Opinion8 months ago

Brands in the age of CV19.

The future is not what it used to be…

Over 15 years of working with brands big, small, old and new all over the planet has taught us many things, but there is one common goal — the uniting endeavour of all organisations is to be chosen over their competition.

Even in a crisis — in fact especially in a crisis…

The new era of CV19 is immediately effecting the way brands are seen, bought and sold globally. Previously loved brands and brand owners are falling rapidly out of favour… previously niche brands are becoming national heroes.

We’re seeing two camps of behaviour. They broadly fall into:

  1. Stop everything. Pull up the drawbridge. Hope it’s all ok (and the same) when it’s over.
  2. Start investing in the new audience behaviours. Be immediately useful.

Instantly halted businesses — shut down through government restrictions are understandably worried. Everything is on pause. Yet a nationwide network of restaurants we are working with have made the call that this is the time to reinvent.

Brands that can, are on the whole doubling their efforts to get ready for the new landscape that will emerge from the CV19 pandemic.

It’s immensely tempting to use marketing & R&D budgets to temporarily plaster over cracks that emerge from any crisis.  People’s health & livelihoods are of paramount importance to protect, supply chains must be made resilient — and customers reassured. In all of these activities — clarity of message, honesty of intent and positive impacts of actions must be carefully considered.

Customers & Staff need to see the brands they like be likeable when the going gets tough. Sandwich stars, Pret stood up quickly to offer help to frontline workers. LVMH emerged as peoples champions with their sanitiser efforts. McLaren turned their technical prowess to Personal Protective Equipment in typically speedy fashion. Each of these actions is not only the right thing to do, but amplifies already established values.

We’ve seen some very poor behaviour from big brands that really should have known better. Will people return to Wetherspoons after their CEO’s brutally uncaring treatment of staff in a crisis? Will people ever trust Phillip Green (and his brands)  over his greedy behaviour with TopShop? Even with an apology, Sports Directs brand is damaged after the CEO’s badly judged self-centred moves.

These actions — positive and negative — are not just isolated to a one off crisis — they are symbolic of what the brands stand for. McLaren is obsessed with technology, speed and delivery. SportsDirect is a money machine. As ever you find out more about things when times are tough.

We’re advising clients in many sectors to enable them to do the right thing — and how to do it right, and right now. Here’s some of the directions we are looking at…

Actions not Ads. Don’t do ‘marketing’ when you can enable your staff, services or expertise to do something good.

 

What might be useful may not be obvious.LVMH moving from perfume production to sanitiser is a lateral but lovely move.

Be Helpful. If your organisation, service or product can help in the time of CV19 — do it. Then tell people you are doing it.

Deliveroo are delivering half a million meals to NHS frontline staff.They are doing it for free. And they have opened their channel to enable donations for the NHS.

Give it away. If it’s possible, give it away for free — discount where you can — open doors, subscriptions and releases.

Pret are giving away free hot drinks and half price food to all NHS staffDisney quietly released Frozen II early on their new channel. No mention of CV19.

Play in your yard. Don’t offer up views on things you don’t understand. Leave that to the experts.

Adobe has opened up Creative Cloud to students for free — and are helping people using the platform.Unlimited Data plans have been gifted to T-Mobile customers.

Be Local Heroes. You may be a global brand — or a nationwide network. But making things personal and more locally connected brings your efforts home to people.

The Waitrose 'green coins' have always been a brilliant connector of a big brand acting in the interests of the local community — now more than everGuinness pledged €1.5m for Irish bar staff & elderly Irish citizens affected by CV19

Make them laugh. To be used with extreme caution and only if your brand is already established in witty communications. But people look for respite in times of pressure.

Ryan Reynolds, owner of Aviation Gin — and famously Canadian, donated $10,000 for Canadian Bartenders & 30% extra tip per order... '#Flatten the Curve while we #TipYourBartenders'Private Eye — in the face of toilet roll shortages front cover '48 toilet paper sheets free with this issue' (The issue was 48 pages long)

If you are able to control or influence a brand, product or organisations actions, hopefully some of those are useful starters to get thinking about if you haven’t already.

Above all — for the moment — stay safe, stay in (if you can).