Opinion: Brands Have an Opportunity to Frame the Torch of Humanity

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    Pictured: Steve Connelly, president of Connelly Partners

    The brands that will see success tomorrow are the ones getting out there with a positive message today, writes Steve Connelly, founder of Connelly Partners.

    No one should tell you how to feel right now. Your emotions are yours and yours alone.

    But no matter what those emotions are, they are no doubt pretty intense. Some of us are panicking, some are dismissive. Some are paralyzed by the stress caused by this virus of uncertainty, others are stressed by the mandated cure of isolation.

    This is not a time to debate, lecture or shout opinions. This is a time to respect each other, see all sides, care for each other, do everything we can to come together—as this virus, the media, and an election year do all they can to pull us apart.

    As an amateur anthropologist and agency founder, human behavior is a passion. I am forever trying to understand what drives our actions, decisions, emotions. Not the actions themselves, but the motivations behind them. The kind of observation that generates human insights that we can use to better understand and connect people.

    And what I see right now is humanity holding a flashlight and pushing back the darkness. I see the elevation of simple things, of positive things, of defiantly human things.

    Now certainly, there is a bunker mentality out there, and times like these can bring out some less-than-attractive human traits. But there’s enough of the negative out there right now. Instead, I choose to see the positive. We are surrounded by positivity; you just have to allow yourself to see it.

    I see people outside taking walks. I see kids running across their front yards. I see parents marooned at their desks, hopelessly trying to answer the call of both kids and work but with good humor, intentions and compassion. I see Scholastic supporting parents with open-access lesson plans and activities for kids through a new digital hub.

    I see people FaceTime-ing, Google Hangout-ing, Facebook Live-ing. I see people who want to look into other people’s eyes digitally and feel comfort. I see people connecting digitally to talk in groups and meet in groups. I see people exercising in groups. I see brands from local health clubs to international brands like Nike offering free access for digital workout classes.

    I see people coming together as our experts recommend keeping us apart.

    I see dogs getting more attention from their humans than they ever have. I see comfort food, comfort TV shows, comfort music being consumed at all-time highs.

    I see people who have every opportunity to sleep late and slack off, but instead are working, grinding, innovating and creating at levels we rarely see. People care about their jobs, their responsibilities, the people they work for and with. I see innovation from big and small businesses. I see Tito’s Vodka and many other alcohol brands using their distilleries to make hand sanitizer.

    I see people thinking of others in ways that we have never seen before. I see people checking in on senior citizens with regularity and compassion. I see people going to Mass on TV.

    I see people applauding health care workers. I see brands reinventing to produce masks for doctors and nurses. I see Ford offering a car payment relief plan. I see internet providers like our client Atlantic Broadband offering free internet to people without it, and another CP client, Gorton’s Seafood, spreading the goodness of the sea by donating 500,000 servings of seafood for people in need.

    The anthropologist in me sees human kindness. The marketing guy in me sees some brands shining a light on our capacity for kindness. Some smart, forward-thinking brands are fueling positivity by simply framing it. They are not self-serving, they are not editorializing, they are not benign white noise. Rather, they are empathetic and earnest, choosing to connect us as humans rather than sell as marketers. They are the brands that will see success tomorrow by being out there with positive messaging today.

    The question all of us face right now in the face of this inhuman assault on our lives, is “What do I say?” Many brands, like many people, are paralyzed. But I would suggest that expressing the simplest of messages would have the most resonance. Honest and human. Frame and remind people to see the wonderful things happening around us at a time when we all feel under siege.

    Of course I also see some people out there seizing the opportunity to pontificate, to benefit, to impose their opinions and amplify their platforms. I see fear, I see uncertainty, I see tragedy. How can we not?

    But right now, I also see people thinking about others. Worrying, caring, thinking, talking, connecting. I see what’s good about humans. I see brands reminding us all of that collective good. As is usually the case, bad times reveal the good in us all.

    I see a time of darkness. And, at the same time, I see the light of humanity shining through it. What’s needed right now is more human creativity to help us all see that light.

    This article first appeared in AdAge on April 2, 2020:  https://adage.com/article/opinion/opinion-brands-have-opportunity-frame-torch-humanity-illuminating-darkness/2248001


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