COVID-19 has brought out both the good and the bad in brands—and as is often the case, we tend to hear a lot about the bad, but not always much about the good. Some brands out there have demonstrated a continued commitment to their customers throughout the pandemic; however, they don’t seem to be communicating their efforts as widely as might be expected.
These are companies that have adjusted core services to accommodate life in the new normal. The insurance sector is one example. Recognizing that many people are now working from home—and therefore not driving—companies are amending policies and premiums to account for less automobile use.
Travelers Insurance, for instance, has developed the Stay-at-Home Auto Premium Credit Program, which offers personal auto-insurance customers a credit of 25% on one month’s premium. The company also is extending auto coverage for customers whose temporary job responsibilities require them to deliver food, groceries, pharmacy products, and medical supplies.
Intact, Desjardins, and Allstate are similarly changing their policies to provide temporary coverage for delivery-related driving.
Meanwhile, American Express has changed its loyalty program: Customers can now redeem rewards on home-related purchases—for example, streaming services—rather than activities like travel.
In healthcare, some companies have developed programs specifically to deal with the mental stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic. Mindbeacon is one such company: It has joined forces with Manulife and Green Shield Canada to create Stronger Minds, a free online program to support Canadians’ “mental well-being through the COVID-19 crisis”.
However, despite these admirable initiatives, it would seem the companies behind them are not actively communicating them.
Part of this might be due to the fact that any disaster-related communication can be risky: Brands may be leery of seeming to be opportunistic. Or they may be wary of backlash from consumers who don’t feel the company is doing enough. Experience shows that consumers won’t hesitate to express their anger when they feel a company is “slacking”.
There is also the possibility that, ultimately, brands don’t want to promote a product or service that is temporary and will eventually end.
While effective brand communication is always a complex undertaking, it’s especially challenging now. Change has been extensive. Consumers are sensitive. They crave good news, but have little mercy when even the best of intentions are soured by the wrong message and tone.