COVID-19 is unlike anything most of us have had to face in our lifetimes but finding out where a brand can speak appropriately is a widely shared short-term headache; in an exclusive piece for WARC, Oliver Feldwick explores the history of brands in difficult times and how to react to them.
Feldwick, The&Partnership’s Global Head of Innovation, examines recent economic shocks in his article, Brands in a time of crisis: Finding your role during unusual times, cautioning that while each recession is different, the one coming after COVID-19 is unique.
“Recent recessions have tended to be a short, sharp, shocks; limited to a region, industry or group,” Feldwick writes. “COVID-19 is a disruption unlike any we’ve seen before. Governments are dealing with a chaotic situation which demands finely balanced judgements, between minimising harm to people with suppression strategies, and minimising harm to society and the economy with mitigation strategies.
“Facing an unprecedented systemic threat, brands will have to shift priorities and change mindsets. Think of people less as consumers and more as citizens.”
Simply, objectives of both citizens and brands must change too. Now, however, brands have to think about how they can help in the effort to both limit the damage of coronavirus and help the society in which they exist.
Feldwick lays out three important principles to adapt:
- Rapidly shift mindset to keep up with changing sentiment
- Shift expectations and tone.
- Think in terms of “anti-fragile scenarios” rather than fixed plans
These aren’t necessarily simple fixes – “this will require some rough and ready rethinking,” he notes – and will ask flexibility of marketers rather than rigid fidelity to the rules that have informed planning up to now.
Ultimately, the question is about whether your brand ought to be ramping up an essential service, encouraging or entertaining, pivoting, or just keeping going if it’s inappropriate to say or do anything and preparing for the future.
Brands can remain optimistic for the long term. “While the focus in the short term is on surviving and solving, humans, society and brands are all resilient. The current crisis will end, but we will have been through a generation-defining moment together – what will we find on the other side?” Feldwick ponders.
While the answer to that has yet to be written, “We should ask now, ‘how do we want the public to remember our brand after the crisis?’” he advises. “Because the memory structures we are building now will go deeper and last longer, than much of the better-planned marketing that comes before or after.”
This article first appeared in www.warc.com
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