By Amanda Long, senior account director, Hughes Agency
In the time of COVID-19, every business has had to change how they operate and communicate with their consumers. One way that Endeavor, a coworking community for creatives and marketing professionals, did that was by hosting a virtual version of its popular Collaborators & Cocktails speaker series, in which marketing experts from revered brands share their perspectives to help inspire attendees in their own work.
This event, co-hosted with Clemson’s Erwin Center for Brand Communications, was the highest attended in Endeavor’s four-year history. The speakers were global branding experts Leslie Sims, the former chief creative officer at both Ogilvy and Young & Rubicam, and Fabio Tambosi, global head of brand communications for the Apparel & Training business unit at Adidas. Sims and Tambosi are both Clemson graduates and Erwin Center board members.
Sims and Tambosi presented a timeline of brand case studies they admired, ones that got it right as the situation evolved, garnered press and social media attention, and created intense brand loyalty from consumers and employees in the process. According to Sims, the “context of time and what was happening around the message and around the world is really important to understand how brave and really great some of these messages and actions were.”
- March 16 – President Donald Trump issues stay-at-home order.
- March 18 – Ally Bank moved 99% of staff to work from home, then offered customers deferrals on loans, which customers registered for on a quickly created microsite. “One of the great elements is to have foresight and assume some risk. They were leading the conversation, not joining it,” said Tambosi. “Instead of creating a message, they just acted. The people who bank with them love them for this,” said Sims.
- April 6 – Steak-Umm, a thin-sliced frozen steak brand, became a voice of reason during a Twitter storm of misinformation. So much so that Fast Company wrote an article about the “sobering string of advice on media literacy, disinformation and staying informed amid the pandemic.” The brand took a stand and more than doubled its Twitter following in a month — receiving thanks and accolades from scientists, journalists and high-ranking government officials for setting the record straight.
- April 10 – At Adidas, Tambosi was preparing for a global product launch when the world came to a halt. His challenge was launching a campaign when product is in inventory but can’t be sold since retail is closed. Even further, how do you create something monumental when budgets were slashed 90% with 10 days to execute something that normally takes 18 months? They put the power in the hands of the real heroes of the Adidas brand: its people. In five days, 1,000 employees posted a video, Ready for Sport, on their personal social media accounts, tagging their favorite Adidas athletes. Without being asked, 339 athletes around the world shared the post, garnering over 9 million organic views.
- April 16 – Kraft helped local business communities by donating ad space it did not need (since its peanut butter was already flying off the shelves) to small businesses that were open or delivering.
- Early May – AirBnB issued a press release announcing it was laying off a quarter of its workforce, but in a way that showed how they take care of their people. It created an online directory of its talented employees, urging other organizations to hire them.
The key takeaways were that brands with a strong established point of view and set of beliefs fare best, brand actions speak louder than words, and nimble adoption of new behaviors wins.
“The real brave brands and the real brave marketers are the ones that are going to follow through the change and not only act brave now,” said Tambosi.