Be a brand that matters - in a crisis and beyond | B&B Studio

Be a brand that matters - in a crisis and beyond


In March 2020 the world changed beyond recognition almost overnight and we have shifted into crisis management. The actions of businesses today will set the course for who they become in the future.

For the brands that matter, the times we are currently living in will help to validate and reinforce their identity and purpose. Brands that matter understand their role in consumers’ lives. They meet their needs, share their values and express their style. Today our needs have changed, and we are seeing brands step up to the challenge.

However, as we move forward, and emerge from incubation into a transformed world, how can brands make sure they remain relevant? What will they need to consider?

Meet my needs. From fragrance to handgel.

For now, the focus is, and absolutely should be, on meeting people’s needs. And in the midst of this terrible crisis there is inspiring example after inspiring example of brands doing what they can.

For some it is repurposing production from fragrances to anti-bacterial handgel. L'Oréal, Garnier, La Roche-Posay, Estée Lauder, Guerlain, Orphin and many others are doing this. Similarly, fashion brands, both high street and high end, are delivering what people need. H&M and Zara have shifted operations to produce medical supplies, Mango is distributing two million face masks throughout Spain’s hospitals, LVMH is sourcing 40 million face masks from China, Prada has begun production of 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 face masks. There are many more examples.

Yet, once infection rates fall and lockdowns begin to be eased, what will people need from their fragrances and fashion? Will we rush back to socialize or will we edge more cautiously out of our homes? While economies recover will we see these small luxuries as frivolous or as even more essential moments of joy?

From media to CPG – transforming landscapes

During this crisis medical supplies are the number one priority. Yet there are many others. We need information, and so the New York Times has removed its paywall for COVID-19-related coverage. We need distraction, and so Comcast has increased Internet speeds and reduced its package prices.

Yet, when COVID-19 is no longer the headline story, what will we need from our media? Will we demand greater media transparency or just switch off from it entirely?

With lines stretching round blocks, we need groceries. British restaurant chain LEON is now positioning itself as ‘more than just a restaurant’ as it turns outlets into mini-stores that sell grocery products and chef-created ready meals to go.

For many CPG and retail brands the need right now is optimizing production, online sales and delivery to meet altered demand. What will we need from our hospitality and CPG brands tomorrow? Will we still need distance, or will we huddle closer than ever before? Will we demand less choice and more value from the products we put in our baskets?

Share my values.

In times of crisis when we can’t be physically close, we look to be emotionally close. We gravitate towards those who demonstrably share our values, be they friends, leaders, or brands. And, whilst meeting needs has been the primary focus for brands, demonstrating shared values is key to forging strong bonds when people need them most. There have been many uplifting examples of brands doing the right thing.

Uber is giving away free meals to healthcare workers and first responders who are helping combat coronavirus. Headspace is offering free subscriptions to the NHS in the UK. Prominent high-end chef Nancy Silverton has partnered with Makers Mark bourbon to turn her LA restaurant into a relief centre for redundant workers.

Brand teams also need to look to the longer term. They need to be considering how our values will be changed in a post-corona future, and what that means for their brand. Some will already have clarity on values. They need to ensure they’re still relevant. Others need to begin this work – in a post-corona future a brand’s values will be more important than ever before.

Expressing style

Although now is a time for brands to focus on meeting needs and sharing values, the role of brand design in this communication remains key. Design can communicate these values in the most effective way and will allow brands to be futureproofed as we move forward.

The most successful brands – the brands that truly matter – recognise the importance of meeting people’s needs, sharing their values and expressing their style. They are able to dial each element up or down as the situation demands, and crucially to do it in an entirely authentic way.

Understand why you matter

What brands do now matters. A brand trust report by Edelman revealed that 62% of people believe that their country will not endure the crisis without brands playing an active role in relief efforts. This is a crisis and a tragedy, and it is a period of profound uncertainty. But for those tasked with leading our brands one thing is clear: those who use this time to think about why they matter to people will be the ones who emerge into our new world as the brands that matter.

Lisa Desforges is Strategy Director at B&B studio

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