The 4 Pillars of Brand Relevance: Gratefulness and Generosity

Jim Huebner
02 September, 2022

Over the last 30 years, I’ve come to believe a simple truth about business, branding, and life: The most relevant, long-lasting, successful brands have a few things in common. We’ve narrowed them down to 4 pillars with an easy-to-remember acronym: G.I.V.E.

Today, I’m sharing a snippet from my new book, that unpacks the first pillar of GI.V.E. My hope is that by highlighting these pillars in brands that last, we can help other brands avoid the pitfalls of irrelevance and find a path to becoming more meaningful to both their customers and the people around them.


Relevant Brands are Grateful and Generous


We believe the path to relevance starts with gratitude: with being grateful for the opportunities that come your way. Grateful for the people around you at home and work. Grateful for the ability to do the work in front of you. Even grateful for the air you breathe and the freedoms you enjoy.

When you’re not necessarily grateful, but instead believe the world owes you something, you’re setting yourself for some major disappointment. Worse, you’re chipping away at what will actually help make you relevant to the very customers you’re serving.

You’ll quickly learn that life does not necessarily seem fair. You don’t always get the promotion you deserve because the boss may give it to his college buddy. The stock you sold yesterday may very well double in value over the next six months. You may not land the big account you are most qualified to handle because the CEO will give it to his sister’s company. Or you may find out you have cancer, you may get t-boned by someone who was texting, or 100 mph winds may push a prairie fire right through your neighborhood, causing you to lose everything.

The reality is this: stuff happens. And if you are grateful coming into difficult times, it can be easier to handle when the stuff does happen. But what’s even more important is that being grateful actually leads to a more generous spirit and an increased tendency to give—which is core to maximizing your relevancy.

As the Proverb says: “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”

It’s no secret that people are drawn to those who give. And brands are no different.

The more a brand gives to its customers, the more loyal those customers become.

But I’d like to make the case here that while giving is core to a relevant brand, it actually starts with gratitude.

In an article published in 2018 on, neuroscientist Christina Karns at the University of Oregon wrote that when a person is grateful, studies show the more charitable their brain becomes.

“Practicing gratitude shifted the value of giving in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. It changed the exchange rate in the brain. Giving to charity became more valuable than receiving money yourself. After the brain calculates the exchange rate, you get paid in the neural currency of reward, the delivery of neurotransmitters that signal pleasure and goal attainment.”

So as you approach your own brand building, certainly think about how your brand can give to your customers in unique ways. But before that, take some time to think about what you’re grateful for.

Maybe it’s country in which you’re free to conduct business. Maybe it’s the people you work with or the customers you work for. Maybe it’s the industry you serve. Just know that as your gratitude rises, so will your spirit of generosity—and that will help put you on a path to a more meaningful and relevant brand.

gratitude rises quote

Relevancy in Action: Chick-Fil-A


If greater relevance is the goal—and a grateful and generous culture is one of the means—few companies have achieved it better through gratitude and generosity than Chick-Fil-A.

With their stores open 14.3% less of the time than their competitors (because they’re closed on Sundays), Chick-Fil-A stores STILL average more sales per square foot than any other restaurant of its type.

Is it because of the great food? That certainly helps. But rare is the visit when a customer doesn’t genuinely feel they are appreciated and the staff is grateful you are there—and that makes all the difference. With “My Pleasure” as their salutation, visitors consistently sense that they matter, they will be taken care of professionally and with a smile, and their food will meet or exceed all of their expectations.

As the aforementioned study discusses, the grateful culture at Chick-Fil-A certainly seems to influence their levels of generosity as well. No restaurants provide more freebies—from sandwiches to toy cows—to their communities than does Chick-Fil-A. And they are a leader when it comes to college scholarships per capita for their employees, having given away more than $100 million in scholarships over the years.

Grateful and Generous—Relevance starts here.

No matter what your role—from C-suite to customer service—you can make an impact on the relevance of the brand you represent by helping to facilitate a spirit of gratefulness. Starting with yourself, you’ll see that gratefulness spread to your team and eventually to the customers you serve. And that is the kind of connection that builds a relevant brand.