Teens today are keenly aware of the horrific events plaguing society in recent years, including the latest mass shooting in Florida. Their parents can’t shelter them from such disturbing news because it invades their social media feeds in the form of hashtags on Twitter, Facebook profile photo filters, and images of support on Instagram.
Teens are particularly affected by such negativity in the world—unlike their older peers, they’ve yet to harden themselves to bad news, and compared to their younger counterparts, they’re better able to understand the magnitude of these events and what they mean for and about society. As a result of this awareness, they want to make a difference, and they want brands to do so as well. Yet, brands often remain silent in such situations for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Here are a few tips on how brands can get involved in a time of crisis to earn the public’s respect and appreciation and ease their anxiety.
Don’t Stay Quiet
Young people are looking for brands to speak up in bleak moments. In fact, 75% of teens say they would rather brands get involved when large-scale tragedies occur, according to our research. That’s partly because teens are far more likely to believe that companies can have the greatest positive impact on the world (70%), not governments or institutions (30%). They know brands can reach a far bigger audience than they can with a message of support and caring, and that is the first step in reassuring the public that while bad things happen there is still a lot of good in the world. Showing unity with public sentiment makes a brand seem more human and less like a faceless organization only interested in making money.
Don’t Make It About You
Brands often get called because they turn a message of condolence into an opportunity to discuss their brand. Following the death of music legend Prince, 3M shared a message of condolence that featured not an image of the artist but rather its logo turned purple with a teardrop in the center. It was meant to honor the man but instead put the brand front and center. When Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 went missing, Volvo offered its sympathy to those who had lost a loved one, but it went on to discuss how safety is a top priority of the brand, overshadowing condolences with a call to consumerism. Instead, a simple message of compassion—with no mention of the brand name, qualities, or sales—is an effective way to participate without drawing backlash. The focus should be on showing that the brand cares, not on the brand itself.
Help If You Can
The best way that brands can deliver in a time of crisis is to help, showing that they, like their teen fans, want to have a positive impact on the world. In response to the Florida shooting, JetBlue announced that it would offer free flights to Florida for victim’s family members. Airbnb and its network of hosts quickly responded to the terror attacks in Paris last year by opening their doors to anyone seeking refuge in the area.
Following Hurricane Sandy when much of New York City was without power and water, various businesses offered what they could, from gyms opening their bathroom and shower facilities to the public to local businesses allowing people to hang out and charge their digital devices. Even small gestures from brands can make a difference as young people see how one such act of kindness is likely to beget another; they add up and, collectively, create an aura of positivity that can lessen the sting of tragic events.
It’s important for brands to do their part when tragedy strikes. Teens don’t live in a bubble where negative news doesn’t reach or affect them, and they know that brands don’t exist in vacuums either. What’s more, their collaborative, team-oriented nature means they expect everyone to do what they can for the betterment of society and the world, particularly in tough times. That expectation includes brands, which they believe can have the biggest impact of all.