Brands in Times of Crisis: CSR in Action

Published: April 1, 2020

Iris Gunther Manager, External Relations – Enforcement, INTA New York, New York, USA

The outward threat of COVID-19 has brought most activity to a screeching halt. It has given all of us pause to rethink our values, conduct, and humanity. It has also been encouraging to see brands instinctively understand the need to be a part of the community.

Many companies have put their regular priorities aside in order to collaborate on efforts to prevent the spread of the virus and support medical staff fighting on the front line. Apparel labels switching their production to face masks, Italian luxury brands donating medical equipment to hospitals, and car manufacturers offering up their facilities for the assembly of ventilators are just a few examples.

Brands are taking this action despite the pressure on the bottom line created by the crisis. And that is only part of the challenge they face. Consumers are also closely watching which brands are stepping up to be a part of the solution, and which ones are not. Brand value and recovery after this crisis will be directly related to the way a brand has engaged in “doing the right thing,” and consumers will remember once the immediate crisis is overcome and business returns to normal.

Brand value is by and large driven by brand equity—the commercial value that derives from consumer perception—and is part of a steady development in recent years towards the mission-driven brand. A key finding of INTA’s 2019 attitudinal study, Gen Z Insights: Brands and Counterfeit Products, is that globally, 85 percent of Generation Z believes that brands should aim to do good in the world. This is echoed in the Edelman 2019 Trust Barometer – In Brands We Trust: 69 percent of consumers say a brand’s impact on society is the key reason for trusting a brand. More and more, brands are almost compelled in this direction as consumers increasingly demand information about the company behind the product and its commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies that address the world’s challenges in an effective and authentic way.

At the beginning of last year, 2019 INTA President David Lossignol convened the Presidential Task Force (PTF) for “Brands for a Better Society.” It was charged with analyzing the connection between brands and CSR, and the development of a strategy to infuse this subject into the Association’s activities and programming.

The PTF conducted a sweeping survey among INTA members to understand their own CSR-related policies and activities, and to establish their opinions and positions on this issue. The findings are compiled in the Brands and CSR Survey Report. It provides insight into how our members think about CSR and their views on the Association taking on the issue as a strategic priority. To quote just one member on this point, “Important topic. Would be good to see INTA lead on this one.”

Another key outcome of the PTF was the creation of a dedicated Brands for a Better Society Committee, which continues the work of the Task Force in the new committee term. As companies around the world work to halt the spread of COVID-19, this issue has perhaps never been more relevant.

Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of items in the INTA Bulletin, readers are urged to check independently on matters of specific concern or interest.

© 2020 International Trademark Association