Brands have a unique and vital role to play in the UK’s response to coronavirus, according Advertising Association (AA) president Keith Weed.
The former Unilever CMO is adamant that as lockdown eases and the government communicates the new rules, trusted brands have a key role to play in helping the public understand.
“The next phase is complex to communicate and it’s about the role that brands can play in that communication,” Weed explains. “Whether that’s on washing your hands with Dove, or hygiene when it comes to the Domestos and Dettols of this world.”
He believes “embedding” key behaviours is vital at this stage in fighting the pandemic and insists that brands need to build on the official communications, because the government is “just one voice” whereas they can help make hygiene messages “mainstream”.
“Brands are very much part of our everyday lives and we engage with brands with everything from hair to recipes. When it comes to thinking about how do you keep yourself safe going forward, brands can mainstream that message,” says Weed.
The AA president has been vital in bringing brands together for the government’s ‘Enjoy Summer Safely’ campaign.
Ahead of pubs and restaurants opening for the first time since lockdown on 4 July, the government launched its multimedia #EnjoySummerSafely campaign. Brands such as Boots, Carex and O2 have partnered with the government to share the message across their respective channels, with their logos initially appearing on a display at Piccaddily Circus.
Weed says using brand logos should not be underestimated: “The use of the brand typeface under each of their logos to say Enjoy Summer Safely shows how willing they are to invest in this collaborative campaign, which is a really positive sign. ”
The likes of BT, Cif, Comparethemarket.com, Dettol, Domestos, Dove, EE, Greene King, JD Wetherspoons, McDonald’s, Mastercard, Mitchell & Butlers, Nationwide and Vodafone have also collaborated with the government to promote the campaign.
The campaign features a TV ad, created by MullenLowe, supported by radio, print, out-of-home and social media. The nationwide drive is designed to encourage a safe and responsible return to summer leisure activities, such as shopping, visiting the beach or tourist attractions, and heading to pubs and restaurants.Since its launch the campaign has gone from 11 brands to 30, but Weed urges others to join: “More is more rather than less is more. More brands will make more impact.”
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As the public remains divided on the speed of the lockdown easing, and with anxiety around coronavirus still high, striking the right tone is crucial. Weed says the key is to focus on the behaviour rather than simply selling products.
“With the brand engagement campaign it is very much focused on the right behaviour and it’s things like hand washing and cleaning surfaces and door handles etc,” he explains. “There needs to be a balance struck between engaging in everyday life and making sure we know how to do it and what to do.”
Weed sees support for the Enjoy Summer Safely campaign as part of a wider trend of “brands coming together for the greater good of society”, citing the Unstereotype Alliance which unites marketers across agencies and brands to banish harmful stereotypes from their communications.
“I don’t think you can have a healthy business in an unhealthy society,” he adds. “This collaboration with civil society is incredible important.”
And while Weed acknowledges that “some things are going to go back to normal”, he hopes that not everything returns to how it was.
“I hope one of the things that will continue and build is this idea of engaging in a multi-stakeholder approach. It’s not just worrying about your customers, employees and stakeholders, but also your suppliers and we are seeing this more and more,” he states.
“If we don’t embed this behaviour we’ll be going backwards rather than forwards and now is the time to go forwards.”