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how brands can make a meaningful difference to people’s lives during the coronavirus outbreak – Econsultancy

The Covid-19 outbreak has changed everything, and marketing is no different. But this is a time for humanity – not a marketing moment.

Thankfully, we’ve seen plenty of brands joining the fight against the coronavirus – from making donations and helping with the production of hand sanitiser, through to providing protective clothing and medical equipment, and offering discounts for the medical professionals working tirelessly to stop the spread of the virus.

While all of these initiatives should be commended, brands can also add value to people’s lives in smaller yet equally meaningful ways. With the UK introducing tight restrictions and countries around the world promoting social distancing, brands can help people as they turn their homes into offices, schools, gyms, restaurants, leisure and entertainment spaces to learn, laugh and live in.

Make them stay at home

One way for brands to show their support is to amplify the ‘stay at home’ message, and some have been doing so in a number of creative ways. While some brands have opted to use traditional channels, with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit; and Coca-Cola both buying billboards in Times Square encouraging people to ‘stay apart as the best way to stay united’, the majority of brands are focussing on social channels, with Nike promoting their ‘Play Inside, Play for the World’ message and Skyn putting a rather racy spin on the core message, encouraging people to ‘Stay and f*** at home’.

Some brands have gone as far as rebranding themselves – ‘Time Out’ has changed its name to ‘Time In’ (while sadly stopping its print run for the first time since it launched in London in 1968) and Burger King Belgium has tweaked the slogan displayed on its shopfronts from ‘Home of the Whopper’ to ‘Stay Home’.

Helping with the day-to-day

While it’s important to drive the message home (pun intended), with restrictions put in place for at least three weeks, helping customers deal with their day-to-day will enable brands to create a more meaningful difference in people’s lives.

With the outbreak impacting everyone’s spending habits, and in some cases having a negative impact on their cashflow or even their ability to make ends meet, some brands are relaxing the rules. Apple has allowed Apple Card holders to skip their March payment, Ford US has extended its financial relief program to customers impacted by the pandemic , and M&S is offering currency refunds for people who can no longer can travel due to Covid-19.

Brands can also offer support in areas like cooking or housework, with a good example being US brand Great Jones launching a free text service for real-time recipe inspiration and cooking advice.

Create spaces to connect

While social distancing has become the new norm, maintaining a sense of connection and keeping in touch with your colleagues, friends and family is even more important than ever. In the space of a couple of weeks, many of us have switched to virtual happy hours, Mother’s Day celebrations over FaceTime, hashtag-based movie clubs (#isolationfilmclub and #quarantinemovienight to name a few) and playing party games on HouseParty – a video chat app currently at number one in the Apple app store in 17 countries including the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy.

This is also a space where brands can add value. In the US, Chipotle has started to host daily sessions on Zoom, with celebrity guests and as many as 3,000 fans. In the UK, BrewDog has announced plans to create an online bar experience, including an opportunity to connect with and support their local pubs.

Keeping children entertained (and parents sane)

With schools closed, parents are actively looking for ideas of how to keep their children entertained. This led to Pinterest having its best weekend of all time in terms of activity on the platform, and the fastest growing search categories were home-school schedules, indoor kids’ activities and kid science experiments at home.

The National Literary Trust has come out to meet these needs by creating the Literacy Family Zone, a website which aims to support parents in home schooling. And Joe Wicks made headlines when his first live-streamed workout class for children attracted 2m viewers, further demonstrating that there is massive interest for this kind of content – and a real opportunity for brands.

Razzle dazzle them

Surprising absolutely no one, home entertainment has benefited greatly from the lockdown, with many of us looking for a break from news and video conference calls. While streaming platforms such as Netflix and Spotify, and movie and music studios, will be key players in this area, there is space for brands to get involved. US-based fast food chain Popeyes has launched a social media activation giving fans a chance to get login details to a branded Netflix account and stream for free.

Bud Light has decided to focus on music and organised a virtual concert from country music star Jake Owen. Some brands have opted to make their product free – an approach popular amongst fitness platforms, which has also been adopted by educational apps such as Babbel and Skillshare, and mental well-being apps (Headspace in US and Unmind in UK), which have made their platforms free for health professionals.

… and above all else, be human-first

As marketers, we’re always thinking about how to create the best brand experience in lots of different environments. But now, as everyone is experiencing our brand within the confines of their homes – the most personal of spaces, and dealing with the multiple challenges of self-isolating and social distancing, we need to harness truly human-first (rather than consumer-led) thinking to play a meaningful role in people’s lives.



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