Workers wear face masks at a fabric shop during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in Cape Town. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Workers wear face masks at a fabric shop during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in Cape Town. Picture: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

It is in times of crisis that we have to decide whether to accept the status quo or seek solutions that will drive a new shift in the way we conduct business. The Covid-19 pandemic poses a unique challenge to brands, governments and consumers to do things differently, with all parties tested to rise to the occasion.

And the big question is: how does collaboration aid all of us during this time?

The Covid-19 outbreak is causing severe disruptions, impacting all business sectors. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. In the SA context the urgency of the existing crisis has broken down procedural barriers and opened doors to strong collaborative approaches, particularly between the public and private sectors.

Leading global brewer AB InBev is harnessing its key ingredient as a weapon in the fight against Covid-19. Working with partners, the company is producing hand sanitisers and donating disinfectant alcohol and more than 1-million bottles of hand sanitisers and disinfectant to hospitals and front-line health workers in more than 20 countries. In SA alone the brewer has donated 100,000 bottles toward the pandemic. There is no better time for brands to advocate campaigns that aim for a social impact.

Collaboration and ecosystems are reshaping business relationships for long-term success and sustainability. Uber Eats and Mr Delivery partnered with retailers who provide essential services across SA to help all South Africans stay at home and be safe. With this kind of action not only do the consumer and businesses benefit, but the government’s efforts and resources are not compromised.  The traditional models of working and developing solutions are no longer capable of keeping up with customer requirements, which are shifting to on-demand with immediate gratification and self-service. Brands will need to reflect on their system’s agility during these trying times of disruption –  how does one operate during a major distraction or crisis with minimal impact on critical business and operational processes without compromising the output of work?

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will shift the way consumers experience the reality they used to know. This is the time for brands to be nimble and remain relevant to their customers. An Accenture report states that “consumer buyer values are already shifting to products and experiences which are more healthy, trustworthy, environmentally sensitive, and more supportive of the communities in which they live and work. This means brands will not only be judged on how they respond during this period but also on how they respond after the pandemic.

the big take-out

Collaboration and ecosystems are reshaping business relationships for long-term success and sustainability.

Collaboration is at the heart of innovation in the creative world and in business. It also has the ability to unify communities and break boundaries. Let’s look at the music scene for a second. There’s this tired but persistent old trope about artists: that they thrive in isolation. We’ve been romanticising the value of me-time for artists for centuries. Ironically, social media has enabled music artists to connect with their communities. Artists such as DJ Shimza, DJ Black Coffee and Jennifer Hudson have amplified how they are connecting with their audiences, performing live on digital platforms to showcase their music. Brands that understand the importance of partnerships lent a hand after seeing an opportunity with DJ Shimza’s and DJ PH’s #LockdownHouseParty. Taking what was on social media and bringing it up to a national scale – thanks to the likes of Hunter’s Cider, Hollywoodbets and Channel O – will make these brands’ return on investment skyrocket in terms of their social impact, brand empathy and brand awareness.

Brands need to overcome the traditional impulse to compete rather than work together, though this will need to be driven by new leaders who are able to inject a new way of thinking. But the most important takeaway is that brands will need to understand that the Jack-of-all-trades company strategy can no longer deliver a full spectrum of what the customer or the business needs. In a nutshell, similar to the concept of “digitise or die”, brands need to adapt to this new world of enhanced partnerships or die a slow, painful death.

  • Siphiwe Mpeta is a brand specialist and account manager at Mortimer Harvey.

 

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