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Shift. Support. Solve. Start.


We are living through a defining moment. As with 9/11 and the recession of 2008-2009, years from now we will talk about how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world.

Entire categories have been put on hold, businesses are being disrupted like never before, and millions of people are losing their jobs. We’re re-evaluating basic aspects of everyday life, from how we work and shop and eat, to how we stay connected with others. Many of us are trying to juggle kids and work, or worrying about loved ones from a distance.

During this time of crisis, brands have an opportunity to show their true character and shape how consumers will see them for years to come. How will your brand be remembered?

At Cactus, we’ve been busy digging into these questions with our client partners. We’re talking with them about how brands should behave in the ‘new normal’ of a global pandemic and not only survive, but thrive. It’s a conversation that starts with four simple words:

Shift. Support. Solve. Start.

Shift: Each day brings new changes, new restrictions and new considerations for consumers. In order to remain relevant, brands have to be equally nimble, shifting to meet the daily challenges their consumers face.

Internally, shifting resources to stay abreast of the lived experiences of your consumers is critical to informing a shift in messaging and tactics. We’ve seen a major shift away from retail offers towards brand-focused messaging and media plans are constantly evolving to adapt to the new work-from-home world.

While some brands are choosing to pause media and step out of the conversation, we believe that the brands that stay active and adapt to meet the shifting priorities of consumers head-on will have the advantage.

Support: Right now every brand’s focus should be on showing up as the best possible community member during this uncertain time. Brands should be acting a lot more like humans and less like the companies they were pre-pandemic.

Hyundai resurrected its 2008-09 recession-era Assurance program to lend a hand to customers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. The program offers three months deferred payments on all purchases, up to six months of payment relief for recent buyers who lost jobs due to COVID-19. Other automakers like Ford are offering similar help, with payment deferral and 0% financing for extended terms. These brands aren’t selling, they’re meeting their customers where they’re at now, offering support at a time they need it most.

Successful customer support channels need to go beyond merely being available and responsive. Helping anxiety-ridden consumers navigate this new normal will require next-level transparency and empathy from brands.

What bold actions (both big and small) is your brand ready to take to support the communities in which you operate?

Solve: Read: Stop selling. It’s just not the time. Instead, harness what you have as a means to solve the problems consumers are facing in this unique moment. Think about your products and services through the lens of how they can solve the problems consumers are facing during this unique moment.

Are there innovative ways customers are using or could be using your products/services to deal with working-from-home life? What about tossing kids into the mix? Share the real, human stories of how consumers are getting through today, with a little help from your brand.

Focus innovation workstreams on reinventing the current consumer experience to meet this moment and show how your product or service can make it all just a little easier. In addition to being relevant and transparent, the most meaningful brands will be the ones that are most useful.

Start: Undoubtedly, we will get through this pandemic. Afterwards, we will mark life as “before the pandemic,” and “after the pandemic.” Similar to how the events of 9/11 prompted permanent changes to our travel routines, COVID-19 will leave its marks too. What will those marks be for your brand or category?

Imagine your brand and your category in the post-COVID-19 future and ask what will be different. What has to be. What should be. Offerings might change, operations might change, your customer experience might change. Start designing for that future now.

Make sure you’re taking your employees and your customers on that journey with you, and that they are fully enrolled in the changes you need to make for a post-pandemic world.

Remember, shift to meet the moment, support communities transparently, solve consumer problems, and start designing the future today.

How we behave in this moment –– as individuals, businesses and brands –– is really a choice. We can bring out the best in each other as individuals within our communities and virtual workplaces. Businesses and brands are no different, and they can bring out the best in themselves too.

Working together, we’ll not only survive this – we can thrive. As we have for nearly 30 years now, Cactus firmly believes in the power of creativity to help grow the brands that help people thrive. Now is the time for brands to show up in new and meaningful ways for consumers and their communities. Seize the moment.

Now is a #timetothrive.