Bolder Thinking Blog

COVID-19: Canadian industries respond with strength and stability

March 27th, 2020 | Michael Lloy

As uncertainty and anxiety affect the Canadian populace, brands have re-assured consumers that they would continue to serve them while taking the necessary precautions to keep them safe.

Brands are promoting strength and stability 

Brands adopt sober, re-assuring messaging

Email communications to customers about the COVID-19 crisis were void of any images, product marketing, and slogans, seemingly with a finger on the pulse of Canadians, who have cited, at an almost 60% rate, that they do not want to see companies launching any new advertising or promotions. Brands focused on promoting unity, informing customers of service and changes, location closures, and digital contact.

On March 14, RBC informed customers of how it plans to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brands promote remote contact

Within initial emails and social posts, brands encouraged customers to conduct business via app, through online platforms or by telephone.  By March 18, most banks, telecom and insurance companies had closed their branches, and social marketing promoted remote business.

Customers are watching closely to track brand social responsibility

When TELUS posted about financial compensation to employees affected by COVID-19, it was met with positive social media reception. Canadians responded with comments about increased satisfaction with the brand. Conversely, RBC did not announce branch closures on March 18, and it was met with backlash on unrelated posts for a perceived failure to live up to its social responsibility.

The top-engaged COVID-19 post was TELUS informing Canadians that it would be supporting its employees financially if affected by the disease.

Grounded marketing and social responsibility are top of mind 

Brands that were perceived to have fallen short of their social responsibility met backlash on social media – even on posts outlining charitable commitments.

On March 18, RBC posted about its $2 million commitment to help communities at risk of COVID-19. The campaign was mirrored on Facebook and Twitter, in both English and French. At the same time, BMO and other banks were posting about closing the majority of their branches.

Social followers were quick to notice the discrepancy in responses, and despite the well-meaning monetary commitment, RBC faced backlash from a vocal subset of its social followers.

Moderate concern leads to moderate management

Concern about the virus is moderate and few have changed regular routines. As the spread of the virus is not yet contained, brands are in a position to comfort consumers with ways to prepare, prevent or treat amid a potential outbreak. Consider expanding ways to leverage digital platforms to remain connected to consumers.

Belairdirect stressed its commitment to employee and customer safety in posts promoting digital access and outlining 24/7 contact information for claims and customer services.

Tone matters in consumer-facing communications

Brand communications should be grounding and centre around things people can do so as not to further contribute to popular media images such as ‘toilet paper pandemonium’. More communication around cases where people recover from the virus (as opposed to simply promoting death counts) will help provide a more positive sentiment.

Non-consumer-facing actions will matter

The bulk of Canadians are practicing conscious consumerism, making them attentive to brand actions and policies. The outbreak will put the spotlight on internal business operations such as what businesses are doing to protect their employees and also internal values like whether or not companies truly support diversity.

Michael Lloy

Michael Lloy

Michael Lloy is a Research Analyst at Comperemedia, responsible for producing syndicated and custom reports, as well as providing marketing insights across Canadian Financial Services, Insurance and Telecom channels.