Brands in Crisis: How should companies behave in a Pandemic?

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Brands in Crisis: how should companies behave in a Pandemic?

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak presents unprecedented challenges for people, governments, and businesses alike. Specifically, for businesses, the stakes are high not only because COVID-19 is putting many of them in a difficult financial position, but also because they need to show how socially conscious, they truly are while the whole world is watching. So, the million-dollar question for brands now is the following: how will you respond? And be careful, consumers are paying attention. Using the very latest COVID-19 data from our multi-market research, available here, here’s what we know so far.

As lockdown heightens, so do brand expectations.

Data shows that companies should acknowledge the urgency of the situation and help their communities. More than 80% of the respondents agree that brands should be offering flexible payments and free services whenever they can. Microsoft and Zoom follow this practice where they offer their video conference services for free or at a reduced-price helping businesses and individuals navigate this tough period.

Additionally, 67% of the respondents think brands should suspend factory production to make essential supplies, and 79% think non-essential stores should be closed down. Already, many brands have adopted a similar tactic such as Louis Vuitton; by switching some of their production of perfumes to produce hand sanitizers instead; helping governments tackle the situation. And it seems consumers do notice. In the Gulf region specifically, Emirates Palace Hotel Company offer their staff to help National Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management Authority in the battle against COVID-19. (source)

Another sign that consumers require brands to interact with the market in a fundamentally different way is that only 37% of them want brands to continue to advertise as normal. For consumers, everything that brands do during this crisis goes under a microscope and it will be immediately evident to them if a brand exploits the situation for profit in such harsh times. Nevertheless, many brands such as McDonald’s and Chiquita Banana have adapted their logos to highlight that everyone should be responsible and stay at home; showing that there is an opportunity for companies to become creative with a valuable message and find alternative ways to communicate with their consumers.

Brands, don’t be just present – be helpful.

It’s clear that not all companies can pivot to making hand sanitisers or face masks. However, any company should look at their available resources and consider the best way possible to utilize them for the benefit of all – particularly for markets where governments have been slow to lead, corporations have a responsibility to take positive action. This might not be in the form of products; the data shows us that other options are on the table. Lifting customer’s spirits is still a challenging job, and brands which make a focus of this one way or another are still contributing to the overall effort. In general, communication is key; we see higher approval ratings for brands when running campaigns showing their response to the coronavirus and how they are helping their customers, as well as for brands directly contacting their customers to let them know how they are responding (both around 80%). There are lots of ideas and opinions on how a brand could and should respond to the COVID-19 crisis, but the main point is that marketing leaders should stay informed and stay present to shape strategies that will help affected industries recover sooner than later.

Tailwind and GlobalWebIndex are strongly committed to keeping Covid-19 insights free to all during this challenging time. For more insights and upcoming research, you can find all of GWI’s Covid-19 related free resources here