When a disruption hits, businesses face the challenge of how to stay engaged with people in a meaningful and appropriate way. The question isn’t simply, what should they say? It’s also, how should they say it? Brands need to walk a fine line. They don’t want to launch advertising and organic content that comes across as tone deaf. At the same time, offering words of comfort, if done clumsily, might sound insincere. The COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time businesses have faced this challenge, nor will it be the last. And businesses are successfully rising to the occasion.
You might already be familiar with the Ford Motor Company’s response to coronavirus, in which the brand scotched suddenly irrelevant March Madness ads and focused on the simple message that payment relief is available to customers affected by COVID-19.
Here are some additional examples of brands striking the right tone when they reach out:
Hanes: Keeping It Simple
Hanes has kept things short and sweet in social media announcements that lay out the facts: namely that the company is retrofitting some of its production facilities to make medical masks. The global apparel manufacturer, which has dedicated factories normally devoted to the production of tee shirts and sweatpants to that of masks, expects, at peak output, to manufacture approximately 1.5 million masks a week. The production switchover is certainly laudable. At the same time, it can be awkward for a brand to share this kind of news without falling prey to being sentimental or committing a or humblebrag. Hanes manages to avoid both pitfalls by sticking to the facts, even as the business demonstrates its grasp of what it means to be human: the post ends with an appeal to practice not only social distancing, but also kindness.
Budweiser: Walking the Walk
A crisis demands that we dig deep for our noblest responses, and Budweiser respects that impulse in a recently released ad. Over a piano score, the brand honors those who are stepping up in this age of COVID-19, from healthcare workers to musicians providing joy via shelter-in-place balcony serenades. But Budweiser doesn’t stop at a shout-out. In an acknowledgement that sports are currently on pause, the ad uses sports team names (e.g., Warriors and Angels) to describe the heroes of COVID-19. Then Budweiser goes on to announce the company’s shift of sports investments to “help our heroes on the front lines/By using stadiums to host American Red Cross blood drives during the COVID-19 crisis.” Budweiser understands the power of not only naming the heroes, but being one.
Little Caesar’s: Still Open, Still Safe
Restaurants everywhere have been rocked especially hard as shelter-in-place mandates have taken hold. Unfortunately for them, confusion has often arisen as to what shelter-in-place restrictions actually mean. Is restaurant food available? And if it is, is it even safe to eat? Little Caesar’s speaks to these questions and fears in a tightly edited 15-second spot that provides reassurance on several levels. First, as opening shots of happy eaters over the years attest, Little Caesar’s encourages viewers that the pizza has always been, and continues to be, delicious and available. From there, the ad moves quickly to the promise that the pies are “never touched after [cooking]” and “available by non-contact carryout and free delivery.” Little Caesar’s knows that familiar pleasures like pizza bring solace in times of uncertainty; their ad provides comfort and practical intel in equal measure.
Jack Daniel’s: Reflecting Our Current Reality
Jack Daniel’s encourages social distancing in a recently released spot that depicts loved ones continuing to connect from afar in innovative, goofy, and moving ways (sometimes, but not always, over happy hour). In a series of vignettes set against the backdrop of Cyndi Lauper’s song “True Colors,” Jack Daniel’s manages to celebrate the resourcefulness of social humans being asked to temporarily be the exact opposite. The ad wraps up with a simple written coda: “Dear Humanity, Cheers to Making Social Distancing, Social. With Love, Jack.” Jack Daniel’s understands what we’re missing, and in reminding us of the ways we can still connect, instills hope.
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These demonstrations of support and sympathy matter. And when the crisis does eventually subside, people will carry within them a feeling of how they were treated. As you work to connect with and support your customers, during the age of coronavirus and beyond, don’t hesitate to reach out. We can help.