Why Brands Should Prepare Now to Help with the Next Natural Disaster

Article contributed by Jeff Rosenblum, Co-President, Questus

It’s been four months since Sandy, the devastating tropical storm that left tens of thousands of people in serious need of help. The effort to rebuild is well underway and corporations have provided significant help to legions of people.

While we all hope that another natural disaster never happens, the reality is that one will inevitably come. Now is the time for corporations to prepare. People will need help and brands can provide that help. Ironically, it’s not just the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for business. But if your brand waits for the next disaster to start ideating, it will be too late.

Corporations are the most powerful force on the planet. In fact, 51 of the world’s 100 largest entities are corporations. They have more power than governments, and they can use that power to do remarkable things. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people in New York City needed food, water, shelter, clothing and more. Corporations provided that help, but there were many missed opportunities.

Donating money to relief efforts is fantastic, but when brands get hands-on by donating goods and services, it provides a bigger benefit to the community. And, it can provide a huge benefit to the brand, which happens most effectively when there is contextual authenticity to the actions. For example, Duracell’s Rapid Responder helped those without power, offering free batteries and access to charging lockers, Tide started Loads of Hope, a free mobile laundry program, and Airbnb waived fees for listings in Sandy-affected areas.

In an ideal world, corporations would help because it’s the right thing to do. But that’s not realistic. Altruism is not a built into the capitalist business model. The good news is that giving goods and services away to those in need can help brands. Unlike altruism, that is sustainable motivation. Doing good can result in great brand-building. That’s the note you can play to motivate your team and get the ball rolling.

The world has become transparent. That’s been rendered as a negative, but transparency can also be incredibly positive. According to Nielsen, consumers trust recommendations from friends approximately four times more than paid advertisements. So one of the keys to creating a world-class brand is to give people a reason to recommend the brand to a friend. Brand evangelists will always be more powerful than paid advertising. Helping a community in need can be an incredibly powerful way to create those brand evangelists.

People can question the motives of Duracell, Tide and others. They aren’t entirely flawless organizations. Nevertheless, they’ve successfully related to their target audience, provided help and reaped benefits.

Traditional advertising remains effective, but it is not nearly as efficient as it once was. Any corporation looking to build a breakthrough brand needs to find new ways to do so. Helping those in need is one effective way. But, it’s not easy. Unlike traditional advertising, there are no proven models and there is no documented process. So, start now. Ideate, brainstorm, strategize and prepare to be nimble. When the need arises, it will be too late to plan. Brands can make a difference in communities around the world. It would be great for your brand to do so simply because people will be in need, but that notion won’t be enough to motivate your entire corporation. Let your colleagues know that it is simply good business.

Jeff Rosenblum is a contributor at The Makegood and a founding partner of Questus, a digital agency.