We are all experimenting with a new dimension of living, as we are forcedly confined in our homes, the containers of our lives and amongst our dear ones. Our flats and houses are being transformed into classrooms, meeting rooms, gyms, restaurants and spas, according to the time of the day. Our timetables have changed. We need a new schedule to survive the quarantine. We are re-discovering long neglected passions. Time (normally scarce as gold) is suddenly available again. Time for yoga, for writing a book, for reading poetry, for baking bread, for watching films, and we do all of this strictly online. This is an absolutely homogeneous democratic and social phenomenon, an unprecedented situation in times of hyper-segmentation.
Technology has never been so vital as of today. Everybody is attending digital meetings, classes, presentations and workshops. Things that may have seemed strange only a few weeks ago, are now the normality. We no longer find it weird to sip a glass of wine with friends who are somewhere else, or to celebrate mum’s birthday on Zoom. This all will probably lead to less formal workplaces and to a higher consideration of the technological infrastructure allowing us to live, work and entertain ourselves 24 hours a day.
Brands too are part of the transformation that we are experiencing, because it is evident that society, culture, economy, environment and health are tightly intertwined with one another. These issues can be brought back to one big question: how human beings are using the world they live in. And since it is proved that we must urgently restore the balance between our lifestyles and the planet, brands are called to opt for a sustainable economic development no longer focused on purely profit. Marketing experts have often used sensible topics such as health, environment and the human being as proof of their attention and caring. Today, these are no longer simple discussion topics but pillars bearing the brand purpose itself.
The B Corporations - companies trying to produce a positive impact on the world - are highly aware of this, and strive hard to do their part, but they are not alone. There are many brands in the beauty, hospitality, fashion and other businesses that are reinventing themselves to give their contribution, especially during the COVID-19 emergency. Need often boosts creativity. A group of young Italian engineers have created the app Filandiana.it that shows the waiting time at the supermarkets in the area where you live, so you can plan your shopping and reduce the time you are exposed to the risk of COVID-19. A twice as useful application with a positive impact on public health.
Food brands are also on the front line, trying to find new ways to support millions of people on lockdown. Online shopping is tripling its percentages and trying to cope with the exponential increase in the requests of home deliveries. Eataly had added a flyer to their deliveries where they declare to be committed to do their best, but that the orders may not be as perfect as usual. The rediscovery of the human side of brands, that now more than ever speak the language of consumers and say that sometimes imperfection is inevitable - it’s human. Small local grocery, bakery and butcher shops are now living a new season of their lives and are actively trying to help people while gaining back the role they once had. Thanks to WhatsApp, you can send these small businesses a list of things you need and have them delivered to your door on the same day. It may sound normal, but it is not, as nothing is normal these days. Restaurants transform their waiters into deliverers, allowing many people to enjoy little moments of pleasure at home.
Beauty and fashion are committed also. The Davines Group in Parma have converted part of their hair care and beauty product production chain to deliver hand sanitising gel to hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. Giorgio Armani, who was one of the first to donate over 1 million euros to a Milanese hospital, is now converting his Italian plants to produce white coats for doctors, nurses and paramedics.
In Italy, Airbnb is offering its hosts’ homes and apartments to doctors and nurses who need to move from their houses to work in distant hospitals during the COVID-19 emergency. The hosts charge only their expenses and Airbnb pays for them.
Big museums and art institutions are also entering everybody’s home with virtual tours of their galleries and collections, so you can visit the Guggenheim museum in New York, the Ermitage in St. Petersburg or enjoy a Broadway production directly from your couch.
Brands feel the urge to give their contribution for the sake of society and not only for their targets. The number of virtuous examples is steadily increasing, and brands are proving to be able to adapt themselves and react to these difficult times that are going to change their vision and approach to business forever. For brands, this is a tremendous opportunity to rethink their offer and get ready for the recovery that is ahead.
Francesco Buschi, Strategy Director and Riccardo Trevisani, Strategist - FutureBrand Milan
This article originally featured in Mark Up Magazine