We are living in a defining moment. One that will be looked back upon as one of the largest catastrophic events to face us. An event that caused millions to suffer, thousands if not hundreds of thousands to die, businesses to collapse, jobs to disappear, debt to skyrocket, 401ks to diminish…you get the point. People are hurting, physically, emotionally, and financially, and are looking out into the world for signs of hope, for empathy, and for compassion.

For those businesses fortunate enough to remain open, and even more those that can still operate as planned, have the opportunity to show that they are more than just a business out for money…but rather, a bunch of humans ready to offer a dose of compassion, whatever that might be.

Let me back up.

My name is Chris and I’m a neuroscientist. I’ve spent years studying the human brain to dissect and understand the choice consumers make and why. Now is the time to be human because right now is the time people will remember.

You see, our brains form better memories during times of severe hardship; this is a hard-wired evolutionary survival mechanism. When things are going great, the brain won’t waste it’s time on forming elaborate memory experiences because it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is focus on living in the amazing, present moment. But when times get tough, and in this case, catastrophic, your brain not only has to worry about surviving the day to day, but it also must understand how to never experience this again, and thus memory formation kicks into overdrive. Thus, the opportunity right now is great for brands to leave an indelible mark on people’s brains, to forever be remembered down the road as the company that was there for them in a time of difficulty, with no strings attached, no questions asked.

Before you think or even say it – stop.

No. This is NOT the time to exploit people while they are down.

But it IS the time, to show people who you are and to give them a reason to give a damn and to connect with you over your shared humanness.

Every day we’re seeing new examples of this. Car manufacturing plants have shifted their factories from making car parts to ventilators given the extraordinary demand the hospitals will face. Mohawk Paper typically makes paper for greeting cards but will now distribute ready-to-use hospital rooms to help during the crisis. Heck, a farm in Upstate New York is offering event tents with power to be converted into medical facilities (and free farm tours to encourage people to enjoy the outdoors, safely).

Are these companies “opportunists” or are they getting their hands dirty to help however they can? My argument is the latter. Stepping out into the light as a compassionate, human voice, doesn’t immediately render you as rough, dirty, or wrong…in fact, I argue, it does the opposite. It makes you soft, clean, and absolutely right.

So how can companies go about doing this?

  1. Decide you want to. I’m writing this because I think it is the right thing to do. It’s important. Brands that do not are in fact making that choice and it will speak for itself with the message in the marketplace. If you really don’t want to pivot and take the opportunity to be genuine, please don’t, because trying to be genuine when you are not will only make things worse.
  2. Use this time to talk about the wonderful humans you have working for you. Highlight your team, your staff, all of the wonderful people that make your business run on a daily basis. Use pictures of the staff and videos where relevant. Let them talk about their experiences working from home and how they had to adjust to kids at home and balancing all of the video calls and video meetings. Remember, everyone out there is doing this too and will find this refreshing and humorous.
  3. Become a resource in the broader community you serve. If there is a way you can provide information that would be helpful to people in this tough time, get out there and field questions. Use your subject matter experts and offer free advice and let people know that you are there and listening and will answer as many questions as you can in this difficult time.
  4. Find a cause and go all in. Many bigger brands have budgets marked specifically for branding efforts, meaning the dollars spent are specifically to elevate the brand and not necessarily promote specific products. In a time like this, leveraging your branding budget to promote a worthy cause and even making donations when and where applicable is an excellent way to promote brand awareness in a smart, compassionate way.

How do you want to be remembered during this time? Ask yourself that question and let those answers guide you. But try to remember this. We are all humans. We all have families. We all know someone who is suffering right now. Now is the time to shine a light on humanity and be that voice that was there in a time of darkness. To share some good news.

Make those memories, leave those marks, and be human.

 

 

Chris Fasano is a Neuroscientist and Director of Digital Marketing for Overit.