• Transform magazine
  • March 04, 2021


Opinion: It's time to step up to the plate

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The world has changed this past month. Entire industries are falling. Others are facing the biggest challenge they have ever had to face. Stuart Lang discusses the impact Covid-19 will have on brands and communications

Doors are being closed. Shelves are empty. Those brands, services and destinations that we have all come to rely upon aren’t available to us right now. But consumers are still there. They’re still consuming. Fans are still supporting. Friends and family are finding new ways to stay in touch. Communities are being relied upon more than ever before. They’re becoming lifelines. And that’s why we are seeing people and brands engaging on social media in entirely fresh ways. At the same time, WhatsApp group parties, Google Hangout drinks, Skype meet-ups are becoming the norm…we just don’t have to get the last train home afterwards.

Some brands are sitting still. But others are seeing this time as an opportunity to reset; to adapt their conventional business offering; to think out of the box. This isn’t a time for actions based on fear. Extreme times should make for some highly creative solutions. Spin cycle studios have been forced to pause their physical classes but are continuing to inspire their communities with regularly live streamed sessions. Michelin starred restaurants are providing take-out options. Gin distilleries are converting their production from gin to hand sanitizer. Fast food brands are streaming live on Zoom. Sports brands are creating tailored home workouts. Business tools like LinkedIn, Jamm, Loom, Adobe and Meero are making their products and services freely available to facilitate remote working. Even Time Out has become Time In.

Without wishing to downplay the seriousness of our situation, it’s actually quite an inspiring time seeing how brands step up to the plate. 

By adapting their marketing messages and media channels, brands in China maintained customer engagement levels and sales throughout their outbreak. Time spent online increased 20%. Mobile gaming surged. There was an increase of 14% in people reading news and watching short videos.

Celebrities and sports stars are using their profiles to raise awareness of key issues and charity initiatives. With their stores closing, luxury brands have taken positive steps in brand communication, customer engagement, and digital marketing. Louis Vuitton launched its ‘Love Has No Fear' cause-based marketing campaign on Weibo that generated 4.2bn views in its first week. Their celebrity ambassadors recorded empowering videos for the residents of Wuhan and frontline medical workers. 

Estée Lauder’s Weibo campaign ‘We Can Win This Fight’ has had more 61m views and over 330,000 discussions.

Brand building is key right now because this will end. There will be light at the end of this dark tunnel; and the brands that have used this time to innovate and continue their dialogue with their customers throughout will be the ones that lead the charge and maintain momentum afterwards.

Now more than ever, those that do nothing run the risk of people turning away from them. It’s like the good time friend that only comes to you when they need something; if you’re not there for people when they need you most, then they’ll soon find comfort and support elsewhere.

The other thing for brands to consider is the impending rush to the start line. If everyone leaves their post-Covid-19 strategies until we’re all back in our various offices, then there will be a huge roadblock. Every static brand will be burrowing out after their hibernations trying to rebuild sales and regain momentum….and they risk being too late. We’ll be so hungry for the new that we won’t give time to the old brands that weren’t there for us when we needed them.

Look again at Louis Vuitton. For Valentine’s Day 2020, it created a virtual pop-up store via WeChat that allowed customers to experience the brand, share exclusive promotions and place orders online. Despite the outbreak, they doubled their online sales compared to 2019.

We have to follow the lead of consumers and adapt strategies accordingly. People may not be going outside, but the outside world is coming to them. Brands should think differently and create content and solutions that allow people to make the best of what they have available to them. Be real, without being unrealistic. Be positive. Be helpful. Be inspiring. And most importantly, be ready.

Stuart Lang is the founder and creative director of We Launch