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Compassionate Communications in Brand Marketing

October 6, 2020
By Lauren Winter

In recent months, our world has turned outside in and the effect of the pandemic on our lives has been substantial. Meeting rooms have turned into video conferences, planned vacations are trips to the park. Life as we knew it was put on pause and switched to another channel at the same time. It is without surprise that recent events are leading to domino effects on our relationships, not just with one another, but with our expectations of brands and societal issues.

Across key topics including healthcare, discrimination and racial equality, the world is beginning to ask more from brands and organisations. With only so much being possible to do at home and with a new view on the fragility of life, consumers have raised their expectations of what brands should do during this time. Seventy-two percent of global consumers say discrimination, equality and racism is the most important issue and 59% expect companies to take a stand on it. Either most of us aren’t doing enough, or we aren’t doing enough to show the world what it is we’re doing.

Ingrained into this issue is the unenviable question of a brand’s purpose and authenticity and their relationship with the ambition of commerce and growth. It’s a relationship that has become more sensitive than ever, with brands not just being punished for not doing enough but also doing too much in the wrong space and at the wrong time. Any posturing and virtue signaling will be lambasted and, in our era of cancel culture, this has the potential to spread like wildfire. Nonetheless, with 62% of global consumers saying they will watch how a company responds to issues of racial or gender inequality when considering whether to buy their product, being silent has never been riskier.

Continued self-reflection and awareness is key for brands looking to understand where they fit in the jigsaw of culture. Don’t put all your trust in your manifesto and data analytics. No matter how diverse, we all have biases and need various stop-gaps where outside communities and expertise can come in and sense check what we could simply never understand without hearing it from the source itself.

Whether providing a platform for voices or leading the effort yourself, compassionate communication first requires listening to consumers. However, there has been a lot of listening during these past few months – and the time to make changes was yesterday. The brands that can listen to the cultural conversation and then help lead it will be shaping not just their own future, but influencing the communities and brands of tomorrow.

Learn more in FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s Thinking Allowed – Issue 4 report here.