Over the last three weeks, my colleagues and I, have spoken with numerous Chief Executives and leadership board members of consumer businesses from our networks across US, EMEA and APAC regions. Our role is simply to support, share insight where helpful, and stay connected during this time of crisis – one of the most important things any company can do.
What has become increasingly apparent is the real importance of consumer companies to focus, now more than ever, on their ‘raison d’etre’ – namely their customer’s needs. This means thinking and behaving in the right way, reflecting their brand values, being truly customer and colleague centric in their every move.
Consumer companies have typically fallen into three buckets; the good; the terrible; and the “just try and ignore it” bucket
Bucket one: they have got it so right with the messaging think about brands such as: Dyson, Pret, Pizza Hut or Brompton Bike to name a few examples. These companies have focused on helping others, being innovative and agile; and putting the customer and their colleagues at the centre of their response to COVID-19 and more importantly their actions.
Bucket two: They have got it completely wrong on every level – I won’t name these as you only need to check your inbox or click onto any global media outlet to see numerous examples, but the overarching common theme has been to push the need for sales regardless of consumer sentiment and brand messaging.
Bucket three: What is also surprising is the group of brands who seem to have just disappeared. No or limited activity across digital channels, and if there is, a complete lack of acknowledgement and engagement.
Whilst clearly everyone is impacted by this global pandemic, sadly many of us in devastating ways, at some stage in the coming weeks/months/years our world will move forwards to (a new) normal.
There will be lots of positives coming out of this terrible time: A better nationwide appreciation for the amazing work our NHS does every day. The fact that politicians did pull together and help us all. All of us have had a bigger focus on family, friends and loved ones, we’ve built better communities and there has been mass scale volunteering to help others; improvements to the environment, product and service innovation, a greater adoption of agile working practices to name a few.
There will be negatives too: Consumers (everyone) will remember, how consumer companies engaged/didn’t engage with, and treated them in times of need. The companies who put profit over people will be negatively impacted in the medium term. Consumers will revolt, talent will avoid, and it may be the demise of them in the short-medium term.
Time will tell who will and won’t emerge from this crisis stronger. What is certain is that those businesses that have always focused on their customer, have built enduring brands, have communicated in the right way (and often!), innovated and pivoted will, no matter what the short-term impact, grow bigger and stronger in future!