From profit to purpose: a week that saw brands step up and take action, and for those that haven’t, if not now, when?

20th March 2020

The world looks and feels a lot different today than it did just a few weeks ago.

In an industry where we frequently talk about purpose, there really hasn’t been a more needed time for brands to step up and take action. Putting money, resources and expertise to use for the greater good.

It’s been heartening to see many brands and businesses doing so; from acts of kindness towards NHS worker (Pret, McDonalds and Starbucks offering free hot drinks, Gary Neville donating hotel rooms), to supporting the elderly with ‘Silver Hour’ (Iceland), businesses completely changing their focus and turning their hand to make products that could aid the health service (LVMH), to others that have made significant commitments to support those made redundant – Co-op has just announced it’s creating 5,000 jobs for hospitality workers.

In my view the brands who have done it best, have acted with humanity and not for their own gain. Reflecting the spirit of so many individuals and community organisations around the country.

On the flip side, there have been other brands that have been decidedly absent or worse, a few that have been directly marketing on the back of the situation (a “Yes Corona” tagline seen on LinkedIn springs to mind from a creative agency).

Whilst there have been significant commitments, could others do more to adapt? Could delivery companies allocate a proportion of their couriers to getting urgent items to the vulnerable, could broadband providers do more with their infrastructure to help those in isolation?

We’ve been also looking at ways that we can support in this situation, so this week have been helping the Crosstown Collective (made up of Crosstown Doughnuts, Estate Dairy, and Millers Bespoke Bakery), to launch a consumer food bundle to address supply issues, and business uncertainty. Many of these businesses normally supply restaurants, cafes, shops in London, but have seen their orders drop off a cliff, so they are quite literally fighting for business continuity. We hope our work supporting them makes a difference.

People are looking to businesses as well as the government for leadership, and positive action. Never more have we needed more than words.

It does beg the question, why aren’t more brands taking more action more of the time?

I believe (and hope) that this is a pivotal moment for brands that will have a lasting impact. The diversification of services, partnership, community outlook, and just plain kindness that we’ve seen this week will not just be a response to a crisis but become business as usual.

Whilst this won’t be possible for all businesses with such uncertainty ahead, and many will need to focus on keeping them and their people in business, those that can weather the storm should do more. Some will find themselves with need for a broader remit of workers, others might have assets that can be used for the wider community. Investment doesn’t have to be monetary.

And what is our role in all this?

First things first, to prioritise our people, their health and wellbeing is number one.

In the short-term, we need to advise our clients to act with authenticity and humanity and to make a difference where they can in this strange time. We do this as standard, rather than a repackaged crisis service with inflated fees.

And in the long-term, when life has returned to some normality, to make purpose with action, as well as profit the new normal.

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