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  • Chas Bayfield

What Brands Do in Life...

A few days ago, I blogged about the nagging feeling I had that some brands were piggy-backing the virus to get share of mind - in other words, promoting themselves for the benefit of their own bottom line. The response has been mixed, with some of you believing that brands can and should have a voice at this time, and that they do still matter to people. Others seemed to think that this isn’t the time to advertise. your fast food restaurant or fizzy drink, and others are of the opinion that some brands get it right while others are missing the point completely.

Right now, if you’re a producer of canned food, pasta, sauces, frozen goods and a raft of other products, it seems that there is little point in advertising as your products simply aren’t available to most of the public. If there is only brand Z mayo on the supermarket shelf, it doesn’t really matter what you think of Heinz or Hellmann’s, you need mayo and it’s the last jar. How you feel about Tesco’s own tuna versus John West is unimportant if there is none in the shop. We are currently reduced to cold war Russia-style shopping where corner shops are mobbed simply because they have just had an egg delivery. When it gets to raw, basic need, does branding matter?

I’d say yes it does. And it’s not what you might think of branding.

I don’t particularly care about the provenance of your pasta right now, or the bakery that makes your bread, or the farms producing your sausages.

That mattered in the old world.

We are now in a world where we consider ourselves fortunate if we have a choice of one. There is no point going to Waitrose with the ingredients for Ottolenghi meatballs because, once you’ve queued to get into the store, many of the ingredients simply won’t be there.

I’m not just talking supermarkets and food.

The new behaviour extends to sportswear, banks, car manufacturers, airlines – it involves everyone.

For a few years now, how brands act has risen in importance to consumers – it’s what they do rather than what they say that matters.

As an industry, it has often been difficult to see which brands are genuinely behaving in an enlightened and humane way towards people and the planet, or which are happy to execute a quick publicity stunt for an agency to enter into Cannes for a spot of personal glory. But today, in a time of crisis, everyone is not only looking at how brands behave, history will judge them.

Some banks were fast to offer mortgage holidays. Others dawdled and created huge anxiety for trapped customers with no foreseeable income to pay off their loans.

Iceland were the first supermarket to open an hour early for older and more vulnerable shoppers.

Zara is making face masks.

Louis Vuitton is producing hand sanitizer instead of perfume.

It’s not enough any more to write snappy headlines telling us to stay in.

That’s called being opportunistic.

Cashing in on the virus to talk about yourself.

Actually rolling their sleeves up and helping the world is what we want and expect our brands to do now.

To quote Gladiator, what we do in life echoes in eternity.

Consumers have long memories, and those brands which forget for a moment that they need to sell stuff and who act with humanity and compassion are the ones that will reap the dividends when all this is over.

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