Where Are You When You’re Needed Most?


Claire O’Grady Director of Strategy + Innovation at Legacy Communications

While seismic changes are happening, brands shouldn’t just go dark. Find your lane + keep communicating

COVID-19 rules the world right now. We’re in the throes of something seismic, that may change us for good.

We’ve lost jobs; our movement is restricted; we can’t hug our loved ones; our mental health is suffering and we’re fighting a war.

This is not only a global crisis but a personal crisis. But why have some of our most loved brands stopped talking to us in our time of need while others have found the perfect words? If you want to be a brand that’s in it for the long run don’t go dark and abandon your consumer. While this crisis is temporary, it’s real. Don’t think about today, think about how you want to be perceived in the long run. You can’t just be there for the good times.

So how do brands communicate?

By applying simple consumer mindset thinking a brand can build a meaningful connection during a crisis. With some basic crisis psychology, a good understanding of your consumer and how you anticipate they will react to crisis mode you’re unlikely to go wrong.

Rules of Play:

Don’t be afraid to show up

Never leave anyone in their time of need – their memory is long. Don’t give up communicating “until this is all over”. Now is not the time to say nothing.

Take a good look at yourself

Specifically, your existing campaigns – do they make sense? repurposed their latest creative campaign which had their central character Captain Obvious enjoying a luxury break to Captain Obvious using hand sanitiser and practicing social distancing and advising everyone else to do the same. Magic.

Focus on the right stuff – Do Good; Don’t Look Good

The balance of communicating while not appearing to profiteer is a fine one but it’s key to put profit motivations on the back burner. Focus on how you can help. New Balance have moved from making sneakers to making protective equipment, others are offering their fleets for vital local pharmacy deliveries; supermarkets like Dunnes Stores and Supervalu have made times instore for the most vulnerable in the community and Glenisk are asking their social community to nominate small Irish businesses they will buy vouchers from.

How you act at home matters

Treat your employees with as much care and kindness as your customers. They will talk, customers will listen. Quantas CEO Alan Joyce has forgone his salary for the next few months to help drive the business, true leadership living the brand values of ‘Spirit of Australia’. In contrast Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man asked the public to donate to an Amazon employee relief fund.

Use your platforms for good

Some brands are nailing this, including Coca Cola giving their OOH space in Times Square to remind people to social distance or Nike encouraging everyone to #playinside.

Admit you don’t know

Brands who are manoeuvring through this period honestly and showing vulnerability are winning out. Admit when you don’t know what the latest announcement will mean for you or how you’re going to tackle it. Everyone feels the same.

Don’t talk about yourself

Now is not the time to push product attributes unless they have a relevant benefit – Dettol have every right to keep talking about the antibacterial qualities of their products and are sharing valuable information to their community but talking about the laces on your luxury shoe brand is not for now.

Don’t act like it’s business as usual

Acknowledge what’s going on or run the risk of building a real disconnect with your customer. Case in point is the brand appreciation Vogue Italia is experiencing. For the first time ever, the iconic brand is turning its cover white- when it could have told itself that their audience needed fashion beautiful images – “White is, first and foremost, respect. White is rebirth, light after the darkness, the sum of all the colours. White is the uniforms of those who have saved lives while risking their own. It’s time and space for thinking. And for staying silent too. White is for people who are filling this time and space with ideas, thoughts, stories, verses, music and kindness to others,” said Vogue Italia editor in chief Emanuele Farnetti “It’s a reminder that after the crisis in 1929, clothes turned white, a color chosen to express purity in the present and hope for the future. And above all, white is not surrender; it’s a blank page to be filled, the frontispiece of a new story about to begin.”

If that doesn’t build an emotional connection, nothing will.

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