So, we are in the midst of a global pandemic. A health crisis that needs to be understood and requires new and disciplined behaviours from all. An economic crisis on an unprecedented scale. Most of all, a threat to the way society is organised and human beings engage.
All evidence suggests the crisis will pass. The questions are ‘what damage will it do?’ and ‘what shape will families, businesses and institutions be in on the other side?’
In the coming weeks, I’ll provide thoughts on how employers and brand owners can best face the current challenges. But let’s begin with the importance of humanity; because we are fortunate to live on the African continent, where social cohesion remains strong (at this time). In a modern Western city, individuals may pass away unnoticed. Here in Africa, despite the restrictions we will have to endure, the desire to remain connected to family, friends, and colleagues will remain strong. But we will need to constantly remind ourselves to be kind.
Employers should be kind and patient to staff who are adjusting to the strange and distracting environment of home working. And even kinder to staff who are being sent on compulsory leave, sometimes unpaid, or being released from employment. These fellow human beings and their families will be very anxious, and rightly so. All their previous certainties, however fragile, are being swept away.
Brands, and the people responsible for them, should be as kind and generous to customers as possible. The market remembers how brands behave in crises: customers will quickly abandon their loyalty to unkind brands. Carrefour supermarkets have displayed in their stores a written commitment not to increase prices during the crisis. Lufthansa has promised that, when flights resume, any air ticket can be rebooked without charge and the value can even be applied to a flight to a different destination. They even pledge a 50 Euro rebooking incentive for when the time comes … as it surely will.
Some banks are dropping charges and thinking about advantageous rates – but we’re still waiting for one admirable bank to make a grand gesture to customers that helps to change perceptions of the whole category for the better. Real Estate firms will shortly face refusal to pay rent for empty premises. Which will be the first brand kind (and smart) enough to offer a rent amnesty?
And small businesses will need to hold loyal customers close. Take a personal interest in their wellbeing; deliver when they cannot collect and not be greedy on pricing.
Unlike some Nairobi Matatu touts yesterday, who were charging fellow Kenyans a 500% premium on fares.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside