Kindness counts more than brands have ever imagined, and a Harvard Business Review article offers a great example of what we mean.

The author recounts the story of a US man who was visiting his cancer-stricken grandmother at the hospital. Because the soup there was so horrible, all she wanted was a bowl of Panera Bread’s (US-based café chain) clam chowder. Unfortunately, that particular soup was only made on Fridays, so the man called and spoke with the manager. Not only did she make clam chowder for the man’s grandmother, but also included a gift-box of cookies from her staff.

Such a small act of kindness made big headlines after the man told his story on Facebook and his mother retold it on Panera’s fan page. The result: 500,000+ Likes, over 22,000 comments and an authentic sense of association and gratitude for Panera, from around the world.

When it comes to marketing to women, we’ve long stressed the importance of word-of-mouth on social media; the significance of being empathetic in your communications and aware that the values and behaviours of your company really matter to her. This story, however, may be a hopeful sign that consumers (female and male) and businesses are also beginning to feel this way. They are learning that being genuinely compassionate actually benefits the bottom line, as we are much more likely to associate with an honest, heartfelt brand—which is where loyalty and trust come from.

Tell us, what brands stand out as the most human to you?