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It shouldn’t take a pandemic for brands to be meaningful

by Matt Sullivan

6 May 2020 13:04pm

There is, perhaps justifiably so, a nervousness in the air for brands around how they use social media right now. A misstep of any kind – a slightly ambiguous tone, a promotional post or a trivial tweet - and you’re facing an almighty backlash. So no surprise then, that some are reluctantly pulling their social media efforts.

Don’t make the same mistake. There have been many brands that have adapted incredibly well on social since lockdown. Bleach London have been hosting live hair parties, guiding you through tricky home hair dying. Gregg’s have been sharing their G.I.Y recipes (Greggs It Yourself) for how to cook your own steak bakes to take the edge off lockdown hangovers, and Defected Records have brought live house festivals to our front room raves.

These brands are filling the gaps that normal life used to occupy, helping us adapt to the challenges that our new, more limited existence has created. In doing so, they are providing real value and meaning in people’s lives, at a time when we need it more than ever before.

What strikes me though is this; it’s taken a life-changing, seismic event for many to start doing this in a meaningful way. Why did brands need a global pandemic to prompt a deep dive into their social presence?

It all comes down to my pet hate. Too often you hear content being referred to as ‘only a social post’. Content destined for the unsophisticated backwaters of communications. But in reality, offering up experiences and content like Gregg’s and Defected, is evidence of a deep and sophisticated understanding of audiences and customers and what will bring them meaning just when they need it. Answering their needs live and in the moment - don’t we value that all the time, not just in times of crisis?

We have seen more live video being used than ever before - Instagram Live usage has seen a 70% spike compared to pre-Covid-19 - with time on our hands we’re more willing to invest in that personal connection in virtual form.

TikTok is in its prime with usage up by a third amongst 18-34 year olds, and more content is being created at home showing raw, authentic glimpses of our lives and moments. While this type of content isn’t new, its increased prevalence is liberating us even further from the polish that is often overly applied to what we share. I’m not saying there isn’t a role for a bit of polish; more that things like this are being pushed further down the metaphorical ladder of importance, in favour of more urgent priorities.

While it has taken a pandemic for many brands to wake up, the true test will be how they act after this is all over. So let’s make a post-lockdown pact. When we get back to whatever normal looks like, we’ll resist those other priorities creeping back in and knocking these meaningful moments of connection off the top spot.

Sally Barr, Head of Social at Havas


Social Media