Brand Strategy
By Mike Woronuk

Brand Purpose and Crisis Communications

Brand purpose comes through how we serve. 

First of all, we’re reaching out to say we hope that you and yours are well, and that social distancing like this hasn’t got you down.

We also want to share a few marketing thoughts; things that we’ve observed during this challenging time.

The way we see it, there’s no ‘business as usual’ during a crisis. And it’s only natural to be focused on the things that actually matter. 

So how do you connect your brand to purpose?

In a time like this, brand managers have three options:
(1) No action
(2) Wrong action
(3) Purpose activation

If we’re honest, we know that the consumers we want to reach will quickly see through opportunism and disingenuous positioning. 

No action is, well, no action. 

It’s safe to wait it out until we’re back to ‘business as usual’, right? 

But sometimes ‘no action’ can be the wrong action, especially if you’re Norwegian Cruise Lines, and you didn’t pull back your ads on CNN during coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak… which included reports about passengers being sick and stuck on cruise ships. Geico pulled ads that celebrated the “Perfect High Five”, KFC pulled its ‘Finger lickin’ good’ ads in the UK… the list goes on. 

When opportunism is bad, purpose is good. 

Course correction is great. You’ve pulled those ill fated campaigns, cancelled your trade shows and are transitioning somewhat seamlessly into an all-digital work-from-home workforce. 

Is waiting it out really the best thing you can do? 

Remember we all agreed, this is anything but business as usual. 

Taking the right action becomes clear when we connect two things: 

(A) Brand purpose: What is our basic brand purpose, the thing do we do best for our customers? 
(B) How we serve: Can we do our job better for the people, businesses and communities we serve, given the changes they face due to COVID-19? 

Here are two stellar examples: 

Our friends at BBC News have made the connection. BBC’s purpose? Provide essential information to viewers around the world. Ad buys are down across the industry, so what to do with spare inventory? The BBC is donating 20% of their inventory to public health organizations around the globe to help combat the spread of misinformation. And with millions of viewers on TV/Online/Mobile… that’s worth an #ElbowBump!

Does it seem like your brand purpose is a little less connected to the global crises than, say, reaching millions with public health information? Let’s take inspiration from Keen shoes, known for helping feet endure the toughest conditions (their brand purpose). Keen decided to connect that purpose with serving those in need by giving away 100,000 pairs of shoes. Keen even asked people to nominate healthcare workers and followed up via Twitter to collect shoe sizes and send out the goods. #ElbowBump!

“Shoes are our currency,” says Ashley Williams, senior director of global marketing at Keen. “This is one thing we can do to immediately help people who have to be on their feet all day, on the front lines, and families in need.”

Keen Shoes Homepage Screenshot

If you’re looking at your brand and feeling doubt about taking action, ask yourself, “Does this connect to our higher purpose? Will it help make people’s lives better?”. 

If you can answer yes to both, then it’s the right thing to do. 

The list of elbow-bump-worthy news goes on. Parents have become home teachers, can your brand help them with that? Here’s one example from Learning At Home. Community food banks are experiencing higher demands than ever and New York food banks especially need our help (kudos and thanks to RyanReynolds). Do kitchens and chefs have spare capacity? Creative workers, who often get by as bartenders and servers are at home wondering how they’ll make rent. Can we put their creativity to work, or provide relief like Google’s paid sick leave for temp and contract workers


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Helping you deliver communications that make a difference is what we do best. 

For our clients working on COVID-19 crisis response campaigns, we’re here to help, we’re here to work overtime and we’ve reduced our agency fees by 25% for all crisis-related work. We want to support you in any way we can and we’re just a phone call or Zoom meeting away.

Most of all, we hope you and your family stay safe and calm during this unthinkably different time.

All the best from your friends at Bartley & Dick.

Preparing COVID-19 crisis communications? We're here to help.

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