Q&A: Brands and putting the customer first during Covid-19

Srong brands need to put the customer first by genuinely connecting and offering help druing the current crisis to weather the storm and beyond

The Covid-19 pandemic currently playing out around the world has upended the 2020 plans for almost every brand and every marketer.

At a time of health and economic stress, along with working and family life upheaval, certainties about business and the role of brands are no more. The scale of the crisis is unprecedented in modern time, it doesn’t mean throwing out the rule book entirely, but survival will take more than just a couple of emails to customers. 

“We may see the end of the formal office for many and an increase in mobile phone use for work," Brandometry co-founder and president, Tony Wenzel, told CMO on one of the many predicted changes that will alter how we work and how we live in the wake of the pandemic and the lockdown. 

When it comes to brands, the long-time brand research advisor for investors believes strong brands, and the ones which genuinely focus on helping the customer during this time, will fare well through this crisis and thrive long afterwards. CMO asked Wenzel his thoughts on a range of questions about the impact of the virus.

One was if brands will follow Coca-Cola’s lead in shifting money from advertising and directing towards efforts to curb the virus. Wenzel agrees it’s an admirable and welcome move, but says most brands don’t have the financial heft of the iconic soft drink brand to follow suit.

“Coca-Cola is going all-in on social responsibility and it’s a very strong move,” he said. “After recent hurricanes, some of the beer companies canned water for people affected by the storms. I think this sort of redistribution of funds would be difficult for most companies. Coke is the most recognisable brand in the world. They can do this. Very few other brands could afford to execute this type of campaign.” 

Here's more from our discussion.

CMO: How can brands communicate with customers in a way that's authentic and not seen as opportunistic?

Wenzel: I think the ‘We’re here to help’ message is playing well. One of the best I’ve seen is from Verizon, a US telco, which is using a message that says: ‘We’re here. And we’re ready. We know you need to stay connected. Our networks can adapt to increased demand.’ The message continues with an FAQ on their response Covid-19, what retail stores are open, and what it means for the public sector, the network, employees and business.   

Audible, Amazon’s audiobook company, made a bunch of titles in its library free so parents might have another way to keep kids occupied while working from home.  

What are the opportunities for digital marketing at the moment with the shift to work from home and lockdown and the inevitable uptick in social media and online?

Wenzel: The Covid-19 pandemic will prove a catalyst for changes in the direction of remote education. The pandemic will also affect how and whether office work is done in the future as remote work could become significantly more popular. Internet-based at-home entertainment is likely to gather even greater momentum in the wake of government-issued stay-at-home orders.

And the pandemic has increased the popularity of at-home delivery across categories.  

Quarantine orders have necessitated more remote work, education, shopping and entertainment. This presents fantastic opportunities for companies like Verizon, Twitter, AT&T, Microsoft, Intel, IBM, Facebook, eBay, Walt Disney, CBS, Amazon, Alphabet and Apple. These companies build the data centers, networks, software, marketplaces, social hubs and delivery networks that support remote consumption of media.

What effect is Covid-19 having on brands?

Wenzel: Accenture predicted long ago that the parcel delivery business will grow nine per cent per year through 2020, this will certainly be an underestimate in the wake of the pandemic. Amazon is hiring 100,000 drivers to support the growth of its delivery services.

Food delivery services offer more order options (Twitter, smartwatches, apps) and delivery channels (cars, trucks, drones) catering to Millennials who came of age in a post-Uber world. Payment providers with strong brands like Apple, Amazon, American Express, Bank of America, Capital One, Alphabet, Mastercard and Visa can support ecommerce sales and benefit from transaction fees from them.   

How might post-Covid-19 be different to other crises?

Wenzel: I think the pandemic will have a big impact on how we think about work and education which may change the way we do both.  

There is really no need for most office building workers to go to an office. Offices are expensive and it’d be hard to make the case today that they’re necessary. The amount of money and time workers would save working remotely is massive. Companies could save money on rents and could reduce payroll, hiring remote employees in less expensive areas according to their costs. The reduction in traffic, pollution and unnecessary consumption would be its own boon.  

For most students, there is more diverse and arguably better material available at home on YouTube than there is in any classroom. Is there a reason we go away to college? In most firms, people work with people from all over the world. Living at a college does not prepare students for working with people from all over the planet on Zoom meetings.  

The temporality of education could change, too. I’m not certain we should try to pack a lifetime’s worth of education into the first four years of a person’s adulthood. What’s being taught isn’t always relevant by the time they teach it. Education should be a life-long program and the pandemic might make that clearer. Most of the billionaires whose names I know never finished college. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia.  

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Craig Davis

​Leadership resilience, startups scaling up, marketing best practices, customer insights - these are just a few of the topics we manage to explore in the latest episode of Conversations over a Cuppa with CMO featuring Craig Davis.

More Videos

Was really informative. Customer retention is very important for companies as retaining customers are simpler compared to making new ones...

Bhooshan Shetty

What lies ahead for the future of marketing post-AI

Read more

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

3-pronged marketing approach for property disruptor Brickx

Read more

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

Oath to fully acquire Yahoo7 from Seven West Media

Read more

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Definitely bookmarked for future reading! Check this website https://a2designlab.com/ with lots of ...

Ryota Miyagi

Brene Brown: What it takes to be a brave leader right now

Read more

Well said! It is high time to look into the cultural values and beliefs of the audience before serving with the ads. If it is against the...

Praveen Kumar

The X factor in multicultural media planning and buying - Digital advertising - CMO Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Life beyond the cookie: 5 steps to mapping the future of marketing measurement

​There’s no denying there’s been a whirlwind of response to the imminent demise of the third-party cookie from all parts of the industry. But as we’ve collectively come to better understand the implications, it’s clear this change is giving the digital advertising industry the opportunity to re-think digital marketing to support core industry use cases, while balancing consumer privacy.

Natalie Stanbury

Director of research, IAB Australia

Ensuring post-crisis success

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed brands’ CX shortcomings and a lack of customer understanding. Given ongoing disruption, customer needs, wants and expectations are continually changing, also causing customers to behave in different ways. Just look at hoarding toilet paper, staple and canned food, medicinal and cleaning products.

Riccardo Pasto

senior analyst, Forrester

A few behavioural economics lesson to get your brand on top of the travel list

Understanding the core principles of Behavioural Economics will give players in the travel industry a major competitive advantage when restrictions lift and travellers begin to book again. And there are a few insights in here for the rest of the marketing community, too.

Dan Monheit

Co-founder, Hardhat

Sign in