Brand Building in the Current COVID-19 Climate


By Aidoia Puig-Delfin - Founding 50 Member of the School of Marketing

In times of crisis, brand building can be memorable, in more ways than one, but is it for the right reasons? How can brands play the long game and come out the other end with their brand image intact? 

We’ve seen how Cadbury pulled it’s Easter campaign deeming it “no longer appropriate”, how those famous golden arches sparked significant criticism and how the BrewDog founders sacrificed their salaries and the brand turned its hand to making sanitiser. As Coronavirus is affecting our lives in unimaginable ways, brand management may not be top of mind, yet it can play an important role in a company’s survival as well as making a difference to people’s lives.


It’s nothing new that even at the best of times cause-related marketing is a difficult balance to strike. Countless brands have faced huge public backlash due to previous misguided cause marketing campaigns, with Pepsi’s attempt at a woke ad, featuring supermodel Kendall Jenner as a prime example. Nonetheless, when it is done right, it can be an incredibly effective way to raise both money and awareness; how can we forget the adorable little woollen hats of Age UK and innocent’s The Big Knit campaign. And, with only 8% of consumers thinking brands should stop advertising, increasing brand awareness isn’t off the cards altogether.


The crucial lesson here is that brands must be authentically aligned with the cause. Today’s consumers can see a marketing manipulation a mile away and will be quick to note discrepancies between what a company says and what it does. Therefore, smart brands should take a nuanced approach by understanding the issues driving the Coronavirus crisis then take action through support and solutions that deliver meaningful help, albeit in unassuming and understated methods.


Aside from brand awareness, the importance of employees shouldn’t be overlooked during these turbulent times. Your primary concern should be safeguarding your employees. This will be remembered in the long-term. And, let’s not forget that your employees can become powerful brand advocates if your external intentions and internal actions align. That is being memorable for the right reasons.