THE HUMANE SIDE OF BRANDS

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Standing together in a time of the Coronavirus crisis

Brands have always been more than a logo, a text or a set of colours. Rather they have been the physical accumulation of a concept, an ‘almost’ living, breathing, an omnipresent symbol of a distinctive philosophy. People not only buy products with a distinct brand identity but rather associate themselves with it; forming an evergreen bond and becoming part of a tribe bound by their take towards life. Apple aficionados are drawn towards minimalistic, sleek-designed technology products; while Harley Davidson bikers have carved a lifestyle for themselves.

With changing times, brands have escalated to pedestals and now stand for things that are bigger than themselves. They have purposes of their own. They are not only mere tools to yield revenue and increase market growth, but rather are voices that used to raise concerns and provoke people to take action on certain issues. This is best proved in this critical time of the coronavirus pandemic. While countless people are being affected all across the globe and national economies are toppling over – these brands – regardless of which industry they operate on – are offering whatever they can to stand beside their beloved customers. Let’s take a look at a few examples –

GOOGLE

The world’s leading search engine has been a step ahead in terms of ensuring employee wellness. For starters, they have formed a COVID-19 fund that enables all of their temporary staff and vendors to take leave in case they develop symptoms of coronavirus. But as companies all across the globe started to adopt work-from-home policies to prevent this virus from spreading, Google came to everyone’s help once again by giving every G-Suite customer access to Google’s video conferencing service – Hangouts Meet. This, in particular, has tremendously helped the small business owners and as well as startups, since many of them do not have access to expensive video conferencing software.

FACEBOOK

Social media companies, including Facebook, have a huge role to play in times like this – tackling the array of misinformation. From fake cures to cases of false testing methods, many intend to spread news like these for their ill-interests. The platform has recently stated that it was removing conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus that has been flagged by global health organizations, in addition to labelling coronavirus misinformation with “fact check” labels to let users know that such content had been rated false. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said that Facebook is providing the World Health Organization (WHO) “as many free ads as they need.” At the same time, he said the company will block ads that try to exploit the situation, such as those that claim a product has a miracle cure for the COVID-19 disease. Other similar apps and technology platforms like Youtube, Tiktok, Twitter have joined the cause to tackle misinformation and fake news regarding coronavirus.

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn, the world’s largest social network for professionals is also doing its fair share of work to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. The platform has redesigned its feed, creating a new Trending News element, to highlight reliable updates from experts, including the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. As if it was not enough, they have given full access to 16 of their courses. These courses primarily focus on strategies and practices that workers should adopt while working from home. Staying true to their brand essence, LinkedIn has provided every professional with tools that will empower them to sustain their productivity in this critical time. LinkedIn authorities have stated that it will continue to evolve its approach in-step to ensure that it is keeping its members informed and facilitating optimal platform use.

The results showed that 62% of customers want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices.

STARBUCKS COFFEE

While social distancing and home quarantine have pushed us far away from each other, Starbucks, the brand which beliefs in the power of ‘coffee and community’ has also taken a stand to help its customers. The global coffee chain has halted in-store customer seating in North America for at least two weeks, while limiting hours and shuttering a few shops in high traffic areas, in a bid to help reduce the spreading of the coronavirus. Rossann Williams, a senior management representative at Starbucks recently stated that the company has adopted a ‘to-go’ model, temporarily curtailing the use of the lounge-like common areas — both inside and outdoors — where customers frequently linger to talk, surf the Internet or work on laptops. Meanwhile, stores will also have a modified condiment bar where items are available upon request. Customers can still order in-person inside cafés or use the Mobile Order & Pay to offer, and drive-thrus and delivery will remain open as well. As for exchanging cash, a designated partner will handle those transactions and be allowed to wear gloves.

But the company is not only looking after their customers but have laid out a detailed plan for their partners (i.e. employees) as well. The global coffee chain has realized that isolation can spark mental illness in many and has, therefore, decided to fight against it by extending their mental health benefits. In partnership with Lyra Health, Starbucks is offering its partners personalized, confidential mental health care, 20 free in-person or video sessions every year for partners and each of their eligible family members, online scheduling with most providers available within two weeks, and access to a provider network of mental health therapists and coaches.

MICROSOFT

At the wake of coronavirus, Microsoft has decided not to stop the remuneration of its workers who are on hourly payroll. Moreover, this gesture has been extended to all of their vendors; regardless of whether their full-time service is required or not. Coincidentally, Microsoft founder Bill Gates has also stepped down from the Microsoft Board to focus on his philanthropic efforts.

ADOBE

Adobe is well-known for its wide array of creative tools, like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. While schools are locked down, the studies and academic routines have already been disrupted. Adobe has come up with a solution to combat this, by enabling temporary “at-home” access to their Creative Cloud apps. This will be highly beneficial for their K-12 institutional customers. This humanitarian service has been opened on a global scale and is set to be open until May 2020.

LVMH

While many of the technology companies have taken rapid measures, it is quite unexpected to see a luxury goods brand step forward in this severe situation. But LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, has defied the odds. LVMH has its humble origins in France, which has faced one of the most devastating situations during the coronavirus endemic – with a staggering number of death tolls. Hence, the company will use its perfume production lines to start making hand sanitizer to protect people against the coronavirus attack. The factories, which are normally used to produce perfume and makeup for luxury brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy, are now being used to produce large quantities of hand sanitizers. The company mentioned in an official statement that “LVMH will continue to honour this commitment for as long as necessary, in connection with the French health authorities”.

Global consulting company Accenture conducted a detailed study named 14th Annual Global Consumer Pulse Research in 2018. The results showed that 62% of customers want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices. In this time of a global crisis, companies standing up against coronavirus indeed highlights the humane side of brands; as valiant efforts are taken from their standpoints to ensure a safer, healthier world. At the end of the day, these brands have all been created by humans and therefore nurture the essence of the human soul.

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