In vino veritas roughly translated means that when people are under the influence of wine, they say what they really think. Likewise, a person’s true character comes out during times of great stress or danger. The same holds true for brands.
Some brands are focused solely on measures to ensure that they can keep selling, letting their anxiety show by sending out tone-deaf messages about how we’re going to buy our favourite burger to people worried about how they’re going to pay for rent or basic groceries.
The brands that are showing nobility during these times are the ones that have a clear understanding of their values and what that means. Ford, for example, is a “family” company with a history of stepping up, and they have again, turning their factories from building cars to making respirators, gowns and face shields. Little Caesar’s is donating 1 million pizzas to hospitals and first responders. And Subway Canada is donating $2 per order to Food Banks Canada. Unilever is donating millions in hand sanitizers and food, as well a guaranteeing the jobs of all its employees and contractors. Google is donating millions in online advertising to help small businesses.
These are just five examples. There are more stories everyday. Ottawa restauranteur Steven Beckta and his chefs have been quietly delivering meals to all of their employees, working hard to be the “best unemployer” possible. CEOs are giving up their salaries, workers are donating portions of their wages and everyday we see brands creating inventive ways to help. In all these cases, leaders and staff have evoked the spirit of their brand’s purpose and values to rally around a crisis and help simply because it’s the right thing to do.
While most of the more famous examples are from large consumer-facing companies, any brand can live their values and help. The local bakery that sold its yeast at a cheap price, taking a loss to help out. The trucking company that delivered groceries to food banks for free. The home cleaning company that offered to disinfect the homes of seniors for free. The non-profit that provided online counselling to people struggling at no cost. The chemical supplier that deferred its invoices for six months. The parts manufacturer that dug deep into cash reserves and kept its employees on payroll.
This was a time for every brand – no matter how big or small – to look at the values that govern its choices and decide whether or not to truly live by them. As we slide into June and a loosening of restrictions, values are more important than ever as businesses start to make choices between their responsibility to promote safety and their need to increase business. It will be difficult for many.
Those brands that had to make the effort to clearly define their values and soak them into the organization’s culture had a clear blueprint for making the right choices. And we move into economic recovery and the following years, those brands will be stronger, more resilient and better positioned for the opportunities ahead.