Coronavirus: is there a brighter side for brands?

By Archie Heaton

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – Coronavirus is bad. In fact, as someone whose brother has a supressed immune system and severe asthma, I’m all too aware of how bad. But, regardless of its nastiness, it, like any major world event or piece of news, undoubtably presents brands with a unique opportunity. For want of a better word, it provides a platform.

Today, people’s attention is remarkably focused, their anxieties appallingly high and – as the world’s population self-isolates – their schedules refreshingly free. We have never had a more attentive audience for our work. So, what should we do with it? Well, fundamentally, we’re an optimistic industry and it is our duty to use communications to promote kindness, inform the uninformed and delight during this epidemic. If we do so, we will create impressions on consumers that last far longer than the virus.

Put simply, we have an opportunity. And yes, there is of course a great deal of strain on our personal lives and huge restrictions on what we can and cannot say but, as Orson Welles famously said, “the enemy of art is the absence of limitations.” And some brands have already settled rather comfortably into their limitations:

Time Out have evolved impressively quickly.

With everyone stuck at home, PornHub’s business certainly isn’t in need of a government bailout.

Vox have reacted to the crisis brilliantly by doing what they do best: shedding light on the facts during a time when people want them most. They are creating a synomity with information that will benefit them for years to come.

National governments are falling over each other to proclaim “war” on the virus and frame their administrations as no different to those in the 1940’s. This isn’t a surprise considering the electoral boost usually gifted to any wartime government, and the strategy is a clever bit of marketing being used right across the world right now.

Leyton Orient might not be the biggest team in physical football but they’re making a name for themselves online by organising a EA FIFA tournament between football clubs. The demand for sporting content at the moment looks set to make this a big success.

The New York Times cementing their reputation as the clever-clogs of the news business.

Pret, London’s friend and ally during good times and bad.

Archie Heaton is a brand consultant.

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