Many companies are still focused on sales and want to implement processes to continue business as normal. Some companies that can continue to run during this period are still focused on profits.
Instead of creating public anger by communications or actions that seemed to be taking advantage of the situation and later, do some CSR projects or donate money to repair reputation, businesses should do one thing during this critical period which should be thinking about how to use their marketing for public good.
Big brand do have a big impact on society. In Singapore, SMRT decreased the frequency of their train services citing a reduced ridership during this period. And after much social media backlash and public anger, they decided to increase the number of trains again.
During this period, there are a lot of things which will be very sensitive as people are suffering economic impact, stress and are fearful of the situation. Any miscommunication will draw much anger and the reputation damage may be hard to rebuild. For SMRT, the reduction in the number of trains to safe costs creates a situation where trains are more crowded, and passengers are unable to follow social distancing, which causes a problem of public safety and this can be seen as prioritising profits over safety, this WILL tarnish the brand for a long time.
With more people working from home and cooped up indoors, they may have less entertainment, and will turn to social media, and such negative posts will spread far and wide.
Instead of promoting a new product and service or finding ways to cut costs or maximise profits, companies should look at how they can help people through this crisis. Brands should reflect and develop their brand purpose.
Many car companies like GM and Tesla are manufacturing ventilators, and companies like LVMH, known for luxury goods is partnering other luxury brands and making hand sanitisers for French hospitals. The facilities that produce fragrances and cosmetics for Christian Dior, Guerlain, and Givenchy had already begun to create the gel, bottle it, and make deliveries.
When done right, brands can play a part in supporting their communities during this period and not just for superficial tokenism or a marketing ploy. This is not just for social responsibility, but this is just a reason why your brand should exist and what is its purpose in society.
The primary audience of any brand purpose should be employees not consumers because purpose impacts the values and beliefs of a brand, which in turns impacts the desired behaviours of those who work for the brand.
This is not about saving the world. It does not need to be on the news or all over various media channels. Your brand purpose is to guide your actions, and not for ads.
This is an uncertain time where many companies and people have a lot of anxieties and problems to be addressed. It is a time of crisis and this is the time where strong brands will shine and be identified — not for the CSR projects that they do and gain media attention, but for their contributions to society during this time. We are all in this together, and we should contribute what we can to see each other through this difficult time.
Visibility Design is a design and marketing company with offices in Singapore and Myanmar. We work on creative solutions and if you have a brand question or social project which you want support, feel free to contact us. We would love to help you in brainstorming solutions and do what we can to see each other through this period.