forgotten.
Once in a while, take the time to do something nice: For a customer, an employee, a friend...
Not because it's expected. Simply because you can.
Because that's when even the smallest gestures can make the biggest difference.