During challenging times, people—stakeholders and the larger global community—connect with authenticity. Brands that are relevant do meaningful work to elevate their mission and purpose in the world, are helpful and transparent and err toward empathy rather than trying to capitalize on the situation.
Alan Chumley, managing director of integrated intelligence at W20 Group, says being relevant was hard enough in 2019. The marketing company has been tracking the relevance of 240 companies for the past two years, and by its measures only 8 percent of companies registered a strong or resilient relevance.
Looking at W20’s observations of the most relevant companies during COVID-19—Facebook, Amazon and Disney, to name a few—there’s few takeaways we can all learn from and apply. It’s worth pointing out that companies that are relevant on an ongoing basis are more resilient in crisis and are likely to get through this and rebound stronger than before.
Actions speak louder than words. Companies that demonstrate empathy are among the most relevant to key stakeholders. Brands saw this not as a marketing or messaging moment, but a time to focus on benevolent behavior and actions that align with their value and purpose. Rather than focusing on media mentions or generating the most content, they became part of the solution or at least a voice of reason.
Put people first. Many companies are making significant efforts to remain relevant and resilient, but those that are do it in a way that leverages their brand ethics. Companies that are the most relevant put their employees first and then the broader community of customers and stakeholders.
Be authentic. There is nothing more important particularly in a crisis to reiterate who you are and what you stand for. Companies are increasing transparency around their journey and communicating messages and stories that are true and authentic to their brand. Doing work that is meaningful to the people you work with and the community also helps others discover your company or organization… without any self-promotion.
Broaden response initiatives. The size of pledges and donations by organizations have increased significantly since this global crisis. Relevant companies are attuned and respond to what’s on the hearts and minds of the larger society.
Pivot with agility. Brands are pivoting their usual manufacturing operations with agility and scale to design new products or adapt existing products. So many companies are partnering in unexpected, cross-industry collaborations to help support their communities or ensure business continuity. The partnerships are leading to better and faster innovations.
In it for the long haul. Companies realize stay-at-home orders and work-from-home policies are just the tip of the iceberg. Relevant companies are efficiently balancing both the short-term needs of their stakeholders and long-term contingent thinking and strategy that is bold, proactive and sustainable.
This global crisis will have long-term effects on companies, communities and individuals. Adding an empathetic, human-focused, authentic response will be the difference to make it through… or even rebound stronger.