For some time now, we have observed a growing consumer demand for brands that contribute to solutions for social issues. As problems for businesses, citizens and the government increase, there seems to be momentum for brands that want to activate their purpose; 78% of people expect companies to act to protect employees and the (local) community.
This goes beyond simply communicating a statement of support. No one is looking forward to an empty sentiment from an anonymous multinational while they are worried about their job, family and health. Meaningful actions speak louder than words. Brands such as Uber and Shell, whose reputation leaves something to be desired, try to build trust by making free transportation and fuel available to healthcare workers. McDonald’s and Coca-Cola on the other hand are increasing the spacing in their logo to share their attention to social distancing. Such expressions have been met with criticism from consumers.
Research by Ronald Voorn, senior lecturer at Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, shows that such initiatives are less appreciated by consumers than, for example, breweries that used their alcohol production to produce disinfectant liquids for the healthcare sector. Appreciation strongly depends on the extent to which the activity is seen as serving society on the one hand and the value congruence with the brand on the other hand. The latter can only be achieved by consistently building your brand, which is a long-term process. And even if it pays to advertise anti-cyclical in times of crisis – with more reach (compared to the competitor) for less money – don’t suddenly do completely new things. This is unbelievable and unrecognizable. It doesn’t help take away the uncertainty. Every brand has the means or identity to directly contribute something to the current circumstances. They can provide people with stability, security and confidence in these times that will benefit far beyond the crisis. That is, provided their initiatives correspond to what they’ve stood for before.