Words Are Wind During An Airborne Pandemic
By Max Dempster
Gosh these times of ours sure are uncertain, huh? Challenging times. Unprecedented, even. They’ve got me asking questions like if this is the new normal, or how to stay connected to what matters most.
I’ve even caught myself wondering: “are we in this together?”
Thankfully, there are incredibly dominant national brands doing their part to spoon-feed us these exact sentiments during what has become a gruelingly long pandemic. They’ve been a true beacon of blah during these uncertain blah blahs.
Look, for those of us who aren’t million and billion dollar corporations (read: all people), words are wind during an airborne pandemic. The lion’s share of these COVID-19 response campaigns provide neither aid nor support for the people and small businesses that need it most.
Even worse: when these campaigns all use the same sanitized, low-hanging language and soundtrack they have a hollowing effect – rather than a comforting one.
We live in a country where, like it or not, wealthy corporate brands are some of the only forces who can reasonably drive conversation or change. This is doubly true when 40 million Americans are unemployed and lack the income to provide care for themselves, much less others.
So brands, we’re gonna have to excuse people for feeling that a live stream of a rich celebrity playing guitar in their estate doesn’t quite qualify as “help” while local businesses are shuttering every single day. We’ll need to be empathetic when people ask why we’re spending money to broadcast an ad to then raise money for aid, when we could have just donated that money outright. We’ll need to accept that talking at people in the Charlie Brown Teacher Voice isn’t an especially compelling reason to keep us top of mind or be thankful that we exist. We gotta do more.
This is the exact reason I’m so grateful that Dunn&Co. has a client like Grow Financial Federal Credit Union. They’re a financial institution, one that’s not afraid to throw the full force of their brand behind helping people rather than accumulating profit.
When we realized we were headed towards a full lockdown, we presented a variety of ideas for how Grow could support people during the pandemic. Some of them focused on small business relief, others on providing care to individuals and families.
Grow shot them all down because they didn’t go far enough. This client tasked us with finding an idea that could help everyone. They wanted to go bigger. They wanted to stay true to their people over profit mantra and help as many people and small businesses as possible, despite having no idea what the world would look like in the ensuing months.
The agency also had its own perspective and standards to contend with. We were mindful to avoid doing what we’ve been dunking on in this blog. No sad piano intro. No #GPOYES (Gratuitous Pictures Of Your Empty Streets). No grave, gravelly, grim voiceover. And for the love of god, no blah blah.
So we donned our face masks and gloves, then got to [socially distanced] filming. We shot open signs instead of closed signs. Showed the community’s shops hard at work rather than solemnly sitting at home. We framed business owners like the absolute badasses that they are. Grow was here to uplift and empower; to say that the community, rather than the times, were tough.
Plus, the music we made for the spot totally slaps.
Where we landed was #GrowOnUs. Every week for the foreseeable future (because who knows when this pandemic will end) Grow Financial will open a community tab at a local Tampa Bay business. During the open tab period anyone can come in for a free offering of that business’ choosing. Maybe it’s an award-winning BBQ meal, a week of digital yoga classes, or perhaps a curated bouquet of flowers. Whatever it is, Grow will pay for it.
Small businesses get to keep their doors open a little longer.
Their employees get to stay employed.
And the community gets a bit of comfort with no strings attached.
It might not perfectly solve every challenge for everyone, but we’re proud to be launching a campaign built from the ground up to aid the community from as many sides, in as many ways, as possible.
So if your brand can make hand sanitizer, make it. If your brand can offer some relief, offer it. Absent that, if your brand wants to comfort people, at least try speaking with humanity and compassion rather than a whole lot of blah blah. People will remember you for it.