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News And Views

News & Views

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  • 24 February 2021
  • Sophie Baker

New blog: UK Hun? Has COVID created a culture of kindness in comms?

No this isn’t a blog about THAT runaway hit from the United Kingdolls – but if you do want a discussion about the merits of various Drag Race bangers (special shout out to ‘Break Up’), then hit me up.

Instead, this is a look at whether COVID is fostering a new era in consumer PR – whether it’s creating a culture of kindness, forcing us all to dig deeper into how brands can support consumers and deliver genuine value to them and their communities.

The pandemic has brought out the kinder side of so many of us – whether it’s making a conscious effort to check in on friends and colleagues, dropping flowers on a doorstep, or even just joining ANOTHER Zoom call to toast the achievement of a loved one. Small acts of kindness have really been the silver lining of all this madness, and hopefully they are here to stay. So what impact is this all having on consumer comms?

We know that the best work happens when we put brands at the heart of the intersection of culture and consumer – and we’re certainly seeing a big shift in both of these areas as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Our latest Zeno Human Project data has shown a marked increase in values associated with ‘family’, ‘relationships’ and ‘community’ – values all centred around people, indicating rising importance in the idea of ‘us’ and ‘we’ rather than simply ‘me’.

So - in order to keep ourselves in the heartland of culture and consumer - it’s the activity that shows a little kindness and community spirit that stands the best chance of delivering real cut through for brands, as this strange way of life continues.

Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t just about the sometimes empty interpretation of kindness that has taken root in the wake of the ‘be kind’ era – where, more often than not, the term is simply used as a white flag to settle disputes or justify actions. Instead, we mean a kindness closer to the true meaning of the word; that is, having or showing a friendly, generous, and considerate nature.

Simply put, this means that brands now (more than ever) have to display a generosity of spirit and offer something genuine to their consumers – giving back through the campaigns that they create, in a way that’s going to benefit them, and their community.

As a journalist recently said to me: “We want authenticity – not just nonsense. We need a value for our readers - helping them, entertaining them, or supporting the things that are important to them”.

Today, consumer is definitely King – the flashy celebrity campaigns of yesteryear (or floating something down the Thames *cough*) simply do not offer enough or inspire reasons for them to engage.

We’re not saying that these campaigns need to be po-faced, life-changing, or totally reinvent brand purpose – our ‘Save Pub Life’ campaign for Budweiser Brewing Group is proof of that; we simply asked consumers to buy a pint to help support their local pubs which are often the heart of local communities.

Campaigns can still be simple, funny, and even irreverent (after all, we need to raise a smile more then ever); but they have to show a level of generosity that we’ve come to expect as a result of this huge cultural shift that we’re all living through.

To sum it all up, I’m going to turn to Alison Da Silva – Managing Director, Purpose & Impact at Zeno Group – who sums this up far more succinctly than I could:

“The pandemic’s flurry of activity may have triggered a deeper and more purposeful commitment by companies to all of their stakeholders. At a crossroad, companies have begun to embrace the fundamentally redefined role of business moving forward”.

Kindness – shantay, you stay.