As devastating as it is there is no better time to evaluate your brand hygiene than right now. The world has changed overnight. Globally, industries have collapsed, behaviours have changed, new habits have formed, old expectations have been uprooted and transplanted with new implications, and long-trusted consumer trends have become obsolete during the course of a few weeks.
“There are decades when nothing happens,” said Vladimir Lenin, “and there are weeks when decades happen.” This is one of those weeks. Where do we go from here? More specifically, what does the post-corona age mean for those of us who are in the marketing communications, branding and creative industries?
The truth is that we don’t really know. Nobody knows. What we do know is that we have always had something in common that matters now more than ever – and that is our common humanity: a shared conscience united by an unfaltering sense of resilience, tolerance, empathy and understanding and which puts us in a position to share knowledge, spread heart and expand the soul. For all of this to happen, discovery and creativity are the need of the day. And brands – big and small – can help deliver.
To serve the communities in which they operate and ensure long-term viability, brands have an absolutely critical role to play in the Covidian Age. In fact, it might be the only way to ensure sustained credibility and reliability as a growing number of people fall prey to heightened anxiety and foreboding. Which is to say, if consumers sense that brands are selling instead of solving, are putting profits before people and are not doing anything for the greater good in terms of fast-moving tangible solutions, then they should be prepared to face a counter-blast of public ridicule and a breakdown of trust. A quick survey will reveal three insights that are happening concurrently. All point to the future and more specifically, towards a clear set of expectations people appear to have with respect to brands and their response to Covid-19.
1. Help Out
Although it may seem ridiculous at first, but obvious in hindsight, brands that don’t help out will be outcast. Brands are expected to manufacture products that lend support at a time of crisis. Whether that takes the form of personal protective equipment, hand sanitizers, development of life-saving technology, or any number of cause-based initiatives through inventions, donations, contributions, or directly supporting communities in need, brands that don’t shift to making a difference will likely find themselves marginalised and out of favour with their customers.
2. Shout Out
Another noteworthy development is seeing how people everywhere are welcoming messages that offer proof of how brands are helping out. This means that brands must effectively and routinely communicate all the ways they are helping protect the lives of the people under their employ and the people they seek to serve. This is not from a place of conceit, but from an altruistic desire to add more momentum to the spirit of benevolence that can help inspire everyone to operate at a higher social conscience.
3. Stand Out
Lastly, it seems that people are rooting for brands willing to partner with other brands and organisations that can help amplify their efforts to reach the maximum number of people. Whether that is through online platforms, global forums, provincial lobbies, or the federal government, brands that leverage their philanthropy are seen as more responsive in their goal to contain the contagion. They become the heroes that stand out. Moreover, brands that step in where governments may stumble are seen as even better adapted to cope with the challenges of the Covidian Age and so perceived as better equipped for the future.
Fortunately, Pakistan has already shown stellar examples of cause marketing and brand social responsibility at the frontlines. Whether through timely national updates, large-scale donations or contributions, or a shift to manufacturing inventory to contain or allay the contagion, brands are playing their part to help out, shout out and stand out in their respective categories. Needless to say, those that decide to cop out may discover yet again that what moves markets even in a time of crisis is not currency, but a brand’s absolute humanity.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE & CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.