Only a month ago, we were still going about our business as usual, continuing to plan our summer holidays, all pretty oblivious to the fact that the world was about to grind to a halt.
Fast-forward four weeks and – with millions working from home indefinitely – we finally understand why our dogs get so excited for their daily walks.
You don’t need tingling Spidey Senses at the moment to tell you that things might well get worse before they improve.
But with all that said, in every challenging situation comes a massive wave of brand growth opportunity.
A quick look to history tells you that through all the testing times that have affected the whole world came a serious amount of creativity, innovation and growth.
But while most of the advancements in the past were of a technological nature, the Coronavirus pandemic presents brands and retailers with a new and different kind of innovation strategy to focus on.
The Kindness Strategy for Growth
The biggest brand growth opportunity for today’s scenario is actually one of showing kindness and of finding ways to help those who need it most.
Morally speaking, it’s obvious why we’re saying this.
Any company that can help in this scenario absolutely should; by way of contrast, greed in this situation will do nobody any good.
As we speak, there’s a silent tug-of-war being waged between pharmaceuticals companies in America and China over the potentially lucrative patent for a drug being produced to treat Covid-19.
While profitability is always important, there are times in which knowledge, technology, innovation and everything else (your hoard of toilet rolls included) should be shared and open-sourced for the wider good of mankind.
And this is very much one of those times.
But aside from the fact that we all have a moral duty to help where we can, a strategy focused on kindness could actually be very important for your brand’s future growth ambitions.
Here are a few reasons why.
1. Build your future audience
Gen Z are defined as a generation who don’t remember a time before the internet and tend to have very strong beliefs, morals and ethical values.
By doing things now during times of genuine crisis that help those who need it most, you prove that you’re not like those pharmaceutical companies mentioned above; you’re built on solid ethical foundations that’s worth supporting and worth buying from.
Amongst Gen Zers, this is an opportunity to make your brand – no matter what you sell – a symbol of kindness and morality for decades to come.
As we hurtle towards an environmentally more stable future, your audience will become more and more conscious about their purchases.
This trend will be massively compounded by the fact that Coronavirus is giving the planet a much needed break from the emissions we’ve been putting into it for so long.
It’s highly likely that people will buy a lot less in the years and decades to come, making far more considered decisions when they do purchase.
With that in mind, Covid-19 presents brands with the perfect opportunity to win the trust of future generations now and begin to build communities within them, in order to fuel growth in the future.
2. Test new initiatives
Everyone is playing by a completely different rule book at the moment, with consumers open to trying alternatives, making this the perfect time to think differently and find new opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have explored.
The world won’t be the same after this pandemic is over; that means your business shouldn’t be either.
Taking this period of time to figure out how you can be better and do better will have a huge, positive effect on the direction your brand takes in the future.
Every event that affects us on a global level creates new initiatives and companies that go on to fill the gaps caused by the tectonic shifts in human behaviour.
Companies like Uber and Airbnb, for example, were born out of the 2008 financial crisis, which gave birth to the Sharing Economy.
Trying things now that are wholesome and good for your community of followers could revolutionise entire areas of your business model in the long run and form lasting collaborations that started off as good will, but end up being incredibly lucrative in the years to come.
What’s more, if you already have project teams in a beta mode mindset after this pandemic is over, you’ll be in a prime position to act fast and adapt your business model to whatever new behavioural trends emerge.
3. Win the hearts of future candidates
Sadly, there will be a lot of companies from a lot of different sectors who won’t survive Coronavirus and a lot of fantastic candidates will therefore be looking for new challenges.
What’s more, a knock-on effect of the pandemic is that a lot of people will use this as a period of reflection to stop and re-evaluate what’s really important to them, both personally and professionally.
Billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban recently warned that how companies treat workers during the pandemic could define brands for decades – and that works both ways; making decisions based on kindness during this period will reap huge rewards.
By positioning yourself as a cause worth working for now and proving to the world that you’re not just another brand or retailer, you’ll make hiring high-quality candidates to work for you in the future much, much easier.
How do you do that?
In a world cluttered with disingenuous attempts by companies to prove their moral fibre, your positioning in this scenario won’t be achieved through clever copywriting, marketing messages or ad campaigns, but through real-world action that forces positive change.
At this risk of sounding a bit cliché, actions definitely speak louder than words at the moment.
A strategy focused on kindness and how you can help those who need it is therefore a very smart way to go about letting the world know what you really stand for as an organisation.
A handful of the brands doing good stuff during Coronavirus
1. Pret a Manger
Drinks are on the house for NHS workers at British high-street sandwich chain Pret a Manger. Pret announced the offer on Instagram, while also offering 50% off everything else to help NHS workers through this difficult period.
American car manufacturer Ford has offered financial help for anyone who owns a Ford car and either took out a loan with the company’s finance arm to buy it, or who pays on a leasing deal.
Audible announced last week that they have opened up their library of stories for kids to listen to, totally free, during the Coronavirus pandemic.
Rather than a new product launch or promotion, Lush have decided to use their window displays to invite passers-by into store to wash their hands for free.
5. Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton ownership group LVMH have announced that they will stop production at their perfume factories in France and instead start to make free hand sanitizers.
British frozen foods chain Iceland have changed their usual opening hours, with only the elderly and vulnerable allowed into the store for the first hour of opening to ensure those who need their products most will get access to what they need.
To thank NHS workers for their support, skincare brand L’Occitane has started sending hand creams to hospitals to help soothe their dry hands from continuous hand-washing.
8. Vogue Italia
Vogue Italia confirmed that they will be giving their next three issues for free digitally; this has allowed them to grow their audience by reaching people who normally wouldn’t have purchased the physical magazine.
In conclusion: be kind, grow big
When all of this is said and done, nobody will remember the brands that did nothing.
The brands and retailers that will come out of this in a much stronger position than they entered it are the ones that act now to put a strategy into place that directly answers the question: “How can we make the world a better place?”
And aside from that, it would also be a huge opportunity lost to lay the foundations for future growth if you were to simply plan for when the pandemic is over.
Kindness is a gift everyone can afford, and brands and retailers should be taking extra steps to help as many people as they can during this pandemic, for both moral and strategic reasons.
Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed. Coronavirus is something that nobody saw coming, but before all this, we did some research on retail trends that we are likely to see over the coming year or so. Click below to download our free 2020 Trends Report now.