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Pandemic inspires meaningful responses by brands

Virtually every business, organization, and brand has been significantly affected by the current health crisis. Even as we begin to venture back into a semblance of normalcy, we face challenges that were inconceivable just a few months ago.

Brands across the country will need to adapt their message to fit the times. It’s a unique challenge for all. Even something as mundane as shooting a TV commercial has become a test of ingenuity. But most importantly, as the messages shift, brands are seeking to stay true to their long-term strategy. It’s a stress test for most brands and will likely reveal the level of their resilience. 

Here are some brands that are getting it right. 

Subaru has been using a tagline “Love, it’s what makes a Subaru a Subaru” for many years. Selling cars in a social distancing context is difficult, especially with differing regulations and guidelines in place across the country. Many carmakers have come out with messages of togetherness and helpful policies on lending and direct delivery of vehicles. But Subaru has elected to back up their long-standing brand message with the donation of 50 million meals to those in need through a partnership with Feeding America and local food banks. This is a big gesture, but not new for Subaru. The brand has been supporting meals for the needy for more than a decade as part of its program “Subaru loves to help.”

Many alcoholic beverage companies have linked their brand strategies to enjoying their products as a social bonding experience with friends. Guinness is no exception, and layers on to their messaging liberal amounts of their Irish heritage and pub life. But this year they made a quick shift in messaging just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. Acknowledging the changed circumstances and wanting to support safety, they created a short tribute to the holiday but with an unexpected twist. “Now we’re going say something we never thought we’d say,” the video says early on, “Don’t toast with your friends. At least not up close and personal.” 

It goes on to suggest enjoying each other’s company (and a Guinness or two) via video chat or other remote means. And they added a touch of humor as well. “As for us, we’ve signed a 9,000 year lease on our brewery. We’re not going anywhere.” Perhaps the best line in the video was this one, “A toast is not just about raising your glass, it’s about raising each other.”

Frito Lay took a different tact with a spot about their response to the crisis. “The world doesn’t need brands to tell us how we think or feel,” it says in its opening frames, a statement that takes a swipe at the many of the “we’re in this together” messages that have spread across the media landscape. It continues, “It needs brands to take action.” 

The spot goes on to list their efforts for job creation (snack food sales are up, after all), donating food to the community and supporting mobile health clinics. At the end of the spot, it concludes, “This is not about brands. It’s about people.” For an ad that’s not about brands, it sure uses the word quite often.  Of course, it really is about the Frito Lay brand, but its heart is in the right place.

David Taylor – Submitted

David Taylor is president of Lancaster-based Taylor Brand Group, which specializes in brand development and marketing technology. Contact him via www.taylorbrandgroup.com.

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