Can brands help post Covid-19?

As we start to see lockdown relaxing, there is still a need for us to all be careful. The main issue will be how this is communicated to avoid confusion and this is where some of the major global brands can help.

Over the past few months much has been made about the need for social distancing, there have been some interesting responses from some of the most recognisable brands around the world, such as McDonalds, Audi and VW, who have come up with very creative ways of reinforcing the message for the need for social distancing.

Other than a few “rogue” comments, the need to maintain space seems to be one way of helping prevent the spread that is agreed on, the other is to keep  washing your hands. What is also interesting, is the way businesses are now looking at how they adapt to meet these requirements in the longer term.

For some businesses ,it will be easier, retailers will be able to control how many people come into a shop and to a large extent the distance they keep between each other, the same will apply for fast food outlets. Other industries such as airlines, will struggle to maintain the distancing and will need creative solutions. It is clear is that Covid-19 will have a long-term if not permanent impact on society. This will not just change how we react to those who have illness, or indeed how we support and appreciate those keyworkers who keep society running, but how we go about our lives.

Businesses have long claimed they have flexible working policies, but in reality, only a very small percentage really have. Most allow staff to work at home in an emergency or to start work a bit earlier to finish earlier. The pandemic has forced every business to change how it operates and most are realising that staff can work remotely and be just as, if not more, productive. The technology is there and we have all learnt how to work effectively using video conferencing and remote access systems.

What is less clear is the impact it will have on the travel industry.

With the UK government now asking businesses to stagger start times, it seems that “rush hour” as we know it could be a thing of the past, with the potential reduction in travel overall. Is it possible that businesses will no longer fly staff all over the world for a few hours meeting, or tell their teams to drive all over the country just to pop into a customer or prospect, we will have to wait and see.

My hope is that we will also realise that we can get more out of our teams by allowing them to work flexibly, this will make their lives easier in terms of child-care and support for families and communities. We will also reduce our reliance on travel and in so doing drastically reduce the impact on the environment.

Yes, the airline industry may never be the same and flights may become more expensive as less people fly but is that really a bad thing. It will take time to adjust, but in ten years we will look back and realise that there were silver linings from the pandemic. Whilst many people have sadly lost their lives, maybe it will help us provide a better place of our children and grand-children to grow up in.

Those businesses who are adapting will thrive in the years to come, those that are complaining and just looking for handouts will not, now is the time for everyone to make that choice.

This is where the brands can help. As they did when the crisis first hit, they used the power of their brands to highlight the need for social distancing, could they not now use their brands to adapt the message and support governments globally to reinforce the message. The vast majority of the global population will have more affiliation with VW or McDonalds than with a government and often if the brand suggests something innovative, their followers will adopt it.

Maybe the Golden Arches can be adapted again, or the VW logo changed to have a dotted link or possibly adding a mask to the logo. Clearly, I am not creative, but I do know the power that brands have and this is one time they can use them for good.