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Author Jeetendr Sehdev: brands have 'no choice' but to speak up amid coronavirus crisis

The “bold way” Tom Hanks released a statement broadcasting how he and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for coronavirus is something brands can learn a lot from, according to celebrity expert Jeetendr Sehdev.

An international keynote speaker and author of The Kim Kardashian Principle, which explores how the social media star’s “innovative” approach to brand building can be applied to corporate businesses, Sehdev said that the best thing a brand can do right now is, to be honest.

Speaking during an interview as part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival, Sehdev explained: “It is very important for brands to find a way to reduce the anxiety of their consumers. The ones which do this are going to build an affinity that will last years into the future,” he explains.

“The way Tom Hanks and his wife posted so bravely about having coronavirus, and without making much fuss, while urging people to self-isolate, would have made such a big impact globally.

"Brands can learn a lot from that. If you can launch a campaign that is transparent and make people see coronavirus as less of a taboo then that’s going to leave a lasting impression. You need to help your customers get through this.”

Sehdev also name-checked luxury goods group LVMH’s response to Covid-19 as an example of how to get things right. In response to the pandemic, LVMH, which owns alcoholic brands such as Hennessey and Moët, is using three of its perfume and cosmetics factories to produce hand-cleaning hydroalcoholic gels. It will then deliver these gels free of charge to the French health authorities.

“‘Through this initiative, LVMH intends to help address the risk of a lack of product in France and enable a greater number of people to continue to take the right action to protect themselves from the spread of the virus,’ a statement from LVMH reads.

“It is such a genius move,” Sehdev insists. “At times of strife, brands have to innovate and try something new. A company, most known for luxury alcoholic beverages, doing a free hand gel is a good example of going outside of your comfort zone, but with real purpose.”

Looking ahead to the next two months, a period where the spread of coronavirus is expected to worsen in UK, Sehdev is advising brands not to stay silent and stressed the need for clear and concise communications during these uncertain times.

He concluded: “Over 70% of the younger generation want to connect with brands on a value or an ethical level and this crisis is a huge opportunity to do that in an authentic way.

“You can’t just play to the lowest common denominator anymore; brands have no choice but to speak up."

You can watch the full panel session above and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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