Apr 3, 2020 - Health

Brands risk losing business if they don't properly address coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

People are more likely to purchase something from a company during and after the coronavirus crisis if that company speaks out appropriately about the pandemic now, according to a new survey from Edelman.

The big picture: Data shows that consumers overwhelmingly want brands to speak out regularly during the pandemic, but that they don't want to be sold anything that isn't going to help make the situation better.

  • According to the Edelman survey, brands are expected to address the coronavirus directly, and in a somber and empathetic tone.
  • This means that they shouldn't use any lighthearted or humorous marketing, and they should avoid marketing or communications that reference people gathered together using their products and having a good time.

For the most part, brands are responding appropriately.

  • Dozens of fashion and lifestyle brands are helping to create medical supplies, like scrubs for medical workers, and donating clothes to those in need.
  • Tech firms are giving out millions of dollars to small businesses and journalism non-profits and are tapping into their existing supply chains and expertise for medical supplies and technologies to help track the spread of the virus.
  • Food brands, food delivery companies and restaurants like Sweetgreen and &Pizza are donating food to heath care workers. Instacart said Thursday that beginning next week it will make free safety kits with face masks, hand sanitizer and a thermometer available to its shoppers. UberEats and Doordash have waived commission fees for independent restaurants.
  • Automobile manufacturers like GM and Ford, which have been hit very hard by the crisis, are working with the government and third-party manufacturers to help create ventilators to address the nation's shortage.
  • Some brands are even changing their logos to promote social distancing.

By the numbers: An overwhelming majority of people (78%) find that businesses have a responsibility to ensure their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and do not spread the virus into the community, according to the Edelman survey.

  • Roughly two-thirds (66%) say that hearing from brands they use about what they are doing to respond to the pandemic is comforting and reassuring,
  • Most respondents (86%) say that brands should "be a safety net," stepping in where they are needed and able, to fill gaps in the government’s response to the virus
  • An overwhelming majority (90%) say brands should partner with the government and relief agencies to address the crisis.

Between the lines: Amazon has been scrutinized for firing a warehouse employee who helped organize a walkout between a group of workers Monday following several confirmed cases of the coronavirus among staff.

  • For Amazon, which is working to supply consumers with millions of critical supplies during the pandemic, the one misstep could have major implications for its business.
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city's human rights commissioner to investigate Amazon after the state's attorney general called for a federal labor investigation into the tech giant.

Be smart: Brands that are inclined to avoid talking about the crisis may not have much of a choice.

  • Nearly a third of people globally (33%) say they've convinced other people to stop using a brand it they felt was not acting appropriately in response to the crisis.

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