MARKETING NOW: Inspirational Work & Brand Leadership Amid Today's New Reality

The Internationalist is introducing a new weekly email series on how marketers are responding to an exceedingly wide range of coronavirus issues, while ensuring they present their brands responsibly and maintain a vital and meaningful connection with their customers.  Marketing may reflect contemporary culture, but it also can shape it-- particularly now. And today, elevating the human spirit may be the most important job a marketer can do.The ability to inspire people to be their best is valuable in difficult times. AND NO ONE DOES THIS BETTER THAN MARKETERS.

By Deborah Malone, Founder of The Internationalist.

Also . . . PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR COMMERCIALS AND MESSAGES that touch us now from smart, concerned brands elevating the human experience to offer uplifting moments of hope, encouragement-- and even joy.


While last week assaulted us all with a range of emotions from worry to sadness to confusion, multinational marketers throughout the world were unified in expressing a sense of responsibility.  Also, the way in which these marketers communicated their responsibility to help people was very different with an emphasis on "low key." Most offered a simple post on LinkedIn or a basic press release-- when all have the means to opt for greater publicity.

Hershey'sKFC, and Unilever's Axe are just a few brands that paused specific campaigns depicting close physical contact, face-touching or crowds-- due to heightened consumer sensitivities around the pandemic. Coors blocked the launch of an effort titled the "Official Beer of 'Working' Remotely" over concerns that the message could appear out of touch with the experience of people working from home.

Other brands committed funds in response to #COVID19's rapid spread. BlackRock pledged $50 million to pandemic relief efforts through organizations like The Robin Hood Foundation to support urgent needs of those most affected in New York City right now.  The Ford Motor Company Fund, Ford's philanthropic arm, directed more than $500,000 to nonprofit groups in southeast Michigan, while supporting delivery of food to senior citizens and to thousands of children who do not have access to school meals.

Unilever announced a wide-ranging set of measures to support global efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic. These include donating 100m euros worth of soap, sanitizer, bleach and food; offering 500m euros of cash flow relief to support vulnerable suppliers and customers in their value chain; and protecting the Unilever workforce from sudden drops in pay.

And many are highlighting employees-- from Kellogg's (see image) to LinkedIn posts by Doug McMillion, President & CEO of Walmart, who complimented #TeamWalmart by saying "Not all heroes wear capes.  Some wear vests. Thank you for rising to the challenge" and by Kristi Argyilan, President of Roundel- Target's media operation, who posted: "I'm in awe of our store team members.  On the front line doing all they can to help each community."

Countless brands are responsibly changing their manufacturing process:

In France, LVMH, the parent company of Christian DiorGuerlain and Givenchy, pledged to use the production facilities of its perfume and cosmetics brands to produce large quantities of hand sanitizer (hydroalcoholic gel), which they will provide free to French health authorities.  

Anheuser Busch is also converting beer facilities to hand sanitizer factories (see image).

In the UK, billionaire James Dyson confirmed that his company will produce an initial order of 10,000 ventilators.

New Balance factories in the US are working to develop, manufacture and deliver facial masks to the hospital community-- (see image).

Elon Musk says Tesla's New York manufacturing facility is making ventilators "as soon as humanly possible." On Twitter, he added, "We will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York." He says Tesla is distributing ResmedPhilips and Medtronic ventilators in the interim.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will make and donate more than one million protective face masks per month to first responders and health-care workers on the front lines against COVID-19 for initial distribution across the United States, Canada and Mexico in the coming weeks. 

Ford Motor and GE together plan to produce 50,000 ventilators over the next 100 days to help meet the needs of hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. General Motors has said it plans to make ventilators at one of its factories in Kokomo, Indiana with Ventec Life Systems, a ventilator manufacturer.

Other brands are doing what they do best. As millions across the country self-isolate, Levi's is doing its part to keep people motivated, energized and safe inside their homes with its new 5:01 Instagram Live concert series. Each day, the brand is hosting special performances by A-list talent to give all those sheltering in place exactly what they need at the end of the day-- a dance party.

And in a touching tribute, thanks to video artist Matias De Rada (see image), Marriott International's President & CEO Arne Sorenson says, "We will travel again. Soon, we will step out from behind our screens. We will look each other in the eye-- instead of the camera. We will clink glasses. We will exchange hugs. We will travel again. Until then, stay healthy and stay positive. We'll be waiting." I can't think of anything more inspiring and heroic from the travel industry at a time when most are pausing all communications.


In an interview published by Forbes CMO NetworkBob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, recently said: "There are a number of great examples from around the world where brands are focusing in on the needs of people . . . And so many of these brands are finding their authenticity. They're finding their voice and they're finding their ability to be directly useful to people. And right now, there's no greater need than to be able to find ways to help people, particularly those that have the virus, but also people that are stricken by the fear of getting the virus. We are all held together by that overall usefulness and purpose that these brands are in fact delivering. So, we're grateful to their assets and we're grateful to their contributions."

Marla Kaplowitz, President & CEO of the 4A's/American Association of Advertising Agencies, emphasized in a recent livestream event that "Consumers do want to hear from brands now, but the message has to be right.  Continuity is so important; don't pause. It's important to maintain brand equity and relationships with consumers. But, don't be tone deaf when you're trying to build a new relationship with customers who are staying at home.  And if a brand isn't relevant to an at-home environment, then talk about employees like the ‘grocer heroes' or the ‘delivery heroes' who are enabling us all to have some elements of a normal life."

Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA/World Federation of Advertisers, believes that brands are needed more than ever during this crisis. He recommends that marketers keep three important things in mind when they communicate now:

  1. A sense of humility as messages should express an understanding of today's difficulties and show how brands are helping society.
  2. The tone of any communications is extremely important now as brands are looking for the best way to connect with people.
  3. Usefulness matters.  Sharing how a brand can be a part of someone's day or even a part of their life in dramatically different times is also important now.

Inspirational Work

Bud's "One Team" ad goes well beyond its sports-team theme to celebrate medical personnel, delivery people and ordinary Americans staying-at-home. . .

Comcast Business' "Beyond Ordinary Banking" not only underscores a commitment to keeping people and businesses connected, but does so with extraordinary humanity and the sweet innocence of a curious child . . .

TIAA's "Childcare" demonstrates in an amusing spot how childcare options can run out, but lifetime retirement income from TIAA doesn't.  While this appeared long before the pandemic, it will provide a chuckle for stay-at-home workers who are juggling conference calls with active children . . .


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