Talk of the town: as a brand, what should(n’t) you say about corona?

Account Strategist

Merel Klijn Velderman

16 Mar 2020

News outlets are keeping us in a close loop, everyone from neighbors to celebrities are offering their help and there are more memes being created out there than we can keep up with. But what does a worldwide disaster of unforeseen proportions mean for brands? Do they have a place in all this, and would that be social?

For most of us, today marks the beginning of a period of staying in - or at home, at least - but many brands have already started addressing corona in their communications. Expressions of sympathy, tips, information regarding measures taken and newsjacking cleverness. Some better than others.

As a brand, what can you do?

Brief updates are good, sure, especially for brands with stores and events, but that’s just a short post or newsletter at best. However, when it comes to loyalty, awareness, and conversion, it does make one wonder whether a conversation about a disaster leaving society deranged, blowing the economy to bits and taking an ever-increasing number of human lives, is one you want to join in on.

A classic case of framing

Putting it the way I just did, for any brand trying to exploit the most dramatic crisis of the decade in an attempt to increase their sales, the odds ain’t looking too good. But corona has a different side to it, too.

Just look at the banner put up across the street from the OLVG hospital, or the spontaneous jam sessions on Italian balconies. While we’re talking about a vicious virus mercilessly striking anywhere it goes, on the other hand, we’ve got a society dropping everything and voluntarily going into self-isolation in order to protect those most vulnerable. Isn’t that beautiful? Without implying that staying in your house for a month, is anything like the suffering of (relatives of) the sick people that are fighting for their lives in an undersized ICU, I think it’s amazing to see people putting the needs of a small group of other people first. And in that same place where a virus is drifting people apart, also lies an opportunity to bring people back together.

Flatten the curve

Not everyone has hotels to make into hospitals, but any brand facilitating or convincing people to go into lockdown, no matter how simple or clever, is doing their bit to flatten the curve and that’s just awesome.

One thing I love is taxi companies and car dealerships putting the cars that are currently not in use, at the disposal of volunteers to deliver food and meds, but we’ve also seen some great digital efforts: concerts and courses are being live-streamed, museums are hosting virtual tours and free premium subscriptions are given out to those in solitary confinement (Pornhub 👀) - all to keep people from leaving their house.

And of course, you can make this social! Workouts to do at home on your Highlights, tutorials on IG Live or a fun DIY in a carousel post. Keep ‘em happy, keep ‘em healthy.

Business as usual in unusual times

Well, perhaps not really as usual, but for those brands that don’t have an easy way to help bring isolated people together through their brand’s social channels, we would still definitely advise you to stay ‘in business’ for your community. 3 reasons why brands definitely want to continue their online presence during these crazy times:

1. It’s an opportunity to interact and engage with your community. As we cannot do this face to face at the moment, social media are the perfect place to reach out to a brand.

2. It’s crucial for brands to maintain consistency in your pages’ algorithms to prevent being disfavoured by it, now or in the future.

3. As many people are stuck at home, social media use is increasing. All the more opportunity for businesses to facilitate touchpoints for consumers with their brand.

While corona is putting the viral back in virality, it is also handing brands an opportunity to make social media social again. Just a matter of perspective, I suppose.



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