COVID-19 suddenly came into our lives and brought us up and down.
The motto, worldwide, in all languages, is "Stay home!"
Every image of embrace, handshake, overcrowding, looks like too short a picture of an old, naive world.
Every image that we would just love to see some time before, like an enthusiastic audience at a concert, today is a picture that creates an almost instinctive feeling of disgust for the unacceptable exposure to imminent danger.
We keep our distances, stay at home, stay safe. This is our defence line.
The threat to our health is also a threat to the economic health of the planet. Dismissals, business closures, wage cuts, the new financial crisis look even worse than the former financial crisis had just been, bringing with it "droplets of an invisible enemy!" The economic crash compares to the crash of the 1930s and is just the beginning.
In this global upheaval, directly and naturally, the ethical dilemma of brands has arisen: to continue advertising or not?
Instant freeze until we see what happens or flexibility and strategy change?
Some brands were immediately redrawn. Mc Donald's changed their logo to highlight the necessary new distance, eight fashion houses, including Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, began to create masks and uniforms for doctors and nurses, Tito's Vodka decided to produce antiseptics, Miller Lite beer made the VirtualTip Jar move for all those barmen who have lost their jobs, international theatrical productions and museums have uploaded their most valuable works online for free.
Research shows that consumers, who are in an incredibly embarrassing and difficult psychological situation due to quarantine at home, seek help, support and even guidance from the brands.
This is the biggest challenge today for any brand: how to stand up to the consumer, inside his home. If the nature of the brand is not about home activities, but about outdoor activities, then the brand has to adapt its message, as Nike cleverly did with "Play inside, Play for the world", promoting the necessary timely social distancing.
So the era calls for advertising, but advertising that adapts to the new business NOT as Usual data. The coronavirus era is calling for anti-coronavirus ads, social distancing messages, campaigns to reinforce the 'fragile' psychology of the world through the brand.
The call for Care & Health is the common background behind every picture, behind every word. We could distinguish this social responsibility of brands in three creative ways:
- What do brands offer for the safety and health of their employees? To what extent do they keep their jobs? How do they psychologically encourage their own employees?
- What do brands offer to society? If they belong to the "lucky ones" with high profits from the coronavirus crisis, how many of them are they offered to deal with COVID - 19? How do they support the vulnerable groups? Where do they invest to boost society's forces against the "invisible enemy"?
- What do brands do for their consumers? What services do they offer completely free in order to contribute to better consumer’s psychology, at no anxiety cost? What characteristics of the brands make the consumers’ daily lives easier at home? How do they support their consumer audience, even from afar, in this unprecedented insecure era?
The title of our article talks about the ethical dilemma of brands at the time of COVID - 19, but as we discuss and analyze it, we realize that no dilemma arises.
Brands are now called upon to show their true value for life, reminiscent of their presence, in whatever way they consider better for their identity and their audience. Those who freeze their communication will appear powerless, almost timid - in an age that requires courage and alertness - and are likely to lose much of their target group. Let's say, the public will abandon them, just as they abandoned their audience.
Because, even a simple "We're by your side!" it is a necessary message, at times deeply human, almost existential.The consumer needs it and their gratitude will be shown later… on the bill.So if the motto for people is 'We stay at home', the motto for brands is 'We are staying, present and active, inside the consumer’s home'.