How should brands respond to COVID-19?

April 17, 2020 | By Raja Rajamannar

The Topline

We are now in the first pandemic of the digital age. It’s a global crisis, the effects of which will likely ring out for many more months yet. Businesses around the world have shuttered their doors, as many of us are stuck at home.

And many marketers remain unsure about how the brands they oversee should respond.

The Tidbit

Interestingly, the Mandarin word for “crisis” is represented by two characters: one meaning danger and another meaning opportunity. It’s certainly the mark of strong character to greet dire circumstances by recognizing the underlying opportunity. 

Still, for marketers, deciding the best way for brands to react to this crisis is a tricky business.

Balancing Act

On the one hand, there is opportunity; there’s the chance for brands to show their human side. On the other hand, however, brands that strike the wrong tone may be perceived as cynically exploiting a catastrophe.

My Take

  • In these uncertain times, brands can be either destroyed or elevated. The outcome depends on their response.
  • Brands’ considerations must reach beyond businesses.
  • In these trying times, marketers need to identify how their brand can best convey compassion.
  • Brands need to prioritize maintaining strong relationships with both customers and employees.
  • Marketers should aim for authenticity – and encourage the brands they steward to provide empathetic communications and, ideally, actions.

Long story short

It’s time for all of us to show our humanity.



Marketing Sense is a blog series from Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communications officer. Every month, Marketing Sense will bring you unique, original, relevant content to equip you with the knowledge that will keep you ahead of a rapidly changing industry. We’ll filter out the noise to focus on key marketing trends backed by new findings and support from thought leaders from across the trade.

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Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer