In the Face of the Pandemic, the Message is Empathy

Highlights from my LinkedIn feed:

“Empathy is the new black,” brand strategist Billee Howard stated in a recent post: “There is nothing better for brands to do right now than authentically express their version of ‘I hear you, I understand, and you are not alone.’”

Here is a great example of that from Dunkin Brands, courtesy of marketing executive Paul Fleuranges: Message boards in their doughnut stores exclaim: “Let’s raise a cup to the risk takers, the mask makers, the heroes on the front line and on-line, to the ones who suit-up and never let us down. From all of us at Dunkin’ to all the heroes keeping everyone running we thank you.”

In-store message of support at a Dunkin’ Donuts store.

What I love about this message is its inclusiveness. Everyone who plays a role in the fight against COVID-19, on the front line and the home front, matters. At the same time, this subtly reinforces Dunkin’s brand message, “American runs on Dunkin.”

Marketers and business owners are getting it: learning how to adapt to this new environment we have been thrust into. It’s not simply enough to express empathy, it needs to be done in a way that ties your story to the bigger picture.

Another great example was supermarket chain Publix’ decision to purchase excess produce and milk from farmers in its service territory and donate it to food banks. The act supports both ends of the food supply chain. It provides cash to farmers that will help them stay in business while getting food to people who need it . Further, it helps the environment by keeping unsold milk and produce from going to waste.

Numerous manufacturers are re-purposing parts of their production lines to produce materials needed in the fight against COVID-19, from face masks to ventilators. Other have created new products or repurposed existing ones to meet needs related to the pandemic.

Marketers and business owners are getting it: learning how to adapt to this new environment we have been thrust into. It’s not simply enough to express empathy, it needs to be done in a way that ties your story to the bigger picture.

Urban Electric Power, a company started by City College of New York engineering faculty to produce rechargeable batteries, is now making hand sanitizer at its Rockland County, NY, factory. Some of its battery electrolyte mixers were repurposed to produce the gel.

Entrepreneur Haytham Elhawary reports his company, Kinetics, which created wearable technology to address ergonomic issues in the workplace, has added a proximity alert to help workers maintain safe social distancing and a contact tracing tool that can identify contacts between workers.

Defeating COVID-19 will require an effort on the scale of World War II; when the United States and allies defeated the Axis Powers by building up their armed forces and putting our industrial might to work producing the weapons and other supplies they needed.

Some day our children and grandchildren might ask “what did you do in the war against coronavirus, Mommy and Daddy?” just as 50-plus years ago we asked our parents and grandparents what they did in the war. We are all in this together, and everyone has a role to play.

No matter what your story is it is part of your brand, and it needs to be told. What’s my story? Helping people to tell theirs.

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