Roxanne VureBy Roxanne Vure, Associate Director, MediaCom Manchester

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought dramatic changes to everybody’s lives. And not surprisingly, with global lockdowns and the resulting economic slowdown, there have been significant impacts on all companies.

Consumer behaviours are having to constantly evolve and adapt to new guidelines and circumstances; as a result, attitudes towards brands are altering. Kantar research found that globally 78% of consumers believe brands should help them in their daily lives, and 75% say brands should inform people about what they’re doing. Consumers expect more from brands. More than ever they are under intense scrutiny, those found to put profit before purpose face a backlash of mistrust from consumers. Edelman’s latest survey reveals 65% said that a brand’s response in the crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing it in the future.

Of course, not all, or even very many, Covid-19 induced behaviours will stick (e.g. still don’t eat pub nuts!), and only time will set apart the temporary reactions from the permanent shifts. Mark Cuban recently commented that the decisions a company makes during this time will ‘define their brand for decades’. And while I find this relatively dramatic – some actions will have little to no bearing on future success – it is true that how brands react during this time could have long-term consequences.

So, what to do when everyone is watching?

In a crisis, actions speak louder than words. Instead of ‘what should we say?’ – brands need to ask, ‘what should we do?’ And ‘how should we behave?’

Brands are facing swift criticism from all sides with consumers, governments and journalists quick to jump on every wrong word. The spotlight is on and even those aiding charitable efforts are not exempt from public scrutiny. Looking at Brewdog and LVMH; both brands started to produce alcohol-based sanitisers amid shortages in an effort to help and support their communities. Yet despite both providing these free of charge, Brewdog received mix reactions online with claims of shameless marketing via excessive branding.

Recent YouGov research shows that 61% of Brits would prefer large companies to pay their unpaid taxes – even if it means they stop giving money to good causes. It’s important to remember that sometimes – you say it best when say nothing at all (quoted Ronan Keating – blame lockdown).

The world is watching and inevitably will see when brands are disingenuous.

You don’t have to distance your logo or donate free product (although if you can, great!) – just be transparent. Real transparency that goes beyond supply chain traceability, CSR initiatives and generic internal statements – it’s about your brand values. The values which built your brand should inform your behaviour, from comforting consumers to protecting staff.

Behave ethically. Know your brand purpose. Understand your role in consumers’ lives and show your commitment to their wellbeing, now and beyond the pandemic. Where appropriate acknowledge that it’s not business as usual and if there have been disruptions call them out – people want human communications, not corporate ones (and please no emails from your CEO!).

NB: If you’re interested Did They Help? is an online database that compiles information about the actions of global corporations and public figures during the coronavirus.