Over the last two weeks, many businesses and their agencies have been uncertain how to progress in this unchartered territory. In part, this is because Coronavirus has thrown up other immediate conundrums that demand solution – from changing patterns of demand, to supply chain issues, to the adoption of strange new working practices, to each of us emotionally processing and adapting.
The uncertainty is also due to a wariness of being misinterpreted. None of us want to be seen as cashing in. The cultural context has undergone a seismic shift, and brands are treading carefully.
However, the initial evidence is that people are keen for brands to show initiative – as long (of course) as this initiative is authentic, of use, and there is a rationale why that initiative is coming from that brand. According to a hot off the press survey from Ace Matrix, only 10% of people say it is not okay for brands to mention Coronavirus, and 75% say brands have a responsibility to help out during the pandemic. Over the last week, when some banks and supermarkets opened their doors early to people over 70, I am not aware of one single voice questioning their motives for doing so: the universal consensus is that they are acting to help, as opposed to cynically wringing one hour’s more profit from a vulnerable public.
So, if certain brands have a licence to play a role, what might that role be, and how might it shift in the days, weeks and months to come? There are a number of potential roles, but I have grouped them into three: education, practical help, and emotional support.