The role of brands has altered because the preoccupation of their audience is no longer spending for want, but for need.
And without trying to formalise everyone’s collective headspace, Bain & Company’s adapted ‘Elements of Value’ model points in the right direction: people value things that provide belonging and reduce anxiety.
This is important.
The old adage that brands spend their way out of crises isn’t relevant here. Brands aren’t spending their way out of this one. But equally it’s not a time to go dark. The mandate has shifted and it’s a simple one: just help. Pursue the greater good rather than self-interest. And if you can’t figure out how to do that, don’t do anything.
But thankfully there are brands that have figured out how to make a difference with their actions. And they’ve done so quickly.
There are those fundamentally shifting the categories they operate in, in order to serve society's needs, such as LVMH switching their perfume production to hand sanitiser or car manufacturers turning their production lines into ventilator production lines. And it's been done without any airs and graces.
A client of ours, Just Eat, responded by delivering emergency supplies to those that need it most. Boots are rolling out testing facilities. We’ve seen sports, such as the Football Association of Wales, leaning into mental health in response to loneliness searches peaking at their highest in recorded history. Logos have changed, some more successfully than others, in support of saving the NHS. BBC dipped into the archive to advise us on staying home while Netflix is filling billboards with spoilers for if we don’t. Defected Records’ made its festival virtual. And Budweiser’s SavePubLife initiative is an attempt to save the place we’ll want to go after this.
It goes without saying there are a lot of things we can’t control. But that doesn't stop how industrious and resourceful we can be in finding ways to still do the right thing. And if the last few weeks have shown us anything, never has there been a greater call to arms.
Most brands have played their role so far in establishing a new normal and making themselves part of culture by showing a duty of care. It’s shaping how people feel about what’s happening.
These are the things that will be remembered on the rebound. And the brands that haven’t pulled their weight will be found out when this is all done. But there is still a lot longer to go. So, where you can, find a role and don’t set limitations.