Digital Magic

Through COVID-19, Leading Brands Have Found Their Purpose

The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the meaning of brand purpose. Organizations, once focused on differentiating their philosophies and products, are now uniting in an effort to help governments, healthcare professionals, and the public during this unprecedented time. 

According to Edelman’s latest “Trust Barometer,” consumers are looking at brands to do their part. Forty-five percent said they have more faith in a joint COVID-19 response from businesses and governments than they do in a government response alone. Seventy percent also said they expect brands to adapt their operations, policies, and HR strategies to protect their employees.

“Never before have brands been asked to show their true purpose and leadership as they are today. It’s inspiring to see companies across industries and throughout the world come together to address some of the most pressing needs brought about by this crisis,” said John Travis, VP of brand marketing at Adobe.

Indeed, the current situation has brought out the best in many brands operating across virtually every industry and country. Brands are working with their peers, customers, and communities to give back or provide resources in any way they can. Indeed, just as people are changing their way of life to ensure our collective health, purpose-driven companies are looking beyond profits and directing their considerable resources to the battle against COVID-19.

Tech Companies Doing Good

Research and vaccine development are complex processes that require incredible computing power, especially when we need them on an accelerated timescale. Tech companies including Microsoft understand that the quickest path to a solution is teamwork, which is why it made its Azure cloud service free to use for nonprofits taking on COVID-19. It also donated $35 million to global response efforts.

Governments face the additional challenge of gauging how and when they should lift social distancing measures. To that end, Apple and Google have made contact-tracing technology available to officials around the world so they can understand people’s behavior through the easing of measures, and to find the most responsible way of getting us back to a functioning society and economy.

Media Connects The World

Access to information has never felt so vital. People want the latest guidance on COVID-19 at all times, and they must be educated on how to go about their daily lives accordingly. On top of that, they want ways to connect and feel less isolated at home. Exhibit A is the rise of digital videoconferencing apps like Adobe Connnect (for business) and HouseParty (for personal use), which have increased in popularity among homebound consumers who want to stay in touch with their coworkers, friends, and families.  

The need for more digital connections is why companies such as Comcast now offer free Wi-Fi to all users, as well as unlimited data packages at no extra charge. Customers have certainly appreciated the latter as they look to entertain themselves in isolation, with demand for streaming content surging to an all-time high.

Media platforms also offer a valuable source of inspiration. In March, 18 players from the NBA and WNBA filmed public services announcements to share vital health information with their fans. The PSAs have since earned nearly 40 million views and counting on social media. This was the first step in the NBA’s broader “NBA Together” campaign, through which its players, coaches, doctors, and owners continue to support fans and help them respond to the pandemic.

Governments Go Digital

Governments around the world face an unprecedented challenge in mitigating the effects of COVID-19, keeping their populations safe, and continuing to drive public initiatives, all while working remotely. 

The difficulty is that new government initiatives, including emergency response plans, require input from multiple parties. Without the option to meet and review these plans in person, officials in the State of Utah use their recently acquired eSign technology to move their COVID response strategies forward while working from home. A process that previously took two to three days can now be handled in minutes, which means Utah can take life-saving action as quickly as the situation evolves.

For its part, Iowa launched a digital small-business relief program, making it possible for small-business owners to apply for grants and tax deferrals online using similar e-signature technology. Across America, state governments are embracing telework and adapting to the realities of a remote workforce.

The impact of digital government on public health is far-reaching. A recent study in Australia found that by moving to digital transactions, three major government agencies–the Commonwealth Department of Human Services, the Australian Taxation Office, and Services NSW–would save citizens roughly eight hours of time per year. The need for more efficient government processes has never been more evident, with millions of people trying to juggle their work, their families, and their homes with minimal time to spare. 

Retail Responds

The retail sector is in a unique position with COVID-19. With most of their customers at home and spending much of their time online, e-commerce sales have never been stronger in some categories. That said, many brands have the manufacturing capabilities to develop crucial COVID-19-response supplies.

Luxury fashion players like LVMH have made public health their top priority. The company was the first to repurpose its perfume factories and begin manufacturing hand sanitizer instead, helping to address a global shortage. Since then, Chanel and Burberry have joined Louis Vuitton by converting their factories and delivering face masks for healthcare workers on the front lines. Also doing its part is Under Armour. The athletic apparel leader now produces 100,000 surgical masks per week.

FMCG Delivers Food For Thought

Packaged goods are in high demand these days, especially soap, sanitizers, and cleaning products. As one of the world’s most respected consumer brands, Unilever understands its responsibility to keep people both equipped and safe with the goods they need. Together with the U.K. government, Unilever launched an education campaign to help drive hygiene awareness in the world’s poorest countries, backing up its message with 20 million free products, including soap.

Food is as important as hygiene in times of uncertainty. To meet global food demand, Nestle supports local COVID-19 relief efforts in the communities it serves by funding local charities and front-line workers. The FMCG giant has also implemented comprehensive security measures within its own organization, such as free transportation to and from work for its employees to reduce their risk of exposure and keep production running safely.

The list goes on. From auto manufacturers including GM and Tesla, which are developing ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, to Dyson, which has created 44 engineering challenges for children and teens, the corporate world has mobilized quickly to serve the greater good, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed. 

Big Pharma Coming Together

Few industries are as well-equipped to combat COVID-19 than the pharmaceutical sector. Extensive resources, state-of-the art research facilities, and large-scale manufacturing capabilities make them the ideal partner to tackle the pandemic, not to mention their crucial role in the development of vaccines.

On April 14, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi joined forces to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, one they hope to have ready for human trials this year. This is a highly unusual pairing in a cutthroat market, but together these companies have both the means and the manufacturing power to save hundreds of millions of lives. More importantly, they are committed to doing what’s necessary to make that happen.

Roche, the Swiss pharma giant, has focused on testing and prevention and campaigning for governments to ease the flow of medical supplies across borders to ensure an adequate supply for healthcare professionals. As countries like South Korea and Taiwan have shown, widespread testing is the key to controlling the spread of COVID-19, and Roche is intent on helping the rest of the world follow their example.

Post-Pandemic

To quote M&C Saatchi’s global chief strategy officer, Richard Storey, “In times where our security is threatened, people are hardwired to seek clarity and calm. Providing certainty and displaying solidarity can help alleviate some of that [panic] because it positively fuels our sense of collectivism in a time of struggle. At the end of the day, we will remember those brands that remembered us.”

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