The global pandemic happening right now is wreaking havoc on the world economy, exposing our general unpreparedness, and sadly, taking many lives along the way. In this time of unprecedented global crisis, the safe action for brands and businesses to take has been to stay out it.
A Time to Use Reach, Impact, and Influence
Not every event is an opportunity for marketing, and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I do, however, believe that this is an opportunity for brands to truly play meaningful roles in people’s lives – and help governments and healthcare providers combat this grave threat.
I believe that this is not the time for brands to be silent.
I believe that now, more than ever, is the time that the noisiest and busiest of brands should continue speaking to (and speaking with) their consumers.
I believe that there are three clear ways that brands can leverage on their reach, impact, and influence:
First, speak with a message of truth and information. One of the most peculiar things about brands is that many people trust them more than they trust their own governments. It might be difficult for a health minister or a doctor to convince kids to brush their teeth – but a likeable (and branded) character on TV might do the trick. In the same vein, brands have amazing hold over people. For brands that have enjoyed years, decades, and maybe even centuries of trust from their consumers, now is the time to communicate this message of truth and verifiable information to them.
This is a great opportunity for brands to tell the millions of people that they can and do reach around the world of what they can do to help slow down this pandemic. Tell your millions of Facebook fans about the virtues of hand washing. Encourage your influencers and celebrity endorsers to promote social distancing. Use your wide-reaching profiles to show support of the #StayHome movement.
Second, act as beacons of hope. Brands, when they make strong and willful statements, have the power to inspire people. Every day we see insurance brands stand up for family time; soda brands, for togetherness; and sports brands, for equality. And we happily and openly share these messages of hope. They’re powerful, they’re moving, and most of all, they encourage the competition to follow suit. Retail brands in the Philippines, for instance, are pledging hundreds of millions of pesos to support the fight against this virus; other businesses from other categories have since done the same. Banks are tripping over themselves to give payment extensions; when one offers 30 days, another offers 60, and so on. Good acts beget good acts, and this creates an environment of hope as we see these brands commit themselves to the fight.
This is a great opportunity for brands to show that the values printed in your boardrooms are values you’re willing to stand by, in good times and in bad. Publicly commit the continuance of your employees’ salaries. Publicly commit to your employees that working from home will not incur any penalties. Publicly commit to putting the welfare of people first, before your board’s. Be the wide-reaching beacon of hope that tells people your company stands with them.
Third and last, use this time to figure out how your brand can make people’s lives easier and/or better. It’s said that “necessity is the mother of invention”, and this time in our history cannot have made it any clearer. We’re realizing that thousands of hours of meetings could have been emails or phone calls. That physical businesses are painfully vulnerable to quarantines. That the most critical functions are served by the most taken-for-granted front liners. This is a time for brands to commit to change, and to do it not just out of business survival (which is short-term though understandable), but for community survival (which is long-term and far more beneficial for the most number of people).
This is a great opportunity for brands to explore true digital transformation and create less vulnerable functions and jobs. Invest more in delivery and e-commerce and create digital platforms for these; you may lose jobs in one area (e.g. cashiers and baggers) but you will create more in others (e.g. contact center and delivery personnel). Initiate programs that will up-skill employees digitally, so that they are freed from the four walls of an office space. And as many brands have shown in the last week or so, set aside emergency funds for the people who are the actual arms and legs of the business.
This is not going to be an easy year for many brands, to say the least. But brands are part and parcel of our daily lives, and during these times, we need the reach, impact, and influence that brands have even more – provided they’re used for the right reasons.
Anselmo Ramos correctly observed, “It’s a pandemic. Not a brief.” I would like to add, “It’s not a brief, but an opportunity to do some real good for the world and its people.”
Anselmo Ramos’ Twitter account.
Canivel, R. (2020, Mar 21). “Coca-Cola earmarks P150M for COVID-19 relief efforts.” Inquirer.net.
CNN Philippines Staff. (2020, Mar 20). “COVID-19 to weigh down economic growth for the rest of 2020.” CNN Philippines.
De Vera, B. (2020, Mar 20). “To keep gov’t contractual workers at home during COVID-19 quarantine, DBM guarantees they would be paid without working.” Inquirer.net.
Dumlao-Abadilla, D. (2020, Mar 21). ““We will have food to eat,” SMC chief assures, amid Luzon lockdown.” Inquirer.net.
“Five data-driven strategies for Southeast Asian marketers as COVID-19 further threatens economic decline.” ADA-Asia.
Nakpil, D. (2020, Mar 17). “‘Understaffed’ PH health workers, frontliners continue to man defense lines.” CNN Philippines.
Rivas, R. (2020, Mar 18). “Manny Pangilinan approves advanced 13th month pay for employees.” Rappler.
Rivas, R. (2020, Mar 19). “Employees thank Jollibee for advanced salary, 13th month pay.” Rappler.
“Truth About Global Brands”. McCann Truth Central.
“Truth About Street”. McCann Truth Central.
Photo by Vlad Alexandru Popa from Pexels.