Needs shift quickly in times of crisis. These innovative strategies and offers exemplify how smart brands are creatively pivoting to be there for consumers and lead with compassion during difficult times

How can brands transform their strategies and communications to better meet and anticipate consumer needs? PSFK researchers teamed up with Toluna, expert in market research and consumer insights, to provide guidance for building brands that drive impact, foster trust, and provide meaningful support to consumers and the community at large.

Excerpted from the free-to-download report, here are five effective, human-first strategies for not only connecting with consumers, but more importantly, actually delivering on their top needs and addressing their biggest concerns, from accessing reliable information to seeking wellness support.

Fact-Based Messaging — In a time of uncertainty, consumers are actively looking to their preferred brands as trusted sources. To meet this expectation, brands are stepping up to provide consumers and employees with vetted information and resources. Cold and flu over-the-counter medicine label Mucinex did so through its campaign “Spread Facts, Not Fear,” which addresses mis-information about COVID-19, forgoing promotion of products and instead urging Americans to heed expert advice as well as adopt safe habits to stop the spread.

Collaborative Social Impact — Pausing previously scheduled content and programming, brands are instead redirecting time and budgets toward collaborative community-building projects. As consumers take note of the companies providing measurable social impact, purpose-led brands will be top of mind post-pandemic. Sephora, for instance, was among the first major retailers to take the 15% Pledge—an initiative started by Aurora James where participating businesses promise to dedicate at least 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. Over in the B2B space, Haus, the apéritif brand reinventing the drinking experience to meet new consumer behaviors, started an initiative called The Restaurant Project, which consists of a nine-apéritif collection created in collaboration with and in support of local restaurants from across the U.S. Haus gives all of the line’s profits to the partner restaurants. 

Frontline Assistance — Taking a human-first approach, brands are prioritizing employees’ financial and physical wellbeing by creating relief funds, sourcing temporary employment opportunities, and providing digital career training and wellness activities for employees affected by store closures, cut hours and job losses. Take Gray Whale Gin, which built a virtual bar and invited furloughed bartenders to earn some cash by creating their own original drinks—reportedly worth $350 when chosen for an Instagram feature.

Virtual Occasion-Making — As important rights of passage and celebrations are put on hold due to social distancing regulations, brands are stepping in to create virtual alternatives. Tapping into platforms like Facebook Live and Zoom, consumers are being invited to participate in virtual birthday parties, proms and commencement ceremonies. Teen Vogue organized a virtual prom for high schoolers missing various commencement rituals, holding the e-fête on May 16 over Zoom and featuring celebrity appearances alongside live music and other entertainment. The publication even offered tips and prep across social media to psych up the community beforehand.

Wellness Support — As consumers cope with the realities of social distancing and heightened levels of anxiety and stress, brands are looking to provide aid. Launching new services around mental health and wellbeing, brands are creating greater points of connection via text and social media platforms. Apparel ecommerce giant Zappos created a special hotline staffed by members of its customer loyalty team called Customer Service for Anything, where consumers can call in for free to chat about any topic of their choosing. In addition, the line offers concierge service, helping place takeout orders at local restaurants and providing information on social distancing and other safety-promoting practices in the caller's area.

This was just an excerpt of Toluna and PSFK’s dive into building resilient brands that respond to shifting consumer needs with dedication and compassion. For the full report, complete with industry stats, quotes and insights, as well as original research from Toluna, download free now.