Since late January the coronavirus has dominated the news, certainly since it started spreading across many different parts of the world. This is creating a lot of uncertainty and having a big impact on people’s behaviour as the world is trying to contain the situation.
When the context in which people live their lives changes, brands should always ask themselves how they can respond and how they can add value. For now, we see that brands seem uncertain about if and how they can respond. They are afraid of being perceived as opportunistic. Even companies that supply relevant health products are reluctant to mention the coronavirus as they understandably do not want to appear to want to profit from the crisis.
But there are things brands can do to add value to people’s lives. Every crisis also brings opportunity, as is nicely demonstrated in this quote from John F. Kennedy:
“In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.”
We believe that the main discourse right now should be about empathizing – on understanding that people’s lives are changing, on understanding that our very freedom to live our lives as we want is being challenged. And brands can also add value by providing solutions that help people deal with this new reality.
There is a lot we can learn from the areas that have been hit first, like China, South Korea and Italy. Of course, there are elements that are specific to how China is governed, and the scale and timing of the initial outbreak in the Hubei province, but on many levels we expect a similar response of people being stuck at home, whether forced to or voluntarily.
People are spending more time in isolation
In China, people were not allowed to leave the house in the entire province of Hubei. In Italy, India and California, schools and universities have been closed down for the time being, with many millions of students being asked to stay at home. Many companies have encouraged their employees to work more from home as well. All around the world big social gatherings and events have been cancelled.
But even without these measures people are spending much more time at home. Even in countries that have not been hit that hard (yet), we see that a lot of people are starting to isolate themselves. People have started to avoid air travel, or even public transportation. Many people are avoiding large gatherings of people.