In A Crisis, Let Your Actions Define Your Brand

I don’t need to tell you how all of our lives have changed this year. And yet, I ask myself why some brands haven’t been able to adapt. The best marketers have a deep understanding of their audience – you can see this reflected in the brand’s values and messaging. And yet too few have re-positioned themselves for the crises we are living through right now.

The very best brands and marketers have openly shared their stories of how they’re managing. Firstly, they’ve communicated internally and explained how they’re taking care of and protecting their own staff. Externally, they’ve asked themselves how they can help both their customers and the wider community, and they’ve acted to support those in need. And they understand the challenges that their clients are facing right now, and they’re doing their utmost to help. In other words, they’ve put others first, not just in their words but in their actions too.

Take for example how the CEO of McDonald’s Philippines addressed concerns around health and hygiene. In a video addressed to consumers, he clearly explained what precautions they were taking in store for his employees. And he also stated that people will come before profits by promising to shut down stores and stop orders to safeguard people’s health.

One the largest pharmacy chains in America, Walgreens has launched a series of short, informative videos that answer the most common questions people are asking about COVID-19. They’ve helped their customers understand more about the brand’s online care services and free prescription delivery. And Walgreens established drive-through facilities that offer testing for the virus at no cost to key groups such as first responders and those most at risk.

There’s few brands which are more about home than Ikea. In Spain the brand launched a campaign that encouraged people to stay home by asking them to take a different view of where they live by remembering all of those magical moments we’ve experienced in our houses and our flats. Ikea’s campaign then asks the public to remember that their home is a place of safety, where we will live new experiences and try new things during this time.

Over the past couple of months, the best brands and others have communicated their values and the understanding of the situation through their actions. They haven’t come up with meaningless communications which just add to the noise, but really don’t explain what brands are doing to help those in need. And they’ve haven’t tried to be what they’re not (I don’t know a single marketer with a PhD in medicine, so let’s stay away from giving medical advice).

Research bears this out. A survey by marketing consultancy firm Morning Consult found that 44% of consumers prefer advertising that communicate service adjustments and updates, whilst 24% want ads that indicate what brands are doing to help. Only 10% favor ads that acknowledge the situation and express concern.

We’re going to be living through the pandemic’s impact for the months and years to come. It’s not just a health emergency; we’re already going through an economic crisis which will last into 2021 and beyond. Marketers have to become better attuned to what’s happening and continuously ask themselves, “what are we doing to support our employees, our customers, and our communities.”

You often find out the most about people and their character during a crisis. It’s no different for brands, and today MENA-based brands should communicate their value to consumers not through meaningless marketing slogans (please, no more nice-sounding hashtags) which may ring hollow, but tangible acts of support which will help people get through their own personal crisis. Today, actions truly do speak louder than words for both brands and marketers.