The new normal has changed our perspective and appreciation of many things we often considered mundane. The impact of COVID-19 will be felt years from now as shifts on views of telework, healthcare, and policy affect the whole world.
The economic impact will be severe. In the United States, over 6.6 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits with likely more to come. Thousands of small businesses will have to reinvent themselves or will likely have to close, and even big companies such as Boeing are at risk. In the banking sector, profits declined by 46%, and the oil sector is living a rollercoaster of international meetings with the oil price currently under 20$ as I write this article.
And without any doubt, the worst part is the toll on human lives and emotional damage caused by loved ones suffering directly from the disease or from the already visible economic repercussions.
Customers are facing the worst times since 9/11 in this country. They will remember who gave them a helping hand. It fills me with joy to see companies that I admire step up and assist.
Brand solidarity examples
Bacardi started an initiative to start producing hand sanitizer and provided 3 million dollars in financial aid to support small businesses like sports bars and restaurants. Similarly, companies like Diageo and Pernod Ricard have also created their own projects pledging hand sanitizers for healthcare workers.
Locally in Miami, we also have seen the Miami Marlins donated supplies in over 1,000 pieces of clothing to create masks for our healthcare workers. Another example is FIU opening a free testing site in its grounds to help the community. Many more examples can be found as companies are helping with funds, materials, and protecting their employees.
Why is it important and strategic for companies to support their community and customers? I asked five marketing experts on their take on the impact of brand solidarity on brands and some examples of their own.
Anna Pietraszek, Ph. D., Marketing Educator & Director of Global Recruitment and Operations at Florida International University
“We are experiencing one of the most stringent circumstances ever. We realize that this crisis is not going away anytime soon, and this makes the brands rethink and redesign their business models. Many brands understand that the only value they can bring right now is when they genuinely help and repurpose their mission. Brands are going through extraordinary challenges, and they have to find new ways for the revenue to flow. A combination of dedicated service and commitment expressed by the brands can lead to recreating and increasing the brands’ reputation and secure clients back.”
Fernando Arreaza, Sr. Account Executive, U.S. & Regional Latin America Hub at LLYC
“I believe this crisis is a once in a generation opportunity for brands to show flexibility and commitment to their customers. People will not only remember their solidarity but also and more importantly, their capacity to adapt to challenges and be able to protect communities.”
Akie Smythe, Sales Consultant l Marketer l Event Curator l Brand Strategist
“Corporate philanthropy is not only the right thing to do. It is a powerful marketing strategy used to influence brand perception and solidarity. Recently, the wine and spirits industry has taken humanitarian actions to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits, the world’s largest wine and spirits distributor, donated one million dollars to the United States Bartender Guild. Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, pledged to produce more than eight million 250 ml bottles of hand sanitizer. If companies desire brand solidarity, they must show up wholeheartedly in consumers’ lives. Not only at the point of sale.”
Milagros Muñoz, MS., Digital Marketing Specialist at LGD Branding + Marketing
“Several brands have executed marketing campaigns related to how they are giving back to the community during this crisis. The reality is that the way these large corporations respond during this pandemic will affect them in the long-term. Their audiences want to know how they are responding; how they are putting their employees first, using their resources to help first responders and the less fortunate, giving their customers options for refunds, payment grace periods, etc. This is something they will not forget. A great example that I have seen is AT&T’s new campaign that launched late March – AT&T Is Committed To Keeping You Connected.”
Eliana Mora, Project Manager at Ogilvy
“We are experiencing historical times. Brands have an opportunity to commit an investment that will result in a long-lasting impression on its customers, and a morale boost for its employees, people will want to shop and work for brands that stood by their side when things were bad, customer loyalty will be defined by actions taken today. The challenge will be in execution and in the communication of the value that brands are and will be proving.”
Final thoughts on brand solidarity
Covid-19 will become the new normal, and it is out of our control. We can only adapt. However, for brands, this time of crisis can also be a time of opportunity aiming for the future.
Corporate social responsibility is being tested. This time, we will find out if big company values are real or just a catchy message. Luckily, hundreds of companies are showing with actions that their values matter and that investment will show returns.
In fact, a study in 2017 by Cone Communications showed that 87% of customers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. Therefore consumers will remember who stood by them, as we remember who our true friends are in this time of crisis are.
What companies that you admire have made a difference during the crisis? Any programs or leaders that you would like to mention? Please mention them in the comment section below.