This outbreak has affected all of us — whether we are in business or not. For those of us running businesses, we may see drops in revenue, biz dev & marketing activities, operations and even morale. Yet the message we get from the government and world leaders is that life should go on. We cannot be at a standstill because of this.
Fear has run rampant. It’s an age of social media, where even news networks have taken to distribution channels like Facebook to be their conduit to deliver content to their audience. I can understand why news networks would love to share updates on COVID-19 frequently just by looking at the numbers on their social media. Stuff about the virus gets shared and engaged with multiple folds compared to other news items. Algorithm-wise, this will make people see content from that page more often. Makes sense to keep sharing right? Unfortunately, the impact is psychological and happens at mass. People are scared, worried beyond the actual situation. The hoarding of supplies is a testament to what fear can induce in a society that feeds itself with viral, often unvalidated, content. It’s great that we are fighting fake news, but in times like this, fake news run rampant.
It is appropriate that one of the articles I read on a certain news network has the headline — ‘Fighting fear is key part in battling COVID-19’
We need to respond as a community, and even more so if we are running businesses.
Businesses are an integral part of the fabric of society. We are interweaved to the very existence of the community we are in. And by community, I don’t mean a geographical limitation of that word because businesses and brand building at this age transcends geography. We are definitely going to be impacted in one way or the other by this outbreak. Some would be more severe while others might see minor changes. The important thing is to react responsibly, understanding that what we do as a business will impact lives.
There are beautiful stories that has recently come about with two prominent brands — Grab and Jewel@Changi.
Grab launched GrabCare to help ferry healthcare workers in this trying time, where they face discrimination by members of society. Before that, Grab stops the GrabShare function. These acts show corporate responsibility at a time of crisis and will probably be remembered long after this epidemic. The impact to the brand is done.
Jewel@Changi made the news by announcing to half the rent for shops due to the severe drop of patrons and foot traffic. This is also another act of empathy and compassion. They’ve set a standard for others to follow. Yes they will suffer losses. But I assume that they’ve made a calculated decision for this to happen without putting them in financial danger. Or perhaps it would, but it is the right thing to do at this time.
I’m sure many other businesses have done noble moves within their companies and organisations that is worthy of recognition, but in the area of brand building — it’s about leadership, standing out, radical differentiation. The basics and bare minimum should be appreciated but from a branding POV, they are expected and therefore nothing noteworthy or remarkable. e.g. Taking temperature, reducing physical contact, work from home arrangements etc.
Lead with empathy and compassion, and do impactful acts that benefit others — the brand will reap rewards.
It is undeniable that many areas of business will slow down, but what this might mean is that you will see resources freed up. For example, if you don’t have to go out for meetings, you now have extra time to do something else in the business. You can now potentially shift your attention to marketing.
Ramp up marketing while we have the chance. We are not certain if the virus will pass or stay on. No one can know for sure. For businesses that can rely on online operations, we are more fortunate. All the more we should increase marketing so these online channels can create more revenue. Social media is the one thing that does not halt in a crisis like this (unless it gets so severe that the internet infrastructure is affected)
We can start to offer more thought leadership pieces through content (be it blog, vlog, graphics etc). We can stay relevant and embedded in the minds of our audience by engaging with our followers and reassuring them. We should spread positivity amidst the bleakness of the situation. Empathise and connect with your followers and audience, share their concerns and give value to them in any form and kind. That is one way you can move forward as a market leader.
At the very least, increased marketing will increase brand awareness — i.e. more people will know about you, what you do and why it matters to them. Depending on the outcome of this outbreak, you can expect higher engagement and level of business as a result of marketing.
This COVID-19 viral outbreak is a test on humanity. While the situation is not optimal, people continue to pay attention on social media, perhaps for a sign of hope. Businesses and organisations should dig deep into our purpose and ethos and be the bridge to our audience and customers… people who share the same beliefs as us. We exist to provide value to our audience and they are facing this test together with us. We need to help in any way we can, even if it makes no sense from an ROI point of view.
The sole reason why we should do this is because behind every business… behind every brand, we are all humans. And we are in this together.