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April 8, 2020 // Lisa Rosenberg // Opinion  //       //  Opinion

Cementing Brand Love in A Sea of White Hats

By: Lisa Rosenberg

The marketing industry has talked a lot about brand purpose over the last few years. This has largely been driven by millennials changing consumer and employee expectations. While they didn’t invent brand purpose, they certainly helped usher it into the mainstream. Today, Gen Z ensures it’s here to stay. 

During this pandemic, we have seen brands step up, do good and deliver beyond their purposes. Many have helped others, whether it be their own employees, the customers they serve, the communities in which they operate or on an even broader scale. Many have donated equipment, expertise, money and more to help those impacted by this crisis.

While each contribution is critically important, it’s the early movers – the companies that rallied to make a difference quickly – that should not only be recognized for the good they have done but for inspiring others to follow suit. Consumers will remember these brands when this is all over, especially those that jumped in to serve without being asked.

Perhaps it’s because I live in New Rochelle, N.Y., and our schools were among the first to close that Eric Yuan’s move to make Zoom free to K-12 teachers has stuck with me. I remember an interview where he talked about this not being a time to think about sales, and I was impressed with the company’s commitment to doing good at the early stage of the outbreak. While the Zoom platform has some security issues currently being addressed, what I hope people will remember is the company didn’t wait for things to be perfect. Rather, it sprang into action and did what it believed would have the most meaningful and positive impact on children and families.

Then there was LVMH, which went from manufacturing perfume to producing hand sanitizer in 72 hours. The speed at which the company moved to meet a societal need was both impressive and well-publicized. Other companies, including many distilleries, also shifted their manufacturing to help meet this increased need. We also saw similar efforts from the fashion world, with everyone from indie designer Christian Siriano to Gucci, The Gap and Burberry jumping in to sew gowns, masks and other personal protective equipment.

With travel at a virtual standstill, hospitality is one of the hardest hit sectors. The Four Seasons in NYC had already closed to the public when Ty Warner, chairman of the hotel's corporate owner, heard N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plea during one of his press conferences and felt there was no other option but to do whatever he and his company could to help. The luxury hotel now houses medical personnel for free.

A white hat has long been a mark or symbol of goodness. Today, we see a lot of brands wear white hats. Amid the COVID crisis, companies the world over have rallied to make a difference. Those that do will emerge post-pandemic stronger than ever. 

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Lisa Rosenberg is a partner and president of Consumer Brands at Allison+Partners. She has more than 30 years of experience leading brand initiatives across the beauty + personal care, CPG, Food + Beverage, Automotive, Travel + Hospitality, Consumer Health + Wellness, Luxury Goods and Retail sectors and has been a hands-on force for many successful brand journeys.

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