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Giving Without Expectations

Updated on May 22, 2012

Over the past year I have become very interested in the concept of giving without expectations.

Giving without expectations is when a brand gives back to their customers or the community with no thought about getting something back from a sales perspective. This is an element of corporate social responsibility that is gaining momentum across the globe.

An example of giving without expectations is when a corporate partners with a charity to allow staff to work one day per year with that charity. The staff gives up their time and the company gives up the productivity. While this doesn’t benefit the company directly it enables a partnership that can be advertised.

I intend to show that you can take this deeper by giving customers and non-customers something for free that will benefit your brand.

In this hub I will review how two brands – Lululemon Athletica and Lenovo are both giving back to their communities without any expectations and how this community engagement is helping them to increase sales and marketing penetration.

Lululemon Athletica

Lululemon Athletica is a yoga athletic brand with 20 shops in Australia that originated in Canada. The brand has a strong corporate social responsibility origin and it focussed on selling exercise apparel for yoga, running and other athletic pursuits. You can find their shops across the globe.

A key focus of their value system is training staff on the product, the values of the brand & lifestyle of the concept. This ensure that the staff believe in what they are offering and have bought into the environmental concerns of the brand. In short the staff are part of the core value of corporate social responsibility (CSR).

There are four pillars in this brand:

  1. Technical product, function first, fashion next, high quality (5 yr life)
  2. Unique stores - more staff per store, guest experiences. 30 hours of training in first 3 months. Local artists add colour to the interior
  3. Community relations - grass roots marketing, social media, in store community events, giving without expectations
  4. People & culture - training and personal development

The way that this brand gives back to the community and offers giving without expectation is to offer free yoga sessions instore on a weekly basis. These sessions are free to anyone who wants to participate. People don’t need to be ‘guests’ (what Lululemon call their customers) to attend. At the sessions the instructor will run a session and teach people yoga.

These events are usually run in the evening once the store closes. The instructor will wear Lululemon apparel, but there is no sales pitch. If guests want to buy any of the product they can’t as the store is closed, but they can return the next day.

The whole concept here is about giving without expectations. The entire focus is on the brand giving back to the community via free yoga sessions without a sales pitch and without the opportunity to buy.

This concept has enabled this brand to open 20 shops within Australia’s depressed Retail segment and to almost own the yoga segment in this country, in part due to giving without expectations.

If goes further as well, by executing through their people by:

  1. Personal responsibility - taking action to look after their guests
  2. Goal setting - health personal & professional. Developing belonging and family
  3. Entrepreneurship - empowerment, rewards
  4. Giving without expectation - free yoga in store after hours

To close the loop there is a focus on the environment as well through:

  • Recycle boxes from factory to deliver in store & back again
  • Staff are encouraged to find better green credentials
  • Develop factory partnerships that share their values and align to their culture


In February 2012 Yang Yuanqing spoke to the Australian about how Lenovo is planning to continue growing their brand across the Globe. Lenovo bought the IBM PC business in 2005 and this has enabled the brand to grow to become the #2 PC brand globally, however in Australia it only has 1% of the market. Most of the Lenovo growth is coming from the established US & European markets and the emerging markets.

While this market share is interesting, what is really amazing is what this brand is doing in emerging markets to grow through giving without expectations.

Lenovo sells their PCs in rural China through a network of small mom and dad retailers. These people are pillars of the community and act like a small corner shop where local customers flock to see the newest technology or to get advice. They even sell wedding PCs where rural families pool their money to buy a PC for the bride and groom – it comes in red, the lucky colour. It has the words xi emblazoned in red which means double happiness. This adaption to the local market helps, but it is the giving that creates trust and stickiness to the brand.

Going to the cinema is an expensive past time for rural people in China. They don’t make a lot of money, so $6-7 is a lot of coin. So in most of the local Lenovo shops the owner sets up a PC and each night plays a new release movie. Families meet outside the shop, bring their own chairs and watch the film together with other people in the community. As the store is shut there is no opportunity to buy a PC, but it is a connection back to the community. In the afternoons the store owners play Disney films after school for the school kids. The children don’t buy PCs, but they can be influencers.

This is another example of giving without expectations. People can watch the movies or Disney shows for free everyday without the need or obligation to buy. But when they do get to a financial position to buy a PC Lenovo will be on their shopping list. This is one reason (in many) why this brand remains #1 in China and the emerging markets.

What can we learn?

From both of these brands experience we can learn two very important lessons:

  1. What extra can we do with staff training & to build a giving culture?
  2. What can we give in our stores without expectations?

When I look at my brand we can give back to the community by holding free car seat fitting sessions to new mothers and fathers and free sessions of driving for older people within our stores. These sessions would bring people in to learn more about the companies advocacy position, providing more value for their membership while also creating a better feeling about the brand.

The key about giving without expectations is that you don’t expect to make money through your activity – that is a side benefit. Rather you are hoping to increase your brand equity and awareness through a very visible corporate social responsibility.

The challenge remains with you! Cheers Michael


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    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      Thanks MelChi for the vote & sharing. What I really like about Lululemon Athletica is that they won't transact any sales even if asked during their yoga sessions as they feel it will compromise their ability to give back. You got to give them cudos for keeping their credibility. Cheers Michael

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 5 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      This is very inspiring. You hear of individuals giving of themselves and their time without expecting anything, but very little about companies. It would be very easy for any company to find time and resources to give just a little back once a week, without expecting anything back in return. Thanks for the info, voting up and sharing.

    • charmike4 profile image

      Michael Kromwyk 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

      That's really interesting bmcoll3278. You can give without expectations in so many ways, not just out of a retail shop. I bet that this charity and activity has helped your business get to #1. And I think this would be something that the staff members are keen to be a part of as well and this helps drives staff tenure and performance. Thanks for sharing your story...maybe a future hub? Cheers Michael

    • bmcoll3278 profile image

      bmcoll3278 5 years ago from Longmont, Colorado

      Very good hub. WE do things like send our install crew downs for the day to build a house for an injured soldier. And we have a team doing the Denver heart walk . A few years ago a tornado hit a local town and many of us went out and restored TV service to our customers for free. The office told us not to worry about equipment taken off our trucks for the repair. I think that is one reason why we are the largest TV provider in The USA. The company has that attitude every where we have customers.