The ongoing global pandemic has brought the world to its knees. With businesses, offices, shops, kiosks, factories, and other economic entities shut down, the entire world is in panic mode. Brands of all shapes and sizes haven’t been left out of this seismic change as well - and with consumer attention and spending shifting towards essential goods and services, many of them have struggled to stay relevant in the minds (and wallets) of consumers. In this piece, we are asking the question “where are all the brands?” - We will also take a look at how brands all over the world can turn the situation around, leveraging the misfortunes brought on by this pandemic as a springboard for building connections that are even more meaningful with their consumer base.
Leading up to COVID-19
2019 was a good year for the world economy. Apple spent the year teetering the 1trillion dollar valuation mark, Walmart acquired Flipkart for 16 billion, and Ankiti Bose’s startup Zilingo managed to hit 1 billion in revenues. Things were looking up for brands all over the globe. It seemed like 2020 was going to be a year of unprecedented success in the global market. Ahead of the start of the year, brands had begun to invest more and more in marketing, consumer interaction, and brand image relevance (these, however, were geared mostly towards getting consumers to spend more on their products and services.)
So, why are the brands gone quiet?
In the years leading up to our current situation, one could almost go nowhere without constantly being flooded with a litany of (sometimes really creative messages) trying to convince you to buy a product or subscribe to a service. These messages, in the form of print, radio, and internet media ads of all kinds, seemed unavoidable. Brands were in a constant state of limbo trying to one-up each other and score a bigger piece of the pie in their respective niches.
It’s 2020 now and looking around, it seems that most of the hitherto noisy brands have gone completely silent. The Google search, YouTube, and Facebook ads that used to grace every search result are seemingly appearing less often. Product-based brands are especially being referred to here. It seems that perhaps because of the downturn in overall consumer demand, they feel it’s not worth the cost flooding the public consciousness with their messages anymore.
Whatever the reason however, brands are more silent than ever before and this is making it harder for consumers to recognize their relevance. It is perhaps ironic that those brands are silent now, when consumers are more likely than ever before to have enough time to consume promotional messages. Whether as a cost cutting measure or for any other reason, businesses staying silent through all this is deeply hurting their respective brands.
What are other (smarter) companies doing to create a lasting brand image?
The downturn in fortunes has spread its tentacles to every sector and product/service category in one way or another. Despite this, some smart brands have taken the bull by the horn and looked for ingenious ways to uplift their brand image (through acts of humanity) during this crisis. In the following bullet points, we will take a look at some brands that are spreading positivity this period beyond just profit-making. They are playing the long game – realigning their priorities to add value to their consumers during this pandemic. They understand that showing gratitude to their long standing customers and client base will ingratiate their brand come the end of this period of uncertainty.
Linkedin and Twitter have dedicated their platforms to COVID-19 updates.
Apple has pledged the profits from the sale of its “Product Red” iPhone SE variant towards COVID-19 research.
NASA has repurposed its factories and components towards manufacturing ventilators.
Many airlines around the world have modified their airplanes to carry essential drugs, medical equipment, and supplies.
Telecommunications providers in the US (such as AT&T) are providing free data to customers and extending the payment period on their bills.
Nike and KFC have made huge donations in their local markets towards COVID-19 research and relief.
…… And many more.
Many more brands are doing their part to ease the collective burden of the crisis. A multitude of them in one way or the other, are doing their part to support small local businesses (which are an economic lifeblood). Distilleries are tuning their production line to manufacture sanitizer. Clothing and shoe manufacturers such as New balance are also tweaking their factories to product face masks.
Suffice to say, the current disposition has helped the world understand how to pivot quickly from business as usual to community service. Brands that don’t make their voices heard during this pandemic may find themselves rendered irrelevant post pandemic.
How more brands can turn the tide
This crisis has affected almost everyone equally. It is important in times like these for brands, businesses, and individuals alike to hone in our humane side through the understanding that in the end, we are all the same and can succumb to the same change in conditions. Brands and businesses are nothing but people working in tandem towards a common economic goal. All things considered it is fair to say that right now, that goal should shift from profit making to contributing towards helping their communities come out of the current crises with as little damage as possible. The pandemic has highlighted just how shorthanded many world governments are, meaning that there is a need for the corporate sector to step in and help.
Brands can turn the current tide by examining their business and understanding how it can add value towards easing peoples’ suffering and discomfort this period. Even if donations cannot be made, brands can use their platform, physical resources, and technologies to help in the current war. The collective consciousness does not forget a selfless act.
Brand trust and consumer belief are one of the strongest assets a business or brand can have – period. Each and every brand owes its respective community a debt of effort – effort towards showing care, concern, and empathy towards what the world is going through. By giving donations, catering to employees’ welfare, or just spreading informative content, brands, in this period of crisis, will be building consumer goodwill that will last for years to come.