Helping vs Branding: Strategies that work (and those that don't)

Written by Jo Arden, CSO for MullenLowe Group UK.

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Originally published in Campaign Live, March 31st 2020.

It’s amazing how fast brands can corral when a bandwagon is hurtling through town. I’m all for businesses doing their bit and for brands having a purpose – either without integrity is shameful. I’m going to caveat what I say by assuming that all the brand responses (well, most) have come from a place of wanting to help in some way. But this is a time for us all to remember the relatively insignificant role that any brand plays in people’s lives – not everyone has stopped to think before ‘supporting’ the nation . . . 

Thinking business first, brand second. Car manufacturers are making ventilators, and fashion brands making PPE and clinical clothing. In the space of a week major businesses have changed what they actually manufacture – and in the most part not making a big song and dance about it. Awesome. 

Brands being extra good at what they already do. The new BBC UX surfacing more immersive content, Just Eat and Deliveroo delivering emergency supplies to those that need it, BrewDog digital bar experience (I want to hate it, but I think it may genuinely serve a need) and ITV getting Ant and Dec out to make us feel less lonely. Lovely

Brands awkwardly trying to be relevant. McDonalds, no-one is going to change their behaviour because you modified your logo on social media; all the brands giving free drinks (or worse, discounts on drinks) to the NHS staff and making ads about it; BrewDog Brewgel. Urgggh, awful. 

It’s incredible to see brands fast-tracking innovation (I think speed of response might be one of the legacies of this crisis) but it’s a bit galling to see some blatant awards guff too. How about, to keep us honest, we make a pact? That rather than fill the world with any more bullshit posturing, we give the money it’d cost to the charities and public services that can use it for something genuinely good. 






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