Observations on brands in times of pandemic

Last week Saffron took the decision to play its part to limit the spread of Covid-19 and to work remotely to keep delivering our work for clients.

The change in circumstances has thrown up a few interesting learnings, both about the way we advise our clients to deliver on their brand promises and, surprisingly, about the way Saffron works.

Strategist Jorge Müller has been observing what makes brand, and the experience of it, different in these unusual times, from his home office in London.

Making brand work in times of pandemic requires a fine-tuned approach:
To Saffron, delivering on a compelling promise is central to brand practice. However, in a lockdown scenario, redefining a brand’s relevance can be tricky. Here are two ideas to fine-tune your brand’s approach.

Be a port in the storm
As consumers are staying at home, they are increasingly in need of certain brands to help them with the lifestyle change. But this means those brands have a great responsibility towards their customers. Brands are now operating in a high-pressure environment, where consumers are attracted by a feeling of trust. Their duty is hence to bring their brand promise to life in a trustworthy way that offers reassurance.

The clear winners who are delivering on this are brands like Amazon Alexa, Ocado or Netflix. They are developing new ways of interacting that build trust and deliver peace of mind. Tone of Voice development has evolved to new heights to create brand voices that act as reassuring companions. During the pandemic, as virtual voice has gained traction, the brands behind smart speakers and devices alike have started to tweak their platforms to prevent misinformation. Video streaming platforms have taken content curation to the next level. By the time we found ourselves locked up at home we realised how much these brands already understand our needs. Brands need to leverage these strengths to show they care.

Lead by example
Great brands are already rolling up their sleeves to do their part. Some Telecom and Media companies are giving away products and services to entertain families stuck at home. LVMH have started to make hand sanitiser in its perfume factories to help hospitals. Many brands are sending reassuring messages showing that they care, but it is crucial that they are measured in their responses to the situation. On a walk to the supermarket, a man wearing a face mask sat advertising a well-known sandwich franchise. Probably not the best idea to build brand trust.

The Saffron way:
From the home office, it has also been interesting to observe Saffron colleagues’ response to the new situation.

We really are One Office
Over the last weeks, companies have grappled with the idea of remote work as a foreign concept. For Saffron, working remotely is business as usual – it’s in our DNA. We are spread all around the world and travel wherever our clients need us. Our day to day revolves around remote meetings, and we are accustomed to making ourselves available in diverse locations, from Indian streets to busy Silicon Valley cafés. We’ve hitched a passing truck in the middle of the highway in Kiev to make a flight and we’ve been stranded by Icelandic volcanic ash in Japan for a week. So remote working or not, Saffronites will get it done.

We believe in using IQ and EQ to shape the new spaces around us
As we are displaced from our offices, most of us have been relegated to home premises. Everyone is looking for creative ways to add a sprinkling of Saffron’s signature charm and brutality to the confines of their homes. One colleague has built a futuristic workstation in her living room and another has set up a daily virtual lunch table for those who “miss the comfort and social element”. We are approaching the challenge with our characteristic belief in disruptive thinking and in deploying both IQ and EQ.

From observing both the admirable response of brands and colleagues at Saffron in these times of pandemic, it is clear that trust is the guiding force to bring us through this strange time. It might be letting customers know you’re taking the extra measures to keep them safe and happy, or knowing your colleagues have got it covered. Because at the end of the day, in times of pandemic, what we need is a little reassurance.

By Jorge Müller, Strategist.