Stand and deliver...
‘A brand is a promise delivered’ remains one of the best pieces of marketing advice I was ever given. In other words, a brand is defined by its actions and how it deals with both its customers and its employees, not by the shiny 90 second brand campaign, it’s just spent gazillions on above the line.
If I ever was in any doubt as to the veracity of this snippet from the old Orange brand induction, this past week really has brought it into sharp focus. For all the endless strategy sessions on scenario planning or those endless meetings on the corporate risk register, I doubt many companies had ‘country shutting down due to global pandemic’ in their strategic plans.
As a result, it’s been interesting to see the range of responses from both brands and leaders alike. Oft-cast pantomime villains like Mike Ashley and Tim Martin have done little to change public opinion with their stances on store openings and staff treatment respectively. However, there have also been those who have stood apart from the rest. Whilst Richard Branson has always been game for a quote about how employees come first, he was notable by his absence when Virgin cabin crew were asked to take a pay cut.
More positively, Mike Coupe who’s crown had most definitely slipped after the failed Asda merger and the infamous ‘I’m in the money’ incident, has emerged as a voice of calm and reason through clear and authentic communications to the Sainsbury’s customer base. Other divisive characters like Gary Neville and Roman Abramovich stepped up by offering hotel rooms for free to NHS workers who had to isolate from their families. Dare I say it, the daily press conferences even seems to be changing our opinion of our political leaders with the latest Ipsos data showing satisfaction with the government has rocketed.
But what about brands? Whilst there has been the inevitable inbox spamming, nicely summed up as ever by Tom Fishburne (see below), there have also been some brilliant examples of brands understanding their place in the world and the role they should play. Whilst some retailers spent their cash to convince us to get our ‘work at home wardrobe’ in shape (Ted Baker, what were you thinking?!), TK Maxx got off its arse and donated all the perishable goods in their stores to local food banks.
Linked In has often been awash with guru’s telling us we need to ‘pivot during a time of disruption’ (whatever the hell that means!) but some brands just got on and did it. LVMH were quick off the mark to convert their luxury perfume production lines into those producing hand sanitisers and breweries such as Brewdog and Anheuser-Busch soon followed suit. My personal favourite story which emerged this week has been Decathlon supporting Issinova and Gardone Valtrompia in Rome to convert full face snorkel masks into much needed ventilators. Genuinely incredible stuff.
However, for all the might these global brands can throw at a problem like this, it’s also been fantastic to see that the agility of the little guy still has a massive role to play. Freelance copywriter Luke O’Reilly designed the Guinness ad that the creatives at Diageo no doubt wished they’d thought of themselves and, whilst sport governing bodies were understandably distracted closing down grassroots sport, it was Joe Wicks and his Body Coach team who were able to bring a bit of meaningful physical exercise to over 850,000 households through the daily 'PE with Joe' slots. Despite the lack of support for the self-employed/ freelancers so far during the Covid 19 crisis, perhaps shows just how valuable smaller businesses are with the unique flexibility they can bring.
But whether big or small, now is undoubtedly a time to think about how all of us can make ourselves useful rather than trying to push a brand-centric view of the world. A quick glance down my inbox shows me that many brands are hoping to discount their way through this but something tells me it’s the brands who take a stand rather than the ones who give us an extra 10% off that we’ll remember when this is all over…