Should Brands Help Consumers in Tough Times?
Brand Managers may be formally responsible for building brands over time, but consumers are informally responsible for building brands through their purchasing decisions.
However, during tough times like a pandemic or a recession, consumer spending changes drastically and wanes overall.
So what should brands do?
Should they continue to advertise as they normally would, convincing consumers who are spending less overall to spend money on their products and services? Or is it a time for brands to give back to the very consumers that have been supporting them for many years with their wallets?
I work for a communications agency called Behaviour. We believe that what a brand does is more important than what a brand says. Said another way, actions speak louder than words.
During a crisis, what a brand does can be a clear demonstration of its brand values and what it stands for. It is an ideal time for brands to show consumers that they are here to help them, not just take their money. This will build equity with consumers that will last beyond tough times and benefit brands in the long run.
Brands need to act. And that action needs to be one of giving, not taking.
Here are three global brands that are taking action to give back to consumers and the communities in which they operate:
UBER EATS (Food Delivery)
Uber Eats is one of the world’s largest food delivery apps. The Food Delivery category has exploded over the past couple of months, as dine-in restaurants need to close their doors to dine-in patrons. Fortunately, many restaurant kitchens can remain open. As demand on apps like Uber Eats surges significantly, business does well as a result. This means that they have an increased opportunity to give back, not only to their loyal customers but also to the restaurants that they connect consumers with. Uber Eats publically states that they are taking a ‘Food Not Finance’ response and approach to COVID-19.
Their acts of giving:
- To help encourage consumers to continue to eat at local restaurants, Uber Eats has waived the Delivery Fee for more than 100,000 independent restaurants across North America.
- Uber Eats has given restaurants the option of being paid daily for their orders, rather than the standard weekly payment cycle.
- Uber Eats will be donating 300,000 free meals to healthcare workers and first responders across North America. Organizations who are interested should reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Uber Eats has set-up a Restaurant Employee Relief Fund whereby customers can donate directly to restaurant employees and Uber Eats will match those donations.
Uber Eats’ full COVID-response details can be found here:
TELUS is one of Canada’s largest Telecommunications companies. TELUS believes that good business and doing good are not mutually exclusive. From their website:
Driven by our passionate social purpose to connect all Canadians for good, our deeply meaningful and enduring philosophy to give where we live has inspired our team members and retirees to contribute more than $700 million and 1.3 million days of service since 2000. This unprecedented generosity and unparalleled volunteerism have made TELUS the most giving company in the world.
Their acts of giving:
- For its existing customers, TELUS is doing the following: offering flexible payment options for those affected by the crisis, waiving pay-per-use roaming charges for postpaid and small business customers, and waiving home internet overage charges for customers without unlimited plans.
- Most recently, TELUS announces that it will be delivering over 10,000 free mobile devices and accompanying $0 rate plans to seniors, patients and vulnerable Canadians to help them stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. This effort is valued at more than CAD $5 million.
Further updates from TELUS on their COVID-19 efforts can be found here:
UNILEVER (Consumer Packaged Goods)
Unilever is one of the world’s largest CPG/FMCG companies, and the world’s largest soap manufacturer. They are known for employing much of the world’s top marketing talent, internally referred to as ‘marketeers.’ Brand Building is so much at the core of how they lead and grow their business, that a Brand Manager’s title at Unilever is actually Brand Building Manager. About a decade ago, Unilever established the ULSP — Unilever Sustainable Living Plan — whereby sustainability is to be at the core of how they build brands and do business.
From unilever.com, regarding USLP,
Purpose-led, Sustainable Living Brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivering 75% of the company’s growth.
And regarding their vision for doing business,
Our vision is a new way of doing business — one that delivers growth by serving society and the planet.
Their acts of giving:
- Unilever has committed to providing €100 million worth of free soap sanitizer, bleach, and food to consumers and communities in need around the globe.
- Unilever will be offering €500 million of relief support for customers and suppliers across their supply chain.
A public letter from Unilever’s Global CEO, Alan Jope, on COVID-19 response and efforts can be found here:
When working on a marketing strategy and communications plan during a crisis, Brand Managers and agencies must remember that many consumers have been buying your product or service for years. The desired outcome after any pandemic, crisis, or recession is for consumers to continue to choose your brand. And if you want them to do that, the smartest action you can take is to do the human thing, and help them.
After all, ‘consumers’ are human beings.
Josh works for Behaviour in Vancouver. If you would like to discuss how your brand can strategically navigate these difficult times, connect with him here.
Disclosure: TELUS and Uber Eats are current clients of Behaviour and Josh worked on the Unilever business while working at a previous agency.