Texas rivers had barely begun to rise when almost 800 WalMart trucks loaded with emergency supplies hit the highway. Brewing giants Anheuser-Busch and Miller-Coors suspended regular operations in key facilities to begin canning fresh water instead. Home Depot mobilized its standing army of Team Depot volunteers to deliver materials and manpower for recovery efforts.
These are just three of a thousand tales being told about America’s response to Hurricane Harvey, and the corporate heroes who’ve stepped up to lead the way. But they’re more than just anecdotes about a few of our favorite brands. They’re also an indication of the values upon which these brands are built – and how they build real connections with their community.
For instance, while most wireless carriers are waiving fees for customers in disaster areas, Verizon also mobilized its Wireless Emergency Communication Centers to provide victims with device-charging stations, computer workstations, and wireless phones for contacting loved ones. Grocery retailer H-E-B deployed its 15-truck fleet of Disaster Relief Units, including a mobile pharmacy, business services center, ATM stations, and two mobile kitchens capable of serving thousands of meals a day.
Community support services like that aren’t developed overnight. They’re the result of vision and long-term planning by people who value stewardship and personal investment.
Other companies have already made a difference by simply doing what they do and know best. Bass Pro Shops has donated more than 80 boats to various relief organizations and rescue workers, and Duracell has sent its Power Forward teams to distribute free batteries to anyone who needs them. Just the kind of contributions you’d expect from brands that value resourcefulness and self-reliance.
Of course, dozens of other brands – from Coke and Pepsi to JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America – have pledged at least $1 million to relief organizations, and set up special programs through which others can also contribute. These large corporate pledges not only provide relief organizations with the critical funding to acquire whatever’s needed at any given moment, but reflect respect for the value of responsiveness and reliability.
Motivation Doesn’t Matter
It would be naïve to believe all of these efforts are driven by pure altruism. As I’ve already suggested, different brands are motivated by different values.
For some, it may arise from a genuine sense of responsibility for society, a desire to give back to their community or the impact they want to have on their world.
For others, it’s about their brand persona, the identity they want to present to their customers and the sense of meaning they want to provide their employees.
Many others make the effort simply because they want their brand to be recognized for the good deeds they do and goodwill they extend to consumers.
But the truth is motivation doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make the investment and make a meaningful connection with those in need.
Making Meaningful Connections
The marketing world has changed dramatically over the past decade alone, and the way consumers make decisions regarding the brands we bring into our lives is evolving. We’ve become increasingly more interested in the people behind the brands and far more emotionally engaged with those we choose.
Few of us will ever experience a more emotionally charged life event than a natural disaster, and your company has an opportunity to be there; not for the purpose of self-promotion, but for the tangible benefit of all those impacted by such circumstances – many of whom have supported your brand for years.
In fact, in this age of brand equity and one-to-one marketing, crisis support and active corporate citizenship are no longer “extras.” They’re expected. They’re reciprocal returns. They’re faith-affirming evidence that the investment we’ve made in your brand was warranted and will be rewarded.
How your company responds in times of crisis can have a powerful, positive, lasting impact on how society relates to your brand. But, just as with any other relationship, it only works if your response is both thoughtful and authentic. Otherwise, it just looks like a publicity play.
Put another way, since your actions belie your values, you might as well build your crisis response strategy accordingly. If you’re not exactly sure what those brand values are, just ask yourself this: What would you do if no one else would ever know? If there was no press release or news coverage? Who would you help? Where would you go? How would you make a difference?
Then do that. Focus on real solutions, connections, and authenticity – and let all those who share the same values find you. Crisis response isn’t just another chance to promote whatever you make. It’s a precious opportunity to demonstrate what you’re made of.