There’s been no shortage of opinions shared about what brands should be doing and saying during Covid-19.

This is what research of brand audiences is saying they want to see your brand do and say:

  • Be part of the solution, or its support – A Kantar survey showed 47% of global consumers now expect companies to support hospitals. 39% said brands should make themselves available to local government. 62% told Edelman their country will not make it through this crisis without brands playing a critical role (partly through educating) and 65% said hearing about how a brand they buy from is responding to the coronavirus is comforting and reassuring.
    Analysis by Alva shows the companies making the biggest impact are those proactively announcing assistance before Government requests it.
    Doing is better than donating – it shows more commitment. In return, those doing things are getting more post engagement than those simply donating, not matter how big the donation.
    You may not be able to create a new ventilator but you and your staff could take part in a fundraising initiative.
  • Support key workers – Edelman found 89% of the public expect brands to offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, people at high risk, and those whose jobs have been affected. Alva found those aiding healthcare staff are getting most engagement. Free gifts or discounts are simple, if you can afford them. Don’t forget that the key worker audience is huge and may be a growth market for your brand if they see you’ve supported them through this.
  • Be useful – A third of consumers in the Kantar survey said they want companies to help them or provide advice. Part of the definition of a brand is that it has relevant qualities for customers .
    Good examples are:
    RBS creating ‘companion’ debit cards to allow those helping sheltered people informally to have secure access to only the funds required
    Admiral proactively refunding part of customers’ annual car insurance premiums because they’re driving less.
    – Nike making its subscription Nike Training Club app free.
  • Work out how to meet your audiences’ emotional needsAMV BBDO data shows “people are looking for two things right now: help and comfort…The data also tells us that what people most want after this is to see those they are closest to.”
    Work out how you can help with those and prioritise them so as to build emotional bonds with your brand. DoubleTree sharing its famous check-in chocolate chip cookie recipe for guests to bake at home is a creative way of sharing comfort linked to their brand while they’re closed.
  • Create a community around your brand – if you haven’t already – Edelman found 84% want brand social channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer support to those in need.
  • Be fair and a good citizen – this should be a given anyway, but look at the negative publicity airlines such as Ryanair have had for trying to give travellers vouchers instead of the refunds they’re legally entitled to and Sports Direct for upping the prices of products in high demand for lockdown life after trying to keep trading through lockdown.
    Research shows they will likely pay a price when they resume trading – 65% of Edelman’s participants said how a company responds to the coronavirus crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of buying from it in the future. Worse, they’ll convince others to stop buying from you if you aren’t behaving correctly – “Large numbers of people have already convinced others to stop using a brand that they felt was not responding appropriately.”
  • Look after your people and communicate it – “someone who’s nice to you, but nasty to the waiter is not a nice person” goes the well-worn advice. Doing what you can to help your staff is a no-brainer from a staff motivation point-of-view, but also affects your reputation – what you’re seen to do will affect how audiences see your brand and whether they’ll continue to support you – Edelman found the 90% of the public want to understand how organizations are supporting employees, customers and suppliers, with 71% saying if they think a brand is putting profit over people, they’ll lose trust in that brand forever.
    Doing the right thing can actually win you new business – Edelman found more than a third have started using a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way the brand has behaved since the pandemic began.
  • Keep marketing – but only lockdown-relevant products & services. Many fear brand promotion will look crass, but only 8% of consumers in the Kantar survey thought brand advertising should be suspended as a large number believe it’s a useful distraction from the depressing daily news coverage of the epidemic. Edelman research found 84% of respondents globally said they want brands to be a reliable news source that keeps people informed, they said you should only create and promote products and services which solve lockdown problems.
    Unilever is spending the same, but altering the balance, following the old adage that those who keep marketing through a downturn gain advantage when things improve.
  • Keep emailingemail open rates are up because people in lockdown have less going on, but don’t expect sales to carry on as normal – conversions are 10-20% lower than pre-March. So use email to informal and tell brand stories and communicate brand values.

What your brand should be saying

  • Show your support for the official safety messages – this is part of being a good corporate citizen.
  • Say how you’re helping – Edelman’s research shows people want to know this. Not just B2C audiences, but B2B ones as well – LinkedIn found “The coronavirus posts that got the most engagement were about how companies were stepping up to help relief efforts, in ways big and small.”
    But be careful of your tone – humble bragging and virtue signalling will go down badly. Talk about being glad to help and it being part of living your brand purpose. Encourage others to do so.
  • Focus on solving your audiences’ lockdown problemsEdelman found 84% of respondents said they want brand advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges. 54% said they’re not paying attention to new products unless they’re designed to help with their pandemic-related life challenges.
  • Say how you can help meet your audiences’ emotional needs – maybe by creating online groups for them to meet and connect with other people connected with your brand and share their experiences. Or random acts of kindness to them.
  • Be humanEdelman found 77% of people want brands to show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives, with 83% wanting brand messaging that communicates empathy and support with the struggles they face. Maybe share your personal tips for what helped you and your people. As AMV BBDO says, “Don’t be self-serving; don’t be cynical; and don’t talk like an organisation.”
  • Ditch humour for nowEdelman found 57% want brands to stop any advertising or marketing that is humorous or light-hearted.
  • Make sure your local, ethical and sustainability credentials are in your messaging for appropriate audiencesEY found 34% of people will pay more for local products and 23% will pay more for ethical brands and more than a quarter are paying greater attention to their consumption choices and the impact they have on the world.