Brand empathy: Deepening connections during a crisis

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The branding process has drastically changed within the last century. Before, consumers often associated themselves with companies that represented prestige and luxury. Today, the rise of conscious consumerism has convinced customers to support businesses that are more in line with their own social, political, and economic beliefs. 

Because of this phenomenon, it has become more important than ever for brands to practice empathy in order to build strong connections with their target audience and improve their external relations with other stakeholders.

As the global community continues to experience the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are now being called to show compassion and generosity especially towards those who are greatly affected by the crisis. Thankfully, many large international and local corporations have answered the call to serve. Here are some wonderful stories showing how large corporations have practiced brand empathy as the world continues to experience the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Alibaba

Over the last few years, Alibaba Group has certainly grown into one of China’s largest e-commerce conglomerates. Yet, in times of need, it is a company that does not shy away from the opportunity to help others. In fact, the Alibaba Group established the Alibaba Foundation to serve as the company’s philanthropic arm while Alibaba’s Founder Jack Ma also went on to create the Jack Ma Foundation.

Indeed, these two foundations have executed many initiatives to flatten the curve in China and in other parts of the world in the last few months. As a matter of fact, the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation have made numerous efforts to globally distribute medical equipment and support the medical community. 

Although China is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus, Alibaba still donated large quantities of N95 masks, face shields, testing kits, protective clothing, temperature guns, ventilators, and other medical supplies that help prevent COVID-19 transmission. In fact, the company donated equipment to countries in Africa, Northern America, Southern America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. In addition to their own distribution efforts, Alibaba and Jack Ma Foundation allocated 100 million face masks, 1 million N95 masks, and 1 million test kits to the World Health Organization to be distributed in regions that need these medical supplies the most. 

Aside from providing in-kind donations to countries in need, the Alibaba Foundation and Jack Ma Foundation also funded COVID-19 research and initiated efforts towards spreading accurate information about the pandemic. The Jack Ma Foundation, in particular, donated USD$14.4 million to universities and research centers in many parts of the world to aid coronavirus research needs. Both foundations also published a coronavirus prevention and treatment handbook in partnership with Zhejiang University School of Medicine, as well as co-established a program called The Global MediXChange for Combating COVID-19—a platform that helps medical professionals from all over the world to efficiently communicate their united efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

3M

Established in 1902, the 3M Company is a multinational conglomerate that makes a business out of providing worker safety, health care, and consumer goods. Admirably, the company consistently stayed true to its commitment to science and innovation through their various initiatives to combat the coronavirus. 

Over the past few months, the  company donated approximately USD$20 million to financially aid healthcare workers, indignant communities, as well as medical research initiatives. Of this amount, 3M donated USD$10 million to Direct Relief’s COVID-19 Fund for Community Health, a fund dedicated to providing monetary assistance to community-based non-profit healthcare providers. The company also allocated USD$5 million for United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund, which aims to provide people with reliable information and other necessities for vulnerable communities. In addition to this, 3M gave UD$5 million to various research and development institutions based in the United States and in other parts of the globe.

Aside from providing monetary assistance, the company also stood at the forefront of producing N95 masks, powered air purifying respirators, and other personal protective equipment in partnership with other companies from all over the world. In fact, as of April 2020, the company produced 35 million N95 masks in the US monthly, curbing the transmission of this fatal disease. 

San Miguel Corporation

Being one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) used its resources to provide aid to frontline workers, less fortunate communities as well as other stakeholders. As a matter of fact, the company successfully allocated around 13 billion pesos towards COVID-19 relief. Most notably, SMC used this contribution to provide compensation for its employees, food and medical donations for underprivileged communities, as well as in-kind relief for frontline medical workers. 

In addition to providing funds for the health and public sectors, SMC also made efforts towards mass COVID-19 testing by donating testing booths to various municipalities within Metro Manila. The company gave 3 million pesos worth of testing kits to each of the 17 local government units in the region. While setting up these testing booths, SMC also decided to open up its own SMC Testing Laboratory in order to test its 70,000 employees, safely resume its operations, and aid in the improvement of the Philippines’ economic status. The company also established charitable initiatives to help the agriculture sector thrive, purchasing large quantities of produce from local farms and helping the Department of Agriculture open “Kadiwa ng Ani at Kita” stores in Petron stations nationwide. Lastly, SMC also provided the Philippine government with 8.77 billion pesos worth of advanced taxes to ensure that they will have sufficient funds for national relief operations. 

Globe Telecom

Globe Telecom has always been one of the top telecommunication service providers in the Philippines. While the onset of community quarantine measures have made their services valuable, Globe certainly used their services and strengthened influence to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on their employees, customers, and the general public. 

Over the past few months, Globe used various platforms so that customers can easily show support for frontliners. The company established donation drives that allow its subscribers and employees to donate through Globe Rewards points, GCash, or financial aid. Aside from this, Globe raised 5 million pesos in partnership with BPI and Ayala Corporation. 

While the company’s donation drives and contributions have certainly helped in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, Globe also offered improved telecommunication services to support the public sector. In order to aid its business clients in their efforts to establish remote work protocols, the company provided additional services such as  Google Hangouts, Microsoft Office 365, and Zoom Premium. Most importantly, Globe provided free public internet access in hospitals, airports and select supermarkets so that frontliners can stay connected during this difficult time.

As the coronavirus continues to negatively impact millions of people, the COVID-19 efforts of these large companies truly inspire other individuals and organizations to stand with those in need. Truly, these initiatives do not only reinforce brand reputation and deepen the company’s relationship with its employees, consumers, and the rest of the world. These charitable actions also aid in flattening the curve as we all step into the new normal together.

Visual by Chloe Gaw

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