This week I took part a Charity Comms live pannel discussion to talk about how the British Heart Foudnation is flexing during the crisis to reflect the changing needs of our audience. Here is an overview of what we spoke about on the day:

Tell us a bit about how your brand has been responding to the crisis and how this fits with your wider brand strategy

There are 7.4m people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK who are at the heart of everything that we do. Sadly they are at risk of developing complications if they get Covid-19. When the pandemic began we listened to what our patients and supporters were telling us. We heard that they didn’t know where they could access the information that they needed. In response to their needs we launched our Patients First programme.

Traditionally our marketing and comms have focused on helping people to understand the urgent need for the BHF to fund research to beat the world’s biggest killers – heart and circulatory diseases, but the focus of our marketing and comms currently is to help raise awareness of our support services which include: our Heart helpline and our new online coronavirus support hub.

During the first two weeks of the lockdown our helpline saw a 400% increase in calls and our online support hub has already been visited more than 1 million times since early March. Like many other charities we’re also launching an emergency appeal which highlights how people living with heart and circulatory diseases can’t get coronavirus out of their head and promotes how we can help. The picture that I’ve used in the header is from our emergency appeal, and it is one of many questions that we’re currently being asked.

With regards to how this fits with our wider brand strategy, our focus remains unchanged.  We promise to Beat Heartbreak Forever from heart and circulatory diseases. The pandemic hasn’t changed this.

While our initial response saw us focus most of our efforts on providing additional support services for our patients, healthcare professionals and the NHS, more recently we’ve been able to start telling everyone about our research efforts in tackling Covid-19. We’ve enabled our researchers, many of whom are clinicians and cardiologists, to join the NHS frontline. We’ve also made our infrastructure available for the national ramp-up of testing.

Which brands do you think have responded well the during the current climate and which have provided you with inspiration?

I think the brands that have responded particularly well in the current climate are those that have taken a step back and thought about what their customers actually need during this time.

  • There are the brands that are entertaining us: I think Innocent and Oatley are doing a brilliant job on their social feeds creating silly content to make people smile. Oatley announced last month that instead of promoting their Oat Milk, they’d instead be promoting their ‘Department of Distraction Services’
  • There are brands that are educating us: Dyson has created 44 engineering and science activities for children to try out while at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • There are brands that are supporting us: Giffgaff has launched an initiative called ‘goodybank’ where their customers can purchase additional minutes, texts or data to donate to another customer. They will also match donations made by customers.
  • There are brands that are using their channels for good: Trainline uses its social media channels to promote charities during coronavirus

Going forwards it could be more difficult to justify brand investment – what advice would you give to convince the Senior Management team and board that this is good use of money and time well spent?

Having to justify maintaining or increasing budgets to other departments especially when you’re struggling is tough. However, brand and marketing managers need to be brave and argue to case that it is the right thing to do. There is plenty of data from ISBA, IPA, Kantar, McKinsey and WARC that you can use to help you build your case for support.

The WARC recently published a guide to marketing in the Covid-19 recession which is well worth a read. You can download a sample for free from their website. In the report they reference that companies that increase marketing spend in a recession recover three times faster in ‘normal’ times. They also have some practical guidance for brands that can’t afford to advertise during this time.

How can brands best weather a storm and what actions can we take to make our brands stronger and more resistant?

Research from McKinsey has shown a direct correlation between a company’s growth and its focus on customer experience during a recession. And when it comes to media spend, as mentioned previously, every study that I’ve come across shows that while reducing media spend will save you money in the short therm, these savings will be largely offset by the costs incurred to get your brand back to where it was.

If you need help:

  • Make use of corporate partnerships: Do you have any corporate partners that could help you? Nationwide has donated TV ad space to Shelter.
  • Keep an eye out for new initiatives: Last week, Clear Channel UK announced that they were offering 250 free out of home campaigns to local businesses as part of their #BusinessAsUnusual initiative.
  • Organisations like Furlunteering UK, Time to Spare and Charity Matcher are matching furloughed staff to charities needing support.

How can brands turbo charge a post Covid-19 recovery?

I wish I knew the definitive answer to this one. I think that the best we can do is maintain our media spend, listen to our patients and continue to support them as much as possible.

Maybe now is a good time to revisit any segmentations profiles that you have. The Harvard Business Review wrote an interesting article on ‘How to Market in a Downturn.’ They use consumer recession psychology to map out 4 broad segments: The slam-on-the-brakes segment, Pained-but-patient consumers, Comfortably well-off consumers, The live-for-today segment. Finally, there is a strong case is being built for the commercial, public and the charity sector to work together to help society recover. I strongly recommend The Good Agencies article – Convergence and ultimate purpose if you want to find out more.

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