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What brands do in a crisis

Another day in isolation, another day where brands are being made or broken by how they react, how they communicate and how they connect to us during this outbreak. 

I get really annoyed now by all those automated funnel sales emails that are coming through fishing for subscribers. The jolly sales talk of marketeers trying to tell me how to make my money with PPC and FaceBook advertising, or how they can set up retargeting pixels for me to work wonders. Put it on pause! My whole world is… 

It’s house hold brands as well though that show their true nature, good and bad.

Wetherspoons informed workers that they will no longer be paid, saying he would only start payments again once the Government’s scheme to cover 80% of wages is in place – despite the Treasury saying that grants for salaries could be backdated to March 1.

Sports Direct is highly criticised for their handling of staff safety amidst their belief that the shops should stay open despite all the dangers this poses to staff and shoppers. 

Apple, on the other hand, has been able to source 10M masks for the US and millions more for the hardest hit regions in Europe. In his tweet, Tim Cook shares the news. 

BrewDog, an independent distillery in Aberdeenshire, UK, has used its distillery to produce hand sanitiser and is giving it away to local charities and the community. James Watt, Founder of BrewDog, said on Twitter: “We want to do all we can to help everyone get through this difficult time.”

German manufacturers Rotkäppchen and Jägermeister are helping out by supplying ethanol for the production of desinfectant.

For those of us home schooling, various TV personalities are offering their time for free to keep kids active and help to educate them. Carol Vorderman has opened up her online maths school for free for the duration of the school closures:

Joe Wickes is doing daily PE class workouts at 9am on his Youtube channel:

David Walliams releases a free audio story on his website every day for 30 days and there are lots of free activities/resource packs to download:

Darcey Bussell is giving free dance classes on her DDMIX FaceBook page. Audible has made hundreds of stories free during the lockdown.

Supermarkets are doing their best to make shopping easier for the elderly by having special shopping hours amidst panic buying and empty shelves.

There is so much going on, good and bad, and these just a few samples of how this crisis is not just a test for the operations side of companies, but also for their brands. We are vulnerable, we are uncertain and we lean on those we can rely on – be it in our neighbourhood via WhatsApp groups, via social media or phone calls. We don’t just seek the comfort (albeit mostly remotely) of our families and friends, it’s brands we look to for reassurance just as much as we look at our politicians and celebrities.

It’s judgement time and brands – personal or business – have the amazing opportunity to use their profiles to help people not just with products but mentally.

Of course there is one brand that should get a knighthood if there was such a thing. The NHS is doing amazing things. It really is a people brand. I am humbled by the hard work they do, the impossible situation they find themselves in and the ongoing commitment they show to our health. It’s absolutely awe inspiring. There are countless examples of their efforts to campaign for #StayAtHome…

I have been lucky to work with quite a few NHS hospitals / operations on branding and web projects, so it’s pretty emotional for me personally at the moment because I know the people that work there are struggling right now and there is not much I can do. I’ve volunteered to help along with 400,000 other citizens hoping that I can give a little bit back myself but I am afraid it will only be a small drop on a hot stone.

The NHS – for me – is definitely one of the brands that seems to be genuine and authentic from the inside out. Something every business should aspire to be from a human point of view.

I hope we will get through this together and have a chance to say a big THANK YOU to all those brands that are on our side right now.

Regine Wilber

I am a brand consultant and conceptual designer. I love using creativity to solve problems for our clients. In my spare time, I like jigsaws and probably a bit of a board game geek. 

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