Brand Language and Storytelling in the time of COVID-19

Written by Aaron Fickling
08.04.20

The first time we saw someone quip that an author should write ‘Love in the Time of Covid’ during the COVID-19 pandemic, we cringed.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, Love in the Time of Cholera, is an easy reference to make, but only if you’ve never actually read the book.

Love in the Time of Cholera is not – in fact – about cholera per se; Marquez used cholera as a metaphor for love, for the agonising, all-consuming, messy, debilitating agonies of unrequited love – not cholera. What’s more, any metaphor to cholera only stands up to the imaginations and embellishments of a gifted author precisely because it is not a current reality. COVID-19 is quite another matter. 

Thin provocations to creativity aside, people across the world are confronting and living in a new reality that calls us to think more expansively, inclusively and compassionately about the lived experiences of others who may not enjoy the benefit of a secure job, access to healthcare or loved ones to check in on or look after them. Expressions of social distancing solidarity from celebrities or brands will fall on deaf ears, and attract the wrath of social media, because we all only have a limited capacity to accept, interact with or entertain the whims of those whose material and financial comforts far outweigh our own. Solidarity is not a thing when you’ve not experienced what people are going through. 

Research has already begun to show that Black and Minority Ethnic people will be disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, as will working-class women, LGBTQ people of colour and those on zero-hour contracts. COVID-19 is a very real threat to asylum seekers, migrants and healthcare professionals; to the homeless, the jobless and those without access to basic amenities. And if this feels heavy-handed or overly political for a copywriting agency, it’s because it has to be. 

A large part of our work is helping brands think more broadly about their messaging, their language and their content. Our team is made up of people who read and think widely, who work as activists for marginalised communities, and who live at the intersection of multiple identities. COVID-19, the attendant lockdowns, increased policing powers and lack of clear direction all impact people who work with our agency. We take COVID-19 seriously. 

As viral tweets demonstrate, now is not the time for brands to ignore the cultural and political implications of their voice. When this is all over, and it will be over, brands will have an opportunity to be the first name on their audience’s lips. For our clients across the tourism industry, this means an influx of guests in their homes, estates and getaways across the country. For our clients in education, the reintegration of students and faculty back onto their campuses. And for our clients in hospitality, welcoming guests back to your menus and tables. The clients, and the list, goes on. 

Crucially, this work begins now. And equipped as we are with our laptops, language and lived experiences, the team at GrafikLanguage are still here to help you and your brands navigate this important time for you, us and our audiences. The brands that leave a lasting and positive impression on their target audiences will be those who took COVID-19 seriously, who used their language and platforms carefully and who sincerely demonstrated their brand values during a crisis. These will be the brands that audiences gravitate towards and we can help you get there. 

If you’re interested in working with an agency that writes, and believes in the value of, World-building Words™, we’d love to hear from you. So please reach out to me at aaron@grafiklanguage.agency, or call 020 3916 5511.

Stay safe 🌈x

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