It's time for brands to solve not sell 

We’re at a pivotal moment for the world, for business and for brands. As Covid-19 continues to disrupt nearly every aspect of daily life, the expectations of the public are shifting in unprecedented ways. Protect the vulnerable. Support communities. Connect the isolated. Augment public services. These are the people’s new priorities – and they’re looking at brands to play their role delivering them.

Released this week, the findings of a new Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report into Brand Trust and the Coronavirus underline the critical role brands should play during this pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of UK respondents (62%) don’t believe the country will make it through the crisis without brands helping to address its challenges while 90% want them to partner with government and relief agencies to help. Nearly three-quarters (74%) warn that companies placing profits before people will lose their trust forever.

Of course, it’s important to recognise that so many businesses are doing so much to help already. Yet as the crisis lengthens, new challenges will arise and expectations will continue to grow. Brands must be ready to step in with actions that are tangible, responsive and authentic to what people need and believe they can deliver.  

Solve don’t sell

First and foremost, consumers expect brands to stop selling to them and start solving the unique challenges of life during a pandemic. Chief among these priorities is protecting the wellbeing and financial security of employees and suppliers, something 91% of people believe they should do even if it means suffering big financial losses in the process.

There’s also an expectation that brands will use their creativity and capability to make products specifically designed to help with today’s challenges. Over half (54%) of respondents say these are the only types of product or service to which they’re currently paying any attention anyway. Many, too, want to see companies offering free or lower-priced goods to health workers, those at most risk from the virus and people whose jobs have been affected.

Inform and connect

Yet as well as offering new products and services that target pandemic-related life challenges, there’s also an important role for brands to play as communicators. Eight in 10 people (80%) want them to act as a reliable news source, keeping them informed about the virus and the progress being made in fighting it. Likewise, 84% are looking to brands to become educators, offering instructional information about Covid-19 and how to protect against it. We have seen many brands redirect  ATL spend to deliver clear, simple public health messages.

People are also understandably keen for help in overcoming the physical barriers of nationwide lockdowns and social distancing. More than eight in 10 (83%) want brands to help them stay emotionally close while a similarly high number (84%) would like to see them use social media channels to foster community and offer social support to people who can no longer gather in person.

Display a human touch

Yet even at a time when actions have never spoken more loudly than words, brands must still carefully consider what they say and how they say it. Transparency, empathy and compassion are paramount.

Around nine in 10 people (89%) want to understand exactly how a brand they use is supporting employees and customers while 88% expect clear details on how they can best access its products and services. Two in three (61%) say simply hearing from a company about what it’s doing in response to the pandemic is comforting and reassuring.

Similarly, 79% of UK consumers want brands to show they care via public statements expressing empathy and support for those most affected by the pandemic. Meanwhile, 77% only want brands to talk about products in ways that show they’re aware of the impact it’s having on people’s lives and 57% are calling on them to stop any advertising or marketing that is humorous or too light-hearted in tone.

Step up today for the sake of tomorrow

One of the most important findings of the study surrounds the potential ramifications for brands of not doing enough. Around two-thirds (64%) of UK respondents say that how well a company responds to the coronavirus crisis will have a huge impact on their likelihood of buying from it in future. On the flipside, 33% have already convinced other people to stop using a brand they felt was not acting appropriately.

Clearly, at this moment of extraordinary global crisis, the public wants businesses and brands to step up, to act in the interests of employees, stakeholders and society. In a world that suddenly feels very fragile, those that do so can help project clarity, continuity and fairness. They can help us all overcome the challenges we face right now, then recover quicker when this pandemic is finally behind us. And they can build a deeper, more meaningful connections.

For brands, now is the time to truly make a difference.


Edelman is supporting businesses and organisations looking to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic and its public health implications; manage communications with employees and customers; and receive guidance on strategies and policies for effective preparedness and response efforts.

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