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Recently, I came across the sentiment ‘humanity is the new currency’ and it’s stuck with me in a way that none ever has.
We’ve all likely come across some version or other of this turn of phrase, albeit in somewhat different outfits — ‘ideas are the best currency’, ‘innovation is the only currency’, and so on — but there’s something incredibly basic, fundamental and soul-wrenchingly frank about these words and fact that kindness and humanity can and will triumph, especially now.
We’re in a time when the very value of material items and commerce is being re-evaluated for their worth. Oil prices are plummeting, diamond sales are being halted and most people are sitting at home without the indulgences we might otherwise be splurging on during a normal day because, well, normal doesn’t exist anymore.
The news and content we long for is about wellness and joy. We celebrate the triumphs of people and nations in this most eerie of battlefields and cheer for challenges that would otherwise get side-eyed.
Simple efforts are winning hearts and minds every day because of the shear humanness and sacrifice we’ve all learnt to recognise in each other, and the best of brands are very much a part of that. Some are demonstrating the very real fact that, despite knowing businesses and brands will suffer in unprecedented ways, we may actually find cause to celebrate the rise and emergence of better, more-human marketers who see this not as an opportunity to thrive but to unite.
In the US, Italy and China, online platform Zoom has temporarily waived fees for its video-conferencing facility so education doesn’t come to a grinding halt. Nike has directed budget towards more-inspirational and -uplifting commercials encouraging people to play on, even if they can’t play together for now. Fashion houses have halted business as usual in favour of producing gowns for the healthcare sector. Luxury ecotourism outfits are digitally transporting social media followers to the beauties and sensory experiences of the Skeleton Coast or Botswana’s Okavango Delta to escape feeling confined as they stay home. And fast-food brands such as Chipotle are creating digital hangouts to combat the feeling of solitude many are experiencing during lockdowns.
Consumers the world over aren’t looking for cleverly executed ways of making a sale; they actively don’t want to place their trust in a corporate brand devoid of any emotion. At our most very basic and true to our very core, we aren’t consumers, doctors, lawyers or dwellers of ‘LSM 3’ with ‘high-income earning potential’; we’re human. As crisis continues to redefine everything we thought we knew, we’re brought back to reality and this most fundamental of facts.
The marketers and businesses which emerge from this pandemic with true merit will be those that show empathy and human connection, putting people first, above and beyond product, and the héros du jour will be the brands which have already, inherently, shown that they prize humanity above all else.
There’s something truly encouraging about knowing that we’re united in staying apart today in order to be together tomorrow. There’s something inspiring and true about the brands we know and love feeling and sharing this new reality in wholly authentic and emotive ways that place the greater good and the human condition above the bottom line — and yet, in doing so, still help their bottom line.
So, how do we give this currency a fighting chance of high supply and demand — of truly sustainable worth — well after we’ve sent the coronavirus packing? We celebrate in kind; we recognise and reward the brands that step up, show up and show us what it means to be more human. We give in and embrace human connection and those who value it as sacrosanct.
So, let’s challenge the brands and businesses we consume to do more and to be more. Rather than blind loyalty, let’s support those that are already stepping up. From big global brands to local enterprises and even individuals’ brands, we demand and deserve better. And, in this time of such fluidity, let’s embrace the opportunity to evolve for the better and for the right reasons — as people, as brands and as professionals.
Humanity is the new currency. And long may we stand.