With a few exceptions, marketers seem to be earning good grades so far for their sensitive reactions to Hurricane Sandy.
“Banks not wanting to lose goodwill with Northeast-area customers recovering from Hurricane Sandy are waiving many fees this week,” reports Hadley Malcolm in USA Today. “Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi and TD Bank are among those waiving or refunding out-of-network ATM fees as well as late fees such as those on credit cards, auto loans and student loans for customers in many of the areas affected by the storm.”
Some banks are also deploying mobile ATMs in areas that were particularly hard hit, such as lower Manhattan. Procter & Gamble’s Duracell brand, meanwhile, has dispatched its Rapid Response unit to Lower Manhattan. The truck, which is outfitted with charging stations for mobile devices and also offers internet access, “drew more than 1,300 likes from the brand's 1.8 million Facebook fans in only two hours,” Jack Neff reports in Ad Age.
Craig Bida, evp of cause branding for Cone Communications, cited P&G’s proactive disaster relief efforts with brands such as Duracell and Tide in an interview with Marketing Daily’s Sarah Mahoney published yesterday, saying that “when possible, brands should look for tie-ins that are uniquely suited to their products and personality.”
That can be a fine line, as Stuart Elliott writes in the New York Times this morning. “Advertising, marketing and public relations executives are asking a familiar question after Hurricane Sandy: What is the difference between appropriate efforts that are perceived as public service and inappropriate efforts that are demonized as capitalizing on bad news?” is his lede.
Elliott takes a look at efforts that were “perceived as exploitive” –- all by retailers (Jonathan Adler, American Apparel, Gap and Urban Outfitters) -- as well as laudatory communications from brands such as Allstate, American Express and Jet Blue.
Marketing Daily’s Mahoney covered the helpful responses of big retailers such as Walmart, Sears, Home Depot and Walgreens yesterday, writing that some “have come to regard themselves as a sort of unofficial Red Cross” during disasters such as this.
The Examiner.com’s Jacquelyn Marks keys in on American Apparel’s email blast that offered 20% off its wares for the next 36 hours “in case you’re bored during the storm.” The Twitter response may have been predominantly negative, Marks says, but it “succeeded in this email marketing campaign because everyone is talking about it. It may not have been a positive campaign, but people are responding, sharing and writing about this ad all over the Internet.”
Delta Air Lines, meanwhile, is among airlines giving vouchers to passengers so that they can reschedule flights at their own convenience. It’s a better system, Dave Holtz, Delta’s vp of operations control, tells the New York Times’ Robbie Brown and Christopher Drew, than automatically bumping passengers to a particular flight. “It’s our job to put a predictable outcome in a customer’s hand,” he says.
Airports reopened in metropolitan New York yesterday on a limited basis -– only one runway was available at the flooded La Guardia, for example. Employees struggled to get to work on the crippled public transportation system. Holtz believes that flights will be back to normal “within the next two days,” however.
Below the hed “Hurricane Sandy to Cost Ad Industry $500 Million,” Ad Age’s Rupal Parekh reports that “media-research firm Pivotal Research Group lowered its U.S. ad forecast to a 0.5% decline in the third quarter, a 1.4% decline in the fourth quarter and zero growth for the full year.” That follows an already gloomy forecast for the rest of the year that was issued last week.
Be that as it may, “digital ad agencies in flooded Lower Manhattan and across the East River in Brooklyn haven’t stopped working,” Christopher Heine reports in Adweek. “With public transportation limited, power outages rampant, cell phone service sketchy and drinking water supplies diminishing, shops are making do by creating remote offices around the city, car-pooling and leaning on email for communications.”
Meanwhile, a lot of commentators are looking for the silver linings in the wake of such widespread devastation. “The collective effort, the we're-all-in-this-together spirit, has been great to see after Sandy. But it shouldn't take a natural disaster to make us tap into our natural humanity,” writes Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. Amen to that.