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How Brands are Doing it Right

There’s a fine line for advertisers right now; one that seems to move a little every week, and puts those who step over it at risk of alienating their best prospects. While most of the brand marketing we’ve seen attempts to be optimistic, any messaging that seems remotely opportunistic is quickly judged, shared and slammed. And we’ve ALL heard more than our share of “during these uncertain times” lead-ins or other very similar messaging. But those companies that provide financial support or helpful services during this period will benefit – not only now with positive press, but down the road by turning new, previously unaware consumers into loyal customers.

graphic of people moving

It seems every car manufacturer and mega-store is offering 0% financing and delaying first payments for up to 90 days, shoe companies are donating shoes to healthcare workers, and food delivery services like Door Dash and Grub Hub are taking donations to supply food to those in need. The largest companies are just donating funds outright. For instance, Modern Impact’s Delta Dental clients (Delta Dental of Arizona and Delta Dental of Missouri/South Carolina) have each donated $500,000 to health organizations in their respective states. This is obviously a great trend that should continue – wherever and whenever possible – even when this crisis is over.

Last week, as I sat watching Big Bang Theory reruns and drinking my nightly quarantine allotment of Bread & Butter Pinot Noir, I counted at least ten “during these critical times” spots; half of them with feel good messages and the rest touting philanthropic programs or services. Dunkin Donuts, for example, has opened their stores for mask making. McDonald’s is changing their iconic sign letters to promote free meals for first responders and healthcare workers. Progressive’s “Apron Relief Program” will give $1 billion in rebates to auto insurance policy holders (with many other insurance providers offering similar rebates), because we’re not supposed to be out driving around.

The Best of Us

Other companies are running a different kind of feel-good ad that we believe do it right; the kind that reminds us that there’s something bigger and more important than ourselves and our profits.

One of my personal favorites is from – which is not only a great ad, but a great idea showcasing both great philanthropy and great humility.  In what they call a “proactive COVID-19 response”, they present three main initiatives that are receiving millions of dollars in relief from Frito-Lay.  So far, the company has provided more than $15 million to those in the healthcare category to combat the impact of COVID-19, plus $2 million to the Children’s Health Fund for mobile clinics, screenings and PPE (personal protection equipment). They’re also partnering with No Kid Hungry and Baylor University to provide meals to at-risk students and their families.

Phone with background of nurse putting on gloves and text: "To all those on the front lines"

At the same time, the landing page shows that Frito Lay is also staffing up – not laying off – with 9,000 open full-time, full-benefit front-line positions. This multi-faceted approach must have taken an army to plan and pull off in a matter of weeks, but the result is downright inspiring.

Of course, the team at Modern Impact is also feeling the impact of these changing times… with the need to craft more appropriate messaging, to become more nimble in our creative approach, and to define crisis strategies that address incremental changes in consumer attitudes, economic indicators and market behaviors. It is a time that helps demonstrate what may be the best use of today’s programmatic marketing technology, of the power we now possess to put the right message before the right person at the exactly right time, and of positive changes that can take place when we use that power for the greater good.

Use the Humility Barometer

Put another way, the brands that are doing it right understand that humility should be the barometer by which we measure message effectiveness and our ability to weather this storm. It’s no longer enough to promote the quality of one’s products or services; this is the moment when we must focus much more on proving what kind of company we are. If your message doesn’t clearly demonstrate humility, perspective and an understanding of what’s most important in our lives (it’s not you), then every advertisement and social post your budget may allow is working against you. Careful spend of ad dollars is always a good idea, but “these trying times” further underscore the point.

Cam Campbell

Author Cam Campbell

Yes, that’s really her name and, no, her parents aren’t cruel – she married into it. After 30 years navigating the traditional and digital advertising space, Cam joined ModernImpact to become our Chief Content Strategist. But she’s not just about creating content, she’s focused on metric-driven marketing messages with underlying, clever wit (when applicable). Working from our Denver office, she’s a master at Slack and video conferencing; working so closely with her MI colleagues she can smell the creativity streaming all the way from the Minneapolis office. Join Cam on her ever-evolving adventure through Marketingland (and ocassionally Mothertown and INeedSomeWineville).

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