How Consumer Product Brands Are Achieving Purpose by Aiding the Fight Against COVID-19
In an effort to help French health authorities fight the spread of COVID-19, LVMH, the parent company of luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Guerlain, Dior and Givenchy, announced that it will repurpose three of its cosmetics factories in France to manufacture hand sanitizing gel. The company plans to produce as much as 12,000 tonnes a week, which it will then supply free of charge to French hospitals fighting the country’s COVID-19 outbreak.
LVMH isn't the only consumer products company that has stepped up to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp announced earlier this month that it will start making surgical masks, which are in high demand because of the virus outbreak, utilizing a factory in central Japan that usually makes TV displays. The Clorox Company and Reckitt Benckiser (Lysol), which both continue to produce cleaning products that are essential to curtailing the spread of the virus, have been working to support relevant healthcare authorities and agencies through donations, information and education. Indeed, the number of consumer products companies that have either extended benefits to employees and/or provided sizeable donations to help fight the spread of COVID-19 is growing by the day (and far too extensive to list here).
The rapid and positive response of the consumer products industry in helping society and health authorities fight the spread of COVID-19 is consistent with the industry’s commitment to delivering "brands with purpose." Despite the historical association of purpose-led brands with controversial positions on timely issues, such as Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign with NFL free agent and social justice activist Colin Kaepernick, having and acting with purpose isn't synonymous with either the exploitation of societal divisions or alignment to the prevailing zeitgeist. Instead, it's about being authentic and genuine, and striving to make a difference in the lives of valued consumers. It's about having courage and conviction, and at times being willing to forego short-term financial gain to expand and further the brand’s values and beliefs. Being "purposeful" is less about being controversial and more about being "meaningful" and "impactful" to the people they serve.
The decision by LVMH, Sharp and others to place purpose and people over short-term profit is not only the right thing to have done ethically, it could also help to build equity that lasts through the pandemic. People, in the long run, remember how companies behave, particularly in times of economic and social crisis. In a society that expects and demands more from the companies with which it does business, adapting brands to deliver relevance at scale isn’t just a good idea, it’s essential for future competitive advantage. For consumer product companies, this means engendering a sense of connection between brand, consumer and the wider community. And, when possible, it means developing collaborative new business ecosystems that bring together consumers, special interest groups, and other companies, often across multiple industries, to help solve society’s more challenging problems.
Consumer product companies can play a vital role in supporting society through crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This must go well beyond short-term marketing messages that simply emphasize commitment to helping aid the crisis. Brands must also act and respond in powerful and impactful ways. They can, as in the case of L’Oreal, Clorox, Kering, Prada, Estee Lauder, and others, donate directly to hospitals and medical institutions fighting the virus on the front lines. They can look to repurpose production lines, as in the case of LVMH and Sharp, to help address shortages in high-demand, essential products. Or they can follow in the footsteps of Anheuser-Busch, which for more than 30 years has provided emergency drinking water as part of disaster relief efforts. Whichever path they choose, consumer products companies must meet the challenge head on and turn "brands with purpose" from an internal rallying cry into a catalyst for making a meaningful difference for people and communities.
Dr. Scott Clarke, vice president, consumer product industry lead at Publicis Sapient, works with Fortune 500 companies across the retail and consumer products industries to help them understand and respond to the opportunities and threats posed by digital disruption, helping transform companies into digital businesses.
Dr. Scott Clarke, Vice President, Consumer Product Industry Lead at Publicis Sapient, works with Fortune 500 companies across the retail and consumer products industries to help them understand and respond to the opportunities and threats posed by digital disruption, helping transform companies into digital businesses.
Scott is a leading consultant, speaker, and author in the areas of customer experience management, business analytics, digital transformation, and marketing, sales and service effectiveness. He brings over 25 years of international, cross-industry consulting experience, helping organizations grow and innovate by understanding the ramifications of sociological and technological change and how this affects relationships with their customers and creates opportunity for competitive advantage. He has worked extensively on issues of customer experience strategy and design, competitive positioning, new business models, product and service innovation, operational and cost improvement, and enterprise transformation.
Before joining Publicis Sapient, Scott led global consulting practices for a number of leading professional service organizations including PwC, IBM, Capgemini, Gartner, and most recently Cognizant Technology Solutions, where he served as Chief Digital Officer and Global Consulting Leader for their Retail, Consumer Goods, Travel and Hospitality Industries. He prides himself on being able to work with clients across many environments to optimize business value from emerging technologies.