The best thing brands can do during the crisis? ‘Look after their employees’

Published on April 23, 2020

“Truth About Culture and Covid-19 Wave 3” is the third study by McCann’s global intelligence unit – McCann Worldgroup Truth Central. The report identifies how key global and generational attitudes regarding the COVID-19 pandemic are shifting as the crisis progresses.

In this latest research, when asked about the most important thing brands and businesses can do to help in the crisis, 6 in 10 people globally said ‘look after their employees.’

Moreover, 1 in 3 people globally believe that CEOs should make sacrifices for employees (rising to 54% in the UK and 48% in the US). 1 in 2 wanted to see brands focusing on creating vital resources like ventilators, masks and other PPE. The majority of people globally believe that governments and companies should work together to solve the coronavirus crisis.

Building strong brands has arguably never been more important, with more than 1 in 10 people (13%) globally saying they’ve already switched to generic brands to save money (highest in China and Latin America). Many brands have already stepped up and responded to the pandemic with tremendous creativity and innovation;1 in 5 people globally say that they are inspired by the creativity they’ve seen in response to the pandemic and 4 in 10 people globally say that the crisis will inspire new innovations. A third of people globally would like to see brands spreading happiness and positivity at a time when the news is relentlessly negative (this rises to 42% in China).

This supports findings from McCann Worldgroup Truth Central’s Truth About Global Brands 2 research wherein they asked people the role that brands should play versus the government. People believe brands can play a more empathetic role in their lives, with the top actions a brand could do ranging from “spreading laughter, joy and happiness” to “bringing people together by helping eliminate prejudices and stereotypes.” In contrast, governments were seen to be responsible for ‘reducing crime’ and enforcing social equality. In this crisis, while governments may come under scrutiny for how they manage lockdown logistics, prediction models and financial markets, brands and companies should be doubling down on the empathetic, human role they play in people’s lives both inside of their companies and through their products and messaging.

Responding to the ‘other virus’

The world is not just contending with a viral Coronavirus pandemic, it’s contending with a tidal wave of viral fake news and misinformation. 3 in 10 people globally say they don’t know what information they can trust (rising to 47% in France). 1 in 5 people globally say that they’ve stopped reading the news as it upsets them.

Unsurprisingly, when asked what brands and businesses can do to help during the crisis, 38% of people globally said to ‘help people understand the truth’. When asked about their most trusted sources for understanding the pandemic, the top source globally is still mainstream news media (45%) but interestingly this varies across the world: the US, Italy and France say that their most trust source is their local health service/doctor while in Germany, they turn to government politicians. A third of people in China say that brands are their most trusted source of truth.

Across the board we’re seeing new voices of authority emerging in these uncertain times:

more than a third of people (36%) believe that scientists are todays true heroes. In contrast, a quarter of people globally believe that their government has let them down, up to 49% in Chile and 45% in Japan.

Fear sets in

People are far less confident in terms of their chances against the virus; just 18% of people globally say that if they catch coronavirus, they think they’ll be ok, compared to 36% a month ago.

When asked how long it will be before life goes back to normal, the top answer was that it will be 3-6 months (27%). 1 in 5 said when we have a vaccine/cure and 1 in 10 said that life will never go back to normal.

The pandemic journey continues

As markets like the US and UK move from panicking into adapting, we see levels of worry about the pandemic and confidence in a country’s preparedness leveling off (as we saw in Italy, Spain and France last wave).At the same time, markets that are now entering the panic phase show much higher levels of concern compared to Wave 2. This is especially evident in Japan. As the first countries (i.e., Germany) start to move from adapt into renew, we see worry levels start to subside, and confidence in those market’s preparedness to deal with the pandemic increase.

With the possibility of a global depression growing increasingly real, financial concerns are top of mind around the world. 56% of people globally say that they are worried that the economy will suffer, up from 48% a month ago. This concern is especially felt in the US (66%), UK (64%) and France (62%). 31% of people globally say that they are concerned that they will lose their job or struggle financially as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, up from 21% a month ago. This jumps to 58% in Japan, and 50% in China.

Perhaps explaining the declining belief that economies should not be shut down around the world: just 31% of people globally believe that government should initiate a full lockdown compared to 40% just two weeks ago.

All of the findings relating to this study can be found here: