Nine in 10 Americans told us they’re more likely to support brands that take care of their employees during the COVID crisis. Of course, we’ve heard consumers say they care about this before. This time, though, feels very different. We’re all paying closer attention than ever before to an incredibly vast range of workers. Entire neighborhoods are stepping out onto their balconies to cheer on the medical professionals during shift changes, showing respect for those who are risking their lives to treat the sick.

 

 

But it’s not just the healthcare workers we’re noticing. Americans are increasingly recognizing the hourly workers deemed “essential,” often with small gestures of gratitude right outside our front doors. But as the pandemic has continued to grow, claiming the lives not only of doctors and nurses on the medical front line, it has also reached the hourly workers: transit workers in New York City, Walmart employees in Chicago, an elementary school food service worker in Texas and at least one UPS worker in Kentucky.  

 

This pandemic is laying bare the truth that we all know, but rarely stop to think about: Our daily comforts are provided by a normally invisible class of workers for whom things like a living wage, paid sick leave or access to healthcare are almost universally unavailable. And leaving aside the moral questions, the crisis has demonstrated that it is functionally and practically untenable to go on like this. 

 

Until we radically shift our institutional structures to address these challenges, it will be up to brands to do the work, and it will be up to consumers to hold them accountable — whether out of simple self-interest (“Will I get sick from this drive-through transaction?”) or moral compunction (“Can I really ask someone to risk their lives so I can get new toys for my bored kids delivered tomorrow?”). We believe it will be just as much, if not more so, driven by the latter because 83% of Americans also told us that they feel an expanded sense of empathy toward people and communities far beyond their everyday lives, while 7 in 10 reported a deeper sense of connection toward their local communities. We expect those sentiments to grow in the coming weeks.

COVID Marketing Empathy

So brands will have no choice but to step up. Indeed, in just the handful of weeks since language like “flatten the curve” and “social distancing” entered our daily lexicon, we’ve already seen brands face this reality. They are taking drastic measures to look after their own people, whether it’s their employees, their distributors or the workers on the front lines who ultimately help put their brands into our lives. Some of these brands have made huge financial investments, while others are just leaving a lot more room for grace and humanity in the workday. But the important thing is, they’re actively putting their people first.

We get it. Doing more at a time like this is no small ask. You probably have cash flow challenges. Maybe your business doesn’t have a half-million dollars to put in a virtual tip jar or the manufacturing capacity to build complex medical equipment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything at all. Whether it’s providing greater flexibility to employees who are trying to manage kids while working from home, developing innovative programs to help some of your distributors stay on track or demonstrating that leadership is sharing the cost-cutting burdens in its own compensation, you gotta do right by your people. Your brand’s integrity is on the line, and consumers are watching.

If you’re interested in learning more about our People Pulse and what it means for marketing during the COVID-19 crisis, or how your brand can forge a deeper connection through a People-Friendly approach, give us a shout!