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Brands & Crisis Marketing

The advertising world has had to dramatically shift the way it does business in this age of the coronavirus pandemic — not only in the way it produces its messages, but what they tell their consumers, who have been thrown into a fearful, bewildering and unpredictable new world.

But do consumers want to hear from brands during a crisis?

According to Dr. Jill Avery, an authority on brand management and customer relationship management, the answer is “Yes,” but with some caveats.

“Yes, they do,” she writes, “but only when that communication is comforting and reassuring to them and provides specific information about what brands are doing to respond to the pandemic. Consumers consider the brands they use to be trusted partners and look to them for information about the crisis and how it is affecting their companies, employees, and the products and services they provide.” 

But, Avery writes, brands should try to avoid communications that cause anxiety and concern about the crisis without offering solutions and hope to their consumers. She adds, brands should keep their consumers fully informed about how to continue to gain access to their products and services during the crisis, particularly for those deemed mission critical.

In that case, what do consumers expect from brands in a crisis? Quite a bit, says Avery.

“Consumers expect quite a bit from their brand partners during a crisis, seeing them as critical partners to governments, non-profit relief organizations, and NGOs because of the powerful platform a strong brand delivers for communicating information and the strong relationships leading brands have with their consumers which may be leveraged to mobilize action,” she writes. “In fact, 63 percent of those surveyed believe that their country will not make it through the COVID-19 crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing current challenges and 55 percent perceived that brands were responding more quickly and effectively to the pandemic than their government was, demonstrating the faith that consumers have in their brands and the companies that stand behind them. 

A whopping 86 percent of surveyed consumers view their brands as an essential safety net, ready to step up to assist anyone not helped by a government’s response to the virus, blurring the line between the private and public sectors, she says.

The bottom line, says Avery, is that this crisis is changing consumers’ relationships with and expectations of brands. 

“At this moment of deepest need, the new world for brands will have trust at its core. The mandate to brands from global consumers is clear: step up and help, not just your own customers and employees, but the world at large; protect all, support and care for all, and innovate in the public’s best interest,” she writes. “Brands that respond to consumers’ clarion call with compassion and solution-based action that creates real value have a tremendous opportunity to reinforce trust and engender loyalty as they help to save the world. This is the true test for purpose-driven brand leaders, to respond in this crisis with compassion and empathy, to act based on facts, and to be part of the global solution.”

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