Edelman CEO Michelle Hutton: “How Brands Can Do The Right Thing In The Age Of COVID-19”

Edelman CEO Michelle Hutton: “How Brands Can Do The Right Thing In The Age Of COVID-19”
SHARE
THIS



As individuals, we’ve been told to stay inside and socially isolate in order to ‘do the right thing’ amid the COVID-19 outbreak. But what is the right thing for brands? In this opinion piece, Edelman Australia CEO Michelle Hutton [image below] explains how brands can navigate these challenging times.

What strange times we suddenly find ourselves living in. The speed at which the COVID-19 virus has spread across the globe has been nothing short of head spinning and the feeling of whiplash will be with us for some time to come. As we place ourselves in lockdown and watch governments introduce increasingly drastic measures to protect the Australian people and economy, we’re left with a country that’s in many ways hard to recognise as the one we called home just a few short weeks ago.

Within this new climate, it’s entirely understandable that businesses and brands might be left feeling somewhat lost; wondering where their role lies in dealing with the crisis and what their best course of action might be to ensure they’re both doing their part to help their communities and ensuring their own long-term viability.

In order to shed some light on how this might be done, at Edelman we’ve completed two important studies over recent weeks that provide invaluable insights into the way forward for brands. The first is an Edelman Trust Barometer special report, Trust and the Coronavirus, and the second special report, Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, a 12-market study on what is expected of brands during the pandemic.

What these studies have revealed is that brands have an absolutely critical role to play in ensuring we make it through this crisis, and the keystone to that role is solutions. To put it bluntly, people believe brands should stop selling and start solving, offering tangible and fast-moving solutions that help everyone through this difficult time. Brands that do so will come through the crisis with their integrity intact, while those that do not may face a backlash.

As we dive deeper into this, we should start by looking at a few of the key insights our studies have revealed, outlining a set of very clear expectations people have regarding brands’ response to COVID-19. The first point might sound simplistic, but it’s essential, and that’s that people expect brands to create products that help in the crisis. We’ve seen 89 per cent of respondents say brands should shift production to goods that meet the challenges of COVID-19.

As an example of a brand that’s heard this message loud and clear, HP is deploying a range of measures, including the harnessing of its 3D-printing capabilities to create vital products for medical workers and hospitals. These include essentials like ventilator valves, breathing filters, and face mask clasps, as well as new innovations like plastic door handle adaptors that make it easier to open doors with your elbow, preventing further spread of the virus.

For those in any doubt over the value of a shift such as this, it’s worth noting that 54 per cent of respondents to our research say they’re not paying attention to new products right now, unless designed to help with pandemic-related life challenges. So, if you’re thinking of marketing a new product that doesn’t help to address COVID-19, be forewarned, your efforts may fall on deaf ears.

The second expectation people have of brands during this period is that they should communicate how they’re helping. We’ve seen 89 per cent of our respondents tell us brands should keep the public fully informed on how they’re supporting and protecting their employees and customers, while 88 per cent want to be kept updated regarding changes to brand operations and how to access products and services. Transparency is always valuable, but it’s particularly key during these moments of crisis.

Understanding the importance of this, LinkedIn recently alerted the public to changes that would see it shifting focus to ensure essential pandemic-related positions are prioritised. Because there’s no point getting equipment to the frontlines if no one’s manning the post, right? As such, LinkedIn is working to raise awareness around an offering of free job listings until June 30 for businesses in healthcare, warehousing, supermarket, and freight delivery, as well as the serving of urgent jobs listings, like those in healthcare services, to members with relevant skills.

Finally, people’s third expectation of brands during this time comes via a clear desire amongst 90 per cent of respondents that brands partner with government to better deal with the crisis. This would be due, at least in part, to the majority of people seeing brands and companies as having a faster and more effective response to COVID-19. As such, it’s only natural to find that 86 per cent of people hope brands will provide a safety net where government is unable to act or perhaps unable to act quickly enough. While remaining mindful of these three key expectations (producing goods that help, communicating how they’re doing so, and working alongside government), brands must also be aware that people are watching carefully to see which of them prove capable of meeting the demands of the COVID-19 era.

Sixty-five per cent of respondents say that how a brand responds will likely have a huge impact on their likelihood of buying that brand in future, while one in three claim they’ve already meted out punishment by convincing other people to stop using a brand they felt was not acting appropriately. Furthermore, 71 per cent of people claim that if they perceived a brand to be putting profit over people, they would lose trust in that brand forever. With people’s anxiety so understandably heightened at this time, extra care must be taken to ensure brands’ actions cannot be seen to be anything less than for the greater good.

Saying that, it’s heartening to see that many brands are already rising to the COVID-19 challenge. Some of these I’ve already mentioned, but further initiatives worth applauding include Unilever’s AUD$182 million offer to help the fight through donations of soap, sanitiser, bleach and food; the Archie Rose brewery’s shifting of resources away from alcoholic beverages towards producing hand sanitiser; or something as simple as the Sydney Opera House’s new online platform making it just a touch easier to stay home by offering free full-length performances and other content to compensate for the fact that no one will be walking through its white sails for some time.

Efforts like these give me hope, and while I’m confident that we’ll ultimately get through this together, it will only be if everyone does their part. And while individuals self-isolate or work to the point of exhaustion on the frontlines, it’s time for brands to consider any and all ways they can provide assistance to Aussies in their hour of need. I believe brands are ready to do the right thing, and with Australia watching, now’s the time for them to step up and prove it. Just be sure to wash your hands first.

 

Please login with linkedin to comment

Brands Edelman Michelle Hutton

Latest News

Val Morgan Outdoor Promotes Kristie Barnfather & Alex Anthony To Leadership Positions
  • Media

Val Morgan Outdoor Promotes Kristie Barnfather & Alex Anthony To Leadership Positions

In another step in the evolution of Val Morgan Outdoor (VMO), the NSW sales team has been consolidated into one team that now looks after all three business verticals – VMO Shop, VMO Active and VMO On-The-Go. To reflect the changes, VMO are proud to see two young team members progress into leadership positions. Both […]

Virtual Working Preferred, But Real-Life Socialising Favoured: Are Media Survey
  • Media

Virtual Working Preferred, But Real-Life Socialising Favoured: Are Media Survey

The shift to virtual working looks here to stay, but when it comes to the annual Christmas party, Australian women are putting health concerns aside to mark the festive season in person, Are Media’s latest HerPulse 6.0 consumer sentiment survey has revealed. Despite restrictions easing in many states, more than a third of women (35%) […]

This Is Flow Wins TPG Telecom’s Felix Mobile
  • Advertising

This Is Flow Wins TPG Telecom’s Felix Mobile

Sydney independent agency, This is Flow, has been appointed to handle all media strategy, planning and buying for Felix Mobile after a competitive pitch process. F elix is an exciting new brand born out of the newly merged TPG/Vodafone entity, TPG Telecom Limited. The merger of TPG and Vodafone in June this year created the […]

How Retail Marketers Can Prepare For The November Sales Season
  • Opinion

How Retail Marketers Can Prepare For The November Sales Season

In this opinion piece, Shopify Plus APAC Director Shaun Broughton focuses on actions marketers can take to better understand their customer base and leverage learnings from success stories like Peter Sheppard and Aje during the pandemic on how to pivot and demonstrate agility in this fast-paced market… November is going to be one of the […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Mission Australia’s Christmas Fundraising Appeal Urges Community To Support Hidden Homeless
  • Campaigns

Mission Australia’s Christmas Fundraising Appeal Urges Community To Support Hidden Homeless

Mission Australia’s new Christmas appeal highlights the pressures faced by Australia’s hidden homeless, people who are pushed into homelessness through no fault of their own, with a core message that every Australian should have a safe home. The fundraising campaign asks the community to donate to Mission Australia so the charity can support vulnerable individuals […]

Omnicom Agencies Move Beyond The Binary To Mark International Pronouns Day
  • Advertising

Omnicom Agencies Move Beyond The Binary To Mark International Pronouns Day

Omnicom agencies are committing to move beyond the binary to mark International Pronouns Day as part of Open Pride, a global employee resource group committed to inclusion and diversity. As part of the initiative, Omnicom agencies, including DDB, PHD and Clemenger Group, have committed to ensuring all policies promote gender-inclusive language and have encouraged staff […]

Lions Live Set To Launch Second Young Lions Live Award Brief
  • Advertising

Lions Live Set To Launch Second Young Lions Live Award Brief

As part of Lions Live in June, Lions Live challenged under 30s with a brief in partnership with the World Food Programme. It was free to enter, and nearly 1,000 young adlanders entered. It was such a success, Lions Live plan to run a second competition during Lions Live this week. This time the brief […]

Pause Fest To Return In 2021 As Online Event
  • Media

Pause Fest To Return In 2021 As Online Event

Festival for business and creativity, Pause Fest, has confirmed the event will run in 2021 – and will be its biggest to date. The 11th Pause Fest – named Changes – will migrate from its Melbourne home to the online world for the first time, running 1-12 March 2021. “Pause Fest has always been at […]

Shutterstock Adds Editorial Video Service
  • Media

Shutterstock Adds Editorial Video Service

Shutterstock today announced the highly anticipated addition of Editorial Video, a new premium, full-service editorial video offering that is now available for license. Critical Past, Celebrity Footage and Viral Hog are just a few of the new partners who will distribute their engaging video content worldwide through Shutterstock’s Editorial Video. In addition, current partners’ epa […]

Adobe Unveils A Host Of New Innovations As Part Of Adobe Max 2020
  • Technology

Adobe Unveils A Host Of New Innovations As Part Of Adobe Max 2020

Today at Adobe MAX, Adobe unveiled significant innovation across its Creative Cloud applications and services. In addition to ground-breaking new features like Neural Filters in Photoshop, the company released major updates to its flagship applications including Lightroom, Premiere Pro and Illustrator. Adobe also underscored its commitment to accelerating the development of mobile and multi-surface apps, with […]