NEW YORK — With no relief to the Covid-19 pandemic in sight, consumers are turning to brands to provide the safeguards, products and guidance necessary to outlast the crisis, according to a special Edelman Trust Barometer study.

62% of respondents said they don’t believe their countries would make it through the coronavirus outbreak without brands playing a critical role in addressing challenges created by it. 90% said they would like to see brands partner with government and relief agencies addressing the crisis, with 50% saying that doing so is critical to earning or keeping their trust. A vast majority (89%) of respondents want brands to start producing products necessary to manage the outbreak.

The survey of 12,000 consumers across 12 countries found 90% believe brands should protect the health and financial wellbeing of employees and suppliers, even if it means incurring substantial financial losses during the widespread shutdown of business. Not doing so could cost companies the trust of 71% of consumers; One in three have already punished brands that have not responded appropriately to the Covid-19 crisis, by convincing others not to buy them, 

“If you were ever in doubt that brands matter, this new data reveals the power and necessity of brand as well as the urgent need to act. Brands should find solutions instead of selling passion or image. They need to be tangible and fast, not impressionistic and conceptual,” CEO Richard Edelman wrote in a blog.

In turn, brands need to amend their communications strategies and output so it appropriately reflects the current situation.

89% of survey participants said they want to be fully informed about how a brand is protecting employees; Acting as a reliable news source, educating consumers, using social media to foster community and providing comfort each were cited by more than eight in 10 respondents as impactful ways to do that.

It also requires brands to focus their communications on what they are doing to help fight the pandemic. 77% said brands should discuss their products only in ways that acknowledge the crisis and the impact it is having on people’s lives; 84% want brands to focus their advertising on how their products and services can help people cope with pandemic-related challenges; and 57% want brands to put a stop to advertising that is humorous or too light hearted.

In turn, Edelman said there are four key actions brands can take to capture and maintain consumer trust in the current environment: Play a vital role by using resources and creativity to make a difference; Collaborate with others, most critically government, to help people; Focus all efforts on finding solutions to the problems people are facing; and communication with emotion, compassion and facts.

“This global crisis will fundamentally change how we think, behave, and consume. There is no rapid return to normal. The new world will have trust at its core, with the brand mandate expanded to solve for all, protect all, care for all, collaborate with all and innovate in the public interest. At this moment of deepest global crisis, the public wants brands to step up, keep us safe, guide us and help us. Brands that act in the interest of their employees, stakeholders and society at large will reinforce their expertise, leadership and trust and immeasurably strengthen the bond they have with consumers,” Edelman wrote.
“This is a moment when brands can prove that they put people, not profits, first. Respond with compassion and make a difference; this is the true test for purpose-driven leaders. The people are counting on us to deliver.”

The release of the special Edelman Trust Barometer report comes less than two weeks after the firm’s first look at the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on brands, and what consumers expect from them. The previous study found that, with trust in institutions down, coronavirus information coming from employers is seen as more credible than governments, health companies and traditional media.