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What the new normal means for your brand purpose

When the world emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, we’ll return not to normal but to a new normal. So what does this mean for your brand strategy?

We recently wrote about an inspiring AGDA event, ‘Design that gives a f*ck’, which reminded us that both ‘purpose’ and ‘impact’ should be the key drivers of brand performance.

Here we are, a few weeks later, and brands are being tested like never before. It’s so interesting to see which brands are living up to their purpose by responding to COVID-19 in the most meaningful and impactful ways. Here’s what we can learn from them.

Which brands are living up to their purpose?

Many brands are helping people adjust to life with COVID-19 in big, small and wonderful ways.

Incredibly, Dyson invented the new CoVent ventilator in just 10 days. Dyson used an existing digital motor from its vacuums to create life-saving medical devices for people with COVID-19. It just goes to show how quickly designers can repurpose products and resources for the greater good. The UK government sector has already ordered 10,000 CoVent ventilators, and Dyson will donate an additional 5,000 units.

LVMH and L’Oréal were amongst the first to use their factories to produce hand sanitizer for hospitals in France, with distilleries following suit. Air Co.’s hand sanitizer is one of our favourites – the company has temporarily shifted its entire production line from making vodka to making a carbon-negative hand sanitizer, in line with its purpose of making products that reduce carbon from the air.

Closer to home, Archie Rose was quick to reallocate its spirits production capacity to hand sanitiser. Nobody Denim has offered to convert its Melbourne factory into a manufacturing plant for facial masks and surgical-grade gowns. Fashion label Cue hopes to help with producing facial masks, too.

We’re also seeing lots of small acts of generosity from brands. In the United States, Allbirds is giving free shoes away to hospital workers. In the UK, WWF is alleviating the boredom of staying home 24/7 by sharing #onesmileeachday on Twitter, raising awareness of its vision and values in the process. In Australia, Woolworths is giving away free toilet paper by partnering with Meals on Wheels.

It’s amazing to see how quickly these brands are reallocating resources and rethinking pricing and distribution to help people stay safe and healthy.

What does it mean for your brand strategy: are you living up to your purpose?

The lessons we shared in ‘Design that gives a f*ck’ stand true. As designers, we need to help our clients design systems, not stuff, and we need to help them not only tell more purposeful stories but live up to them, too.

Here are a few rules to live by in the coronavirus era and beyond:

Be useful
Find practical ways of taking tangible action that reaffirm your brand purpose. Dyson and LVMH are both excellent examples of brands using their resources to do the right thing, even if it’s the hardest thing.

Be generous
Even the smallest acts of kindness can build long-term brand equity. Many people will remember how publishers pulled down paywalls and media brands gave away free content to alleviate boredom long after there’s a COVID-19 cure.

Activate your purpose
Now is not the time for shiny marketing messages and slick brand campaigns. It’s time to communicate with honesty and transparency and contribute in meaningful ways.

Ethics, not just aesthetics
When this crisis is over, consumers will continue to seek out brands that prioritise making the biggest difference over making the most money.

Now is the time for bravery and action. We look forward to helping our clients lead through honest communications and genuine acts of value. If you’re worried about whether your own brand strategy will survive the coronavirus era, drop us a line via hello@brandculture.com.au