International Art Materials Association
     
          

  
 eNews:  May 20, 2020
 
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Miss the last eNews? See it here.



IN THIS ISSUE:


Namta Connect - Information on The Gallery & The Theater

Spotlight on Carlo Ferrara from Nila Colori

Savannah Davis - Hello from The Token Millennial

Thank you Jeremy Franklin and the 2020/21 BOD

For Namta Suppliers

New Products

Are They Open?

Get on The Lists

Art Advocay Grant, Fact of the Week and Public Art

FYI Articles

2-Months Free Remote Healthcare Solution

 

 


 



HOT TOPICS



For the past couple of weeks, we've been telling you about the NEW Namta Forum, Namta Connect - The Gallery, and now some of your peers are starting to use it and they are asking questions. 

For example, under the topic 'Managing Business in a Coronavirus World' we found this:
As the owner of a small (3 employees) independent art supply and custom framing store, the shutdown brought about by the pandemic, has given me the time to stop and reevaluate how I'm doing business, and what will need to change going forward - Cutting down on staff, reducing size, limiting hours while we rebuild, forces me also to look at our current systems and see where we need to upgrade for efficiency.
We have been using Quickbooks Point of Sale since we opened in 2008, (several versions). The cash register part of the software is pretty easy and efficient. But the inventory side is definitely not. We buy primarily from one distributor, which handles many, many companies. We also buy directly from just a handful of individual companies. Updating pricing is a nightmare. I have about 10,000 to 13,000 inventory items I like to have, but my distributors' inventory is 3 or 4 times that. The software doesn't handle large batch deletions, updates or changes well, (yes, that's the sound of it crashing...again!)  Could I get any suggestions for Points of Sale software that work well for us art material retailers? And if you have any other tips for streamlining going forward, please share!! Thanks.

And under the topic 'Namta Member' we saw this:
Hello! I am getting ready to open a small fine art supply store this summer in Dayton, Ohio. I am getting my ducks in a row and was wondering if anyone had anything they would be willing to share or know of any resources for planning opening inventory or planograms? I don't have a large store, probably about 900-1,000 square feet of retail display space but have about the same amount of space for storage in a dry and climate controlled basement. Any and all input/examples/resources are greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

If you have a chance, log in to namta.org and check out the Forum, and see if you can help them out with a little or a lot of advice. The great thing about a forum is that it's like building up a little library where other members with similar questions can find information.

Namta Connect - The Gallery is a Members Only benefit. Contact Karen for assistance with the Forum.

 

 



A Zoom Webinar for Namta Retailers

Things to Do Before You Reopen Your Doors for Business

Hosted by Namta and Kizer & Bender on the Zoom Platform

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 21st

Register Here 

Your Zoom Info Link will be emailed to you. Contact Rick Munisteri with questions.

 

 

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SPOTLIGHT ON . . .


Carlo Ferrara

Founder of Nila Colori, Santa Maria Hoè, Italy


How did you become a part of the art materials industry?
Carlo: After my graduation in Chemical Engineering, I felt the need to get in deep touch with nature. I started studying ancient books and I finally decided to set up a business on my own, where I could directly transform raw matters into useful instruments for the life of people. Traditionally, in past centuries, the jobs which a man passionate about chemistry and nature could do, were to produce medicines or colors. I decided to produce colors for artists: I started studying the world of natural pigments and it has become a big passion.

What do you do, and what is your favorite part of your job?
Carlo: As Nila Colori was born a few years ago, I take care of every aspect of the business: research into traditional pigments, preparation of watercolors, website, sales. The favorite part of my job is the preparation of historical pigments.

Do you create art?
Carlo: I just occasionally create art. Maybe every time I take care of producing an old color as it needs to be, that is creating art as well.

Who has taught or influenced you the most?

Carlo: The person who has taught me the most is Luigi Vernacchia. He's a researcher of alchemy and spagyric since tens of years and he's also an excellent teacher. He's really taken me into a different way of approaching and transforming nature and matter into something that should always be a piece of art.



Do you have something special to say about the history of your company?

Carlo: My company is so young that its history is actually its present, but at the same time its history is also the history of the humankind, the roots which give life to us all.

Do you have any advice that you would give a new person coming into the art materials industry?
Carlo: So little is my experience into the world, but the advice I would give is to always remind where anyone is coming from, and always to study to understand it even better.

Where on the planet have you been that you were the most impressed with the visual art?
Carlo: Visual art really impress me in every city of Italy I visited. Maybe Milan, where I lived many years, with its extraordinary houses, buildings and churches, and all the art inside of them, is the place which has always mostly fascinated me.

Is there something else that you think the membership would be interested in knowing about you and/or your company?
Carlo: We believe that the quality of our products is strongly linked with the philosophy and the fact that color-making is taken to be art itself.

Thank you Carlo! 

 



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HELLO FROM THE TOKEN MILLENNIAL
by Savannah Davis, Namta

I am disappointed in myself to report that I have surpassed the phase in social distancing where I am obsessively cleaning. To be transparent, I am not sure that I ever reached that point. I did a little spring cleaning followed by a curb side pick-up for Sherwin Williams “Pure White” paint and felt surely my life would be transformed. My husband felt less convinced, and more bemused as to why it was necessary to change our living room from the light grey the previous owners had selected to white. I love the clean, pure, brightness of white walls and we had nothing but time so I picked up some supplies and was two walls in before he even got home from work. He refuses to be the husband that sits on the couch while his wife tapes the baseboards- so that is how he ended up at 1 A.M. spinning in a circle saying, “maybe it’s the paint fumes but I really can’t tell the difference, Savannah."  I acted utterly shocked by his comment and suggested he wait until tomorrow to look at it with fresh eyes- then he would recognize the “monumental” change. I will not be forwarding this week’s article to my husband because I will not give him the validation…but you guys, it really was hard to tell that we had painted at all!!  Now I am convinced the paint wasn't transformative because we really should be “overgrouting” our stone fireplace to help achieve the aesthetic I am going for and my husband is praying every night that I will get off the “Chris Loves Julia” home renovation blog. I will keep you all posted on how this turns out but I am dangerously close to hitting ‘checkout’ on my online cart filled with mortar, industrial piping bags and concrete dye. The persistent 'Marie Kondo-esque' thoughts in my head, begging me to purge all the unnecessary items I’ve collected over the years versus start another project, are getting a bit tougher to ignore but for now I push them aside and keep scrolling through fireplace before and after images.

I’m reminded of this need-to-cleanse feeling a few days later when I am on the phone with Johanna Wiseman (left) from Akamai Art Supply in Hawaii. She has generously spared me a few moments of her time even though her to-do list is rampant as they prepare to re-open their doors on a modified schedule and capacity limit. She tells me about how this unique time of having their doors closed for so long gave them the opportunity to go through and “make a real mess” of the store. Pulling items off shelves and taking the time to go through inventory, evaluating what they may have even forgotten they carried. Because of this large inventory undertaking, Johanna says they were able to make the best grab bags for their customers- filled with wonderful products at a drastically reduced priced. I look around my newly painted white living room and think of Hawaii- the beauty and color, and I swear in that moment Johanna read my mind and went on to tell me about the amount of support they have gotten from new people moving to the island. With everything shut down, Akamai Art Supply ran curbside pick-ups and in addition to the support from top customers, Johanna said they gained a lot of new customers from people who had recently moved to the area looking for ways to occupy their time. With so much suffering going on, I cling to the visual of new neighbors in Hawaii experimenting with paints and other art materials they got from Johanna and I can’t help but smile.

Later in the day, I chat with Cindy Hoeper (left) from Lakeshore Art Supplies and Framing in Wisconsin, and she echoes the sentiment of providing for their customers in the safest way possible, even offering free local delivery in addition to the no-contact pickup. I instantly draw similarities between Johanna and Cindy- both sounding so stead-fast on the phone, energized by their passion in running their stores, I suppose, or maybe fueled by the craziness of our current world.

Like Akamai and retailers all around the world, Lakeshore Art Supplies had to pivot to keep providing for their customers. After chatting with Cindy, I get follow up information from Erica Block, the marketing director for Lakeshore. She tells me that they asked customers to place their orders by email or social media message, telling me that they don’t have an online store so it required extra effort and some challenges for owner, Cindy, but that it achieved the goal of keeping sales moving. They were able to use social media to promote painting kits, calligraphy sets, books and other products, encouraging people to use their time at home to try something new.

I reflect on my conversations with Johanna and Cindy and Erica and think maybe good energy is contagious. Over the phone and through emails I can tell all three of these women work so hard to keep their art stores thriving and after each interaction I did a fist bump for girl power and entrepreneurs and small businesses everywhere. When the idea was suggested to me to reach out to retailers, I was a little hesitant, thinking the last thing people would want to do is talk to me after they have had their shop doors closed for months and their worlds turned upside down. But boy was I wrong. Would you believe that I didn’t hear a single complaint in all my research and interviews? What I heard was perseverance, the ability to adapt. I heard stories of community and support for small businesses and the ability of art to bring people together when physically we must be apart. I heard the love that poured out as shop owners insisted their number one priority was keeping their customers and employees safe and healthy. I have heard of ordering local take out and purchasing gift cards for later use and promoting neighboring businesses new hours. I hear compassion and my heart swells and my eyes get a little misty as I think about how resilient the human spirit is and how proud I am of the retailers and artists I’ve spoken with and seen online.

I am no expert on Corona virus or the economy, I don’t know if we’re on the tail end of this madness or just getting started, but what I do know is that I believe in people. I believe that we can take a load of lemons and make juice for our neighbors and that the hearts of our communities are good. I also believe my husband is going to leave me soon if I don’t stop pretending to be an expert on home renovations- but I guess only time will tell.

To the retailers who took the time to chat with me over the last 2 weeks- from the bottom of my heart, I thank you. Namta is truly rooting for your success, impressed by your efforts and working every day to help provide you with resources and communication outlets you need to support each other. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out the Namta Connect outlets including The Gallery (an online forum), The Theater (educational zoom sessions starting this Thursday, contact Rick Munisteri for information) and The Café (happy-hour style zoom sessions starting in June).  Hang in there and stay healthy!

- Savannah

If you'd like to send Savannah a message, email [email protected]

 

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THANK YOU JEREMY FRANKLIN


Jeremy Franklin has been a part of Namta's Board of Directors since 2015, serving on the Board as a Director, as President, and twice as Past-President.

Namta's Executive Director, Leah Siffringer, had this to say about Jeremy:
"The Namta staff and I are extremely appreciative to Jeremy for his guidance and leadership while serving on the Namta board. He went above and beyond to assist us during a tough time and we are very grateful.  Thank you Jeremy!"

 


MEET YOUR 2020 / 2021 BOARD OF DIRECTORS


President
Phil King
SLS Arts


President Elect

Steve Chamberlain
colart Americas


Director

Maureen
Labro-Guidetti

Savoir-Faire


Director
Mike Roche

Rileystreet Art Supply


Director
Thomas Cicherski
Asel Art Supply


Director
Doug Mooney

Mooney Sales & Marketing


Director
Darin Rinne

Wet Paint, Inc.
 



Thank you to all of you!
   

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 FOR NAMTA SUPPLIERS



NEW Product Guide Sheet

Namta is bringing back the Namta Supplier Product Guide Sheet for Retailers! We hope to have the first version posted mid-June. If you haven't already filled out the form to be included on the first printing, you can COMPLETE THE PRODUCT GUIDE FORM.


New Product Page

Feature your Newest Product(s) on Namta's New Product Page.  New Products are also listed on the NEW NamtaNow Mobile App. FILL OUT THE NEW PRODUCT FORM HERE and Namta will do the rest.

Both of these opportunities are part of your Namta Membership - no extra cost.



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These Namta Members have New Products on the New Product Page.

  • Toss Products: Paint Plates™ Recycled Paper Palettes
  • Silver Brush: Golden Natural® Blend Short Handle Brushes, and Bristlon® Short Handle Synthetic Brushes
  • Grafix: Dura-Bright Black Film
  • CAS Paints: Reformulated Solvent-Free Fast Dry Alkydpro Paints & Mediums
  • Product Evolutions: Big Squeeze
  • The Artful Maven®: Sketch-EZ®
  • Grex Airbrush MF.TG Micro Spray Gun Set
  • The Airbrush Institute - Airbrushing 101
  • Hahnemühle: The Collection, Toned Watercolor Book, and 1584 by Hahnemühle
  • Legion Paper: Stonehenge Aqua Coldpress Black Heavy and YUPO Medium Round
  • Paint Puck®: The Ultimate Rinse Cup™
  • Schiffer Publishing: Watercolor the Easy Way, and Shine Bright
  • Logan Graphic Products: Cos-Tools
  • GoEasel: GoEasel
  • Savoir-Faire: edding 1200 Metallic Fiber Pens
  • FM Brush: Vegan Camel Hair for Water Colours
  • Ampersand Art Supply: Oversized Gessobord 2" DEEP Cradled 48x72, and Claybord Art Tiles
  • KUM-USA: Memory Point Brush Display
  • DecoArt: Americana Enchanted and Enchanted Shimmer, DecoArt Glass Paint, DecoArt Holographic Illusions, and DecoArt Washable Tempera, and DecoArt Premium Tempera
  • Pebeo: Gedeo Bio Resins, and Fluid Pigment
  • Derwent/ACCO Brands: Derwent Inktense Studio 24 Pan Set, and Graphitint Paint Pan Set
  • Lindy's Stamp Gang: Magical Jar
  • IXIDOR: Smart Blocks®
  • Himal Designs: Lotka Marble Paper
  • Newell Brands: Sharpie Chalk Markers, and Sharpie Chisel Metallic Markers
  • Lineco: Lineco Frame PVA Adhesive
  • Chroma, Inc.: Chroma Molten Metals Metallic Acrylic
  • Smiltainis Ir Ko: Square Layflat Albums Authentic, Brown Watercolor Pads Authentic, and Grey Sketch Pads Authentic
  • FILA Group: Daler-Rowney System3 Heavy Body, and Daler-Rowney System3 Screen Printing Acrylics
  • Uchida of America: DecoColor Premium Metallic Rose Gold Paint Marker
  • Atlas Tape: Channeled Resources:  Colored Artist Tapes
  • Imagination International, Inc.: Karin Brushmarker Pro & DecoBrush Metallic, Chameleon Color & Blending System, and Chameleon Pens for Kidz
  • Star Products: Wounded Warrior Project: "50 Pack POP" Display
  • Sustain & Heal Eco and Fair Trade Paper: Sustain and Heal Marble Paper
  • Marabu: Mara® Disinfect
  • Excel Hobby Blades: Face Shield Kit (FK1)
  • Sanghi Brushwares: 15 Piece Interchangeable Artist Paint Brushes, and 13 Piece Triangular-Grip Children's Artist Brush Set with Easy Grip Handles
  • STAEDTLER-Mars Limited: Watercolor Pencils, and Soft Colored Pencils for Black and White Paper
  • Sakura of America: Gelly Roll Moonlight
  • Zebra Pen Corporation: Zebra Clickart Retractable Marker

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ARE THEY OPEN?

Art Supplies
SUPPLIER List


Updated May 17





And More . . .
 
Art Supplies
RETAILER List

Updated May 18



 
And More . . .

 

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RETAILER AND SUPPLIERS



The two lists you see above are also on the Home Page of Namta.org and are being updated weekly, being posted on Namta's Social Media, eNews and The Palette, and emailed out to artists, teachers and students.

RETAILERS fill out this form to be on the next update.

SUPPLIERS fill out this form to be on the next update.

NOTE: If you are already on a list and want to UPDATE your information, fill out the appropriate form again and we'll replace the old info with the new.
Lists will be updated once a week.


Members - along with keeping an eye on Namta eMails and Namta.org's Home Page, take a look at Managing Business in a Coronavirus World every now and then to see what we've posted.




 

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ART ADVOCACY - ART MATTERS

 
link




Namta Art Advocacy Grant Application & Details

Click here to find the details and requirements for the 2020 Namta Art Advocacy Grant, and to access the Online application.

Important Dates:

  • Your application must be received by July 31, 2020 in order to be considered.
  • Winner Status Notifications will be sent out by October 1, 2020

Members - copy and attach all or any part of this information to your newsletters and other online media so your customers can know.


   Thank you 2020 Art Advocacy Grant Supporters! 




"Public art reflects and reveals our society and adds meaning to our cities. Artists reflect their inner vision to the outside world, and they create a chronicle of our public experience, our evolving culture and our collective memory."

 From Association for Public Art

 

 

Businesses Team up with Artists to Uplift Communities
from The Partnership Movement

The results are in and numbers are bleak. During these difficult times, arts organizations have been suffering: our organizational survey estimates $4.9 billion in financial impact and the individual survey for artists and creatives shows 95% of artists losing income.

But we are heartened by some responses from the business community.

As cities and towns grew eerily empty and storefronts were boarded up, it felt to many like a scene out of a dystopian novel. To see places that were once full of color and life was unnerving. In response, communities and companies have come together with artists to breathe new life into these spaces. These businesses understand the power of the arts to enliven the community, something that is in high demand these days.

Homes Across the Country
Technology company HP launched “Window of Hope,” which offers free artwork for everyone to download and display in their windows. HP partnered with Artist Committee member Shepard Fairey and other prominent artists to design illustrations that celebrate essential workers, inspire hope, and encourage safe practices.

Restaurants in Seattle
Throughout Seattle, artists have been converting boarded up storefronts into canvases. Local artists have partnered with business owners to create uplifting works of art. Muralists Kate Blackstock and Frida Clements were approached by restaurant Tractor to cover up the wooden boards. In an interview with Slate, fellow local artist Antonio Varchetta shared that he when he reached out to restauranteur friend with the idea of painting murals, he was met with enthusiasm. That initial excitement has grown to over a dozen murals around Seattle. He has since served as a matchmaker between local businesses and artists.

Pictured below  - Before: Boarded up storefront of tractor. Photo by Mindie Lin, via Slate - and After: Mural by artists Kate Blackstock and Frida Clements. Photo by Jake Gravbot, via Slate

             

Creating Connections
As reported in the New York Times, art and technology company Beautify launched a national campaign #backtothestreet “to jump-start our return to public life during the pandemic by rebuilding communities through art.” It aims to bring together artists, businesses, and sponsors to create 1,000 murals in 100 cities. Inspired in part by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, Beautify’s campaign was also formed to create paid opportunities for artists, who have been hard-hit. In tandem with Downtown Santa Monica, Beautify has already connected the business improvement district to artists who have painted murals on the boarded up storefronts of Sur La Table, Wasteland, and blank walls.

Public art has been found to provide a positive impact on communities by supporting economic growth and sustainability, attachment and cultural identity, artists as contributors, social cohesion and cultural understanding, and public health and belonging. Check out Americans for the Arts’ report Why Public Art Matters, which outlines talking points and examples of public art.
 

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Business Articles found on the Web, that may be of interest to you.

 

 

 

 

8 Critical Lessons Leaders Need to Emerge from The COVID-19 Crisis
(and One That Will Surprise You)

from Fast Company
by Jason Nazar, Cofounder and CEO of Comparably.

We know that empathy and networking, for example, are important, but it’s how you approach these concepts now that will carry you out of crisis mode.

In a matter of days, shutdowns and physical social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic led to a dramatic shift in consumer values and behavior. It heavily impacted businesses and interrupted our way of life.

Close to two months later, the landscape hasn’t changed much. Employees still worry about the security of their jobs while employers struggle to figure out how to appropriately navigate these unprecedented times. I have lived through something similar as a founder and CEO during the 2001 dot-com burst and the 2008 financial crisis. In both instances, the industry survived and eventually recovered, and I learned some valuable lessons about the resilience of companies during periods of economic downturns. These are the hard-won lessons we can take with us on the other side of this unpredictable period of volatile market conditions and tremendous change.

USE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
Instead of projecting arrogance, fear, or silence during this challenging time, leaders need to overcommunicate and keep employees informed on what they’re doing to support the organization and its people. They should use their skills of empathy and understanding; digging beyond the generic “How are you?” by asking more meaningful questions such as:

  • How are you taking care of yourself?
  • How can we help you feel productive?
  • What will make you feel more engaged?
  • What do you hope we all learn or take away from this experience?

People will be better equipped to handle change and transition better if there is a continuous, authentic, and transparent two-way dialogue.

BET ON THE PEOPLE WHO STEP UP
In times of crisis, you find out who your real leaders are. Pay attention to those who aren’t in managerial roles who demonstrate they are committed and willing to go the extra mile, even if they aren’t asked to step up or it’s not in their job description. Those who are willing to carry extra weight and add value to a company in crisis will be remembered, even if the business can’t return the favor right now.

BUILD ON THE FIVE PS
No matter which industry you’re in, purchasing decisions may be slow during this time, even with a great team in place and a product with some market traction. Use this temporary pause to focus on making the five Ps of any investment (such as your company) better: People, Product, Progress, Passion, and Persistence. Brainstorm, strategize, and prepare for the day when people will have the confidence to make buying decisions again. The market will eventually rebound, and the need for more innovative and better service will drive demand. There will no doubt be dramatic business model innovation as companies and technology catch up to the new consumer psychology.

AUTHENTICALLY CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR COMMUNITY
Remember that we’re in this together. Figure out what your business can do to positively contribute to your community, as long as it’s authentic. Since Comparably is a workplace culture platform with expertise in employer branding and recruiting, we’re providing a host of free tools including employee insights, salary benchmarking, and branding/marketing software. I’m also hosting webinars with top industry leaders, whose businesses range from Zoom Video Communications and Qualtrics to Mattel and Chipotle; they share best practices on how they manage during times of crisis.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO ADAPT, PIVOT, OR RESHAPE YOUR BUSINESS
The best ideas and innovative product solutions often require creativity and listening. Tune in to the needs and wants of customers through online forums and focus groups, or to employees by asking what they would do if they ran the company. This is one of the biggest lessons Mattel president and COO Richard Dickson shared during our recent fireside chat. Under his leadership, Mattel redefined itself by launching the first gender-neutral Barbie as well as diverse dolls with different body types, skin tones, and hair, all intended to more closely reflect the world today. The iconic brand also converted part of its U.S. workforce to produce face shields and masks from Barbie and Fisher-Price material to help front-line healthcare workers in the pandemic. By supporting your community, you unite and strengthen your own company.

FOCUS ON WORKPLACE CULTURE
Now more than ever, people will look to see if company values are more than just lip service. Workplaces with the best culture will always have less trouble recruiting and retaining the best talent. Now’s the time to be even more transparent with current employees. Don’t shy away from how this crisis has changed your company culture, or if your workplace has long needed an overhaul. Find out how to positively impact employees during this crisis and do that thing immediately. Use this as an opportunity to realign your mission, vision, or values with employee happiness and morale.

BE FLEXIBLE AND OPEN TO NEW WAYS OF WORKING
In a recent conversation I had with Zoom Video Communications chief people officer Lynne Oldham, we discussed how the work-life balance was already in transition and how this latest crisis has served to rip off the Band-Aid. Some form of remote work may be here to stay, so it’s important to remain flexible and respect the new time constraints. Colleagues may not always be immediately reachable in the traditional 9-to-5 time frame as they were when they were in the office, due to homeschooling kids or caring for elderly family members. Setting boundaries and providing availability in advance is crucial for all involved.

TAP INTO THE NETWORK OF PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU BEST
Ask your connection of friends, family, colleagues, and clients if they can give warm introductions to potential new business contacts. There are many people willing to support others during this time, more so than when waters were calmer. A great example of this is when Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith shared a story with me about a friend in his network who asked during the last economic crisis if he knew of any open tech positions. Ryan didn’t but instead gave his friend a free Qualtrics license to find a data-analyzing job. The friend successfully secured a job that way, then proceeded to buy a Qualtrics license for every company he worked for over the next few years. The lesson here is if you do what’s right, it may pay off 10x down the line.

When we will emerge from this current crisis is uncertain, but based on my experience one thing remains true. We all rely on leaders to thoughtfully navigate choppy waters with resolve and strength. The long-term implications of the restrictions caused by the pandemic may alter our mindset and fundamental values permanently. Why drive or fly to that business meeting when it worked so well on Zoom? With the unintended benefits of sheltering at home, such as reducing our global carbon footprint, it may be difficult to return to the old ways of doing things. For better or worse, the crisis has forced us to experience a slower-paced, family-focused life at the forefront of our “new normal.” And that’s the hidden lesson for us all as human beings. Some of the new ways might be better after all.

 ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

How Brand Narrative Has Evolved Globally
During COVID-19
and the Way Forward

from B2C - BUSINESS 2 COMMUNITY
by Prerna Katyal, Marketing and Brand Strategist

Past couple of months during this COVID-19 outbreak, the world has seen an unprecedented shift in the way people live, interact and carry on their daily activities. The change has been sudden, leaving many anxious and confused. The situation is made worse by the lack of certainty regarding the time frame or magnitude of this crisis.
Businesses have seen the direct impact of all this with most of the businesses becoming seriously hard-pressed and at the same time a few digital businesses picking up drastically. Given the unpredictability and speed with which the situation is changing, it has become really tricky for the brands to communicate.
How have some of the top brands across the world coped up with this crisis so far to stay relevant yet sensitive to their consumers? And, more importantly, has it worked? What should be the brand narrative going forward? How can they ensure they maintain the top of mind recall without sounding brash?
A deep dive into campaigns executed by many global brands during this time reveals that there have been 3 distinct phases in which the brand narrative evolved during the COVID times. This article captures these phases in detail and also tries to address the question of what approach should brands follow to build long term salience in the mind of the consumer.

Phase 1: The Education Phase
1.1 Hi-fi to Hygiene
On 30th of January this year, when many people in countries apart from China just knew Corona as the name of the beer brand, WHO declared Coronavirus as a global health emergency. Just one day after that, Lifebuoy released the print ad in India with a simple guide that FIGHTS the coronavirus and soon after that it released ‘Six step Hand Washing Dance’ in Vietnam. Though it was one of the first ads released on this topic and very timely, it wasn’t sufficient enough to generate conversations around the deadly virus.

Over the next few weeks, disasters followed:

  • On Feb 4, Amul released a digital ad showcasing evacuated Indians with the copy ‘Wuhan se yahan le aaye’ with a pun on word ‘Wuhan’ (which when translated means – ‘brought them from there to here’). Though it is Amul’s signature style to cover both good and bad events, it wasn’t seen in good taste by many as people believed humour in this context was very insensitive.
  • Then in late Feb, KFC London released an extension of its tagline ‘Finger-licking good’ with multiple shots of people sucking every last nibble of their food, suggesting it was simply not cognizant of what is coming forth. (The ad was soon pulled down, but not before Nandos South Africa had its share of laughter with an ad ‘Turns out finger licking isn’t good’)

But all was not bad. There was some quick thinking by brands. Vietnam, which was one of the first countries to impose localized lockdown, released public information video which soon became a globally viral Tik Tok handwash dance challenge.

By early March, people in other parts of the world also started realizing that something strange is happening around and it can get serious. Cold and flu medicine brand Mucinex released multiple print ads regarding do’s and don’ts and urged people to ‘Spread facts. Not fear’. Of late, Spotify tweaked part of its logo and made it look like a mask conveying a message ‘Wear your essentials’.

In India, Amul released another topical ad focusing on basic hygiene which said ‘Better Saaf than Sorry’ (‘Stay clean than be sorry’). Few other agile brands like Dettol, in partnership with Tik Tok, launched another viral #HandWashChallenge and Zomato with its microscopic text post on social media, were quick to respond and played their role in spreading the hygiene related awareness messages.

1.2 Stay Apart but stay connected
Around mid-March, we were introduced to a completely new concept of ‘Social Distancing’ and we saw many major brands distancing parts of their logo to help spread the message – stay apart but stay connected.

There were brands which used outdoor medium like McDonald’s which separated its gold arches in one of its store in Brazil and Coca Cola which distanced its letters on several billboards in US. Also there were brands which took the message on social media like Audi, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, etc.

Some other brands took a more creative approach –

  • South Australia Tourism commission put up signs across the country to be at least 1.5 meter apart using its iconic animals – kangaroos and koalas.
  • Israel’s chocolate bar brand Keef-Kef (‘Keef’ meaning high-five and ‘Kef’ meaning fun) deleted ‘Keef’ from its brand name.
  • Latin America’s biggest e-commerce giant Mercado Libre changed its logo from handshake to elbow bump.
  • India’s brand Fevicol which stands for the ultimate bond, split the two elephants in its logo, Italian sportswear brand Kappa separated the girl and boy and clothing brand Brothers Brazil separated the fists.

But even though social distancing was popularized, many brands across the world kept releasing their planned campaigns.

1.3 Stay Home. Stay Safe.
As virus spread and world experienced devastating effects of COVID-19 in Italy, that was the time when the sudden realization dawned on most parts of the world that this needs to be taken seriously and it is not going to be normal for a while. The world also witnessed major on-ground events around the world getting cancelled/ postponed and brands could no longer latch on to their pre-planned marketing calendar. Learning from the previous phases, brands had now realized that it is a better to be quiet than say what is not appropriate.

However, there were many brands that were quick again and came forward to motivate people to stay indoors. Even though businesses were badly hit, brands like Nissan Middle East (‘Ode to empty roads’), Jeep with print ad in Australia (‘It’s time to explore the great indoors’) and Peru (‘Off Road, In House’), Uber (‘Thank You for not riding’), Mercedes-Benz (‘Another Mercedes that stands for safety’) and Ikea Spain (‘Stay Home’) continued to spread the message.

Some stand-outs:

  • Burger King added ‘Stay’ and crossed ‘of the whopper’ from its original tagline ‘Home of the whopper’ in one of its store in Belgium. While Burger King France, through a social media post, taught us how to make our own Whopper using store ingredients.
  • Netflix Germany released The Spoiler Billboards which contained spoilers from Netflix Originals to motivate people to stay indoors. Similar concept was adopted by Sky, a pay television platform in Spain.
  • Asian Paints in India brought back its 2007 ad film ‘Har Ghar Chup Chap se Kuch Kehta Hai’ (‘Every Home silently has a story to tell’) and Vodafone brought back the pug and zoozoos.
  • Spotify used words from most famous artists around the world to convey the message of staying at home.
  • Tata Pravesh communicated the message by crowdsourcing images of doors posted by people on social media to converting it into a fast-paced film showing montage of closed doors.
  • WHO Turkey released COVID-19 tales which highlighted dark tales of what could happen to people if they don’t follow instructions.
  • In India, Parle G girl requested people to stay indoors by disappearing from the biscuit cover. Similarly, Starbucks India removed Starbuck’s Siren in one of its digital post saying ‘Don’t worry, your beloved Siren is at home practicing social distancing’.
Phase 2: The Solidarity Phase

By end March 2020, people grew extremely apprehensive as they saw increasing number of COVID-19 cases in their countries and effects of what it can do if it goes out of control. At the same time, many were anxious with the new way of life – people globally had to adopt a new work from home culture, many got laid off and the worst hit were the daily wage earners who suddenly had no source of income and no certainty of their next meal.

During this time, when there was havoc all around, what was required was solidarity. The world had to be brought together to be a part of a movement. What was needed more than ever was inspiration, hope and being grateful and helpful to others.

And what did brands do? They enabled it.

Below are primary themes that brands revolved their narrative around in this phase.

2.1 Together we can fight corona
Was just a few messages around Social Distancing and the need for staying at home, sufficient for making people stay indoors. In parts yes, since it was a scary situation around. But it wasn’t sufficient. People needed assurance and motivation that everyone is in this together and with contribution of each one of us, we will be able to win the war against the deadly virus.

Budweiser told us we are ‘One Team’. Marvel told that we don’t need Spiderman, Iron man, Thor or Captain to save the world. Just stay home. Nike said if you ever dreamed of playing for millions, here is the chance. Just ‘Play inside, play for the world’. Google (‘Where there’s help, there’s hope’) told us that more than ever before, the world searched ‘How to help?’. Bajaj Allianz General Insurance India (‘Care will overcome’) reminded us Mahatma Gandhi’s quote that ‘future depends on what you do today’.

Brands inspired us. They urged us to do whatever we can in light of this pandemic – follow the home quarantine rules if we had too, volunteer if possible, help the elderly, spend time with our kids, contribute to family work, or just do our bit by staying indoors and spreading positivity.

2.2 Hail The Heroes
During the same time, brands also persuaded us to be grateful. While we are safe inside in the comfort of our homes, there are people like doctors, nurses, hospital staff, scientists, security guards, truck drivers, shop keepers, food delivery guys, sanitation workers, journalists, etc. who are working tirelessly to make sure we are safe and have all what is required during these times.

World over, we saw Volkswagen which told us to ‘Respect’ the people working out there for us. Dove thanked these frontline workers and said their ‘courage is beautiful’. Barilla, Italian multinational food company, though #ResilentItaly campaign expressed special gratitude to all those who were contributing to keeping the country running in times of difficulty. SulAmérica, Brazil’s life and health insurance company, thanked the doctors and nurses. Coca Cola launched a beautiful film thanking the human race for filling the glass with kindness and hope.

Among the earliest ad seen in India was Mankind pharma which paid tribute to the medical fraternity. Other brands followed – Tide thanked the ‘Angles in White’, Vivo India released a beautiful film with poem which said heroes do wear capes – white, blue and green. Mahindra and Mahindra acknowledged the ‘warriors on wheels’ and said ‘ye desh abhi ruka nhi hai’ (which means ‘This nation hasn’t stopped yet’). Castrol Activ saluted those who are doing their bit while staying at home with #HangYourKeys and Paisabazaar.com saluted the India’s entrepreneurs.

2.3 Routine in Quarantine
Lockdown brought a complete change in lifestyles for people staying at or working from home. Some found that they had more time in hand while others found themselves hard-pressed on time since work stretched far beyond the office hours. Most of us found that home responsibilities increase suddenly since there was no house help now. It was uneasy for people who loved to hang out and troubled for the athletes or fitness lovers since gyms had closed.

What people needed was routine. And brands narrative steered in this direction.

Facebook mentioned ‘We are not lost, if we can find each other’. Jack Daniel’s whisky brand urged people to ‘Make social distancing, social’ and Ikea Singapore said that it has never been more important to ‘Make home count’. Vodafone Italy in a TVC highlighted ‘even when we can’t be close, we can be Together’. Zoom in its print ad did a logo play like other brands previously and said ‘Shorten the Distance’.

In India, Titan asked citizens to ‘Make every moment’ count by utilizing the time in things that often got missed in our previously fast paced lives, Godrej appliances featured its male employees at senior positions helping out in family work with a tagline ‘Hum sab hai homemakers’ (‘We all are homemakers’), Tata Sky said ‘Ghar Baithe baithe kuch Seekhein’ (‘Learn something while at home’), Future Generali urged Indians to ‘Cover the Distance’ with our loved ones in this time, ID Fresh foods encouraged us to reach out to our elderly neighbours and ask them ‘khana khaya kya?’ (‘Did you eat anything?’).

Sadly, even during this time when most of the world was talking about essential services, there were brands like One Plus which launched highly non-contextual Hypetaskers ad introducing One Plus 8 series. Since country was in lockdown and there was no way to purchase it, brand brought itself some negative reactions.

2.4 Beyond campaigns to action
Brands also showed their solidarity by moving beyond campaigns and directly contributing to the cause. Most of the organization’s PR and media stories revolved around these. Some examples in which brands contributed include:

  • Meeting demand for essential goods

Many companies leveraged their production to manufacture and supply essential products like hand sanitizers, masks, personal protective equipment (PPE)and ventilators.

Emami, L’Oreal, Nivea, Cipla Health, Dabur, Estee Launder made new forays in hand sanitizer segment. ITC and LVMH transformed their perfume plant to a sanitizer manufacturing plant. Alcobev firms like Pernod-Ricard (with brands – Absolut vodka and Jameson Whiskey), Bacardi Limited, AB InBev (brand – Budweiser), Diageo (with brands Smirnoff, Johnie Walker, etc.), Brew Dog, etc. made a quick move from spirits to sanitizers.

At the same time, fashion, sportswear and apparel brands stepped up to answer the call for increased demand for masks and PPEs. Gap, H&M, Zara, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Eddie Baucer, Nike, Uniglo, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Prada, Brooks Brothers, Carhartt, New Balance and many others adapted their production and supply chains to meet the demand-supply gap. 3M doubled its production of N95 respirator masks and Crocs pledged to donate footwear to healthcare professionals.

As hospitals dealt with influx of patients, many medical device and electronic devices manufacturers (Medtronic, Philips, Siemens, GE, Dyson, etc.) and automobile giants (Rolls-Royce, Ford, GM, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Ferrari NV, Nissan Motor, Tesla, Toyota, Fiat Chrysler, Maruti Suzuki, etc.) tried to fill the void through collaborations, increased production or donation of ventilators.

  • Delivering essential goods

In US, major food delivery apps including DoorDash, Postmates, Grubhub, Uber Eats initiated contactless deliveries. Lyft donated tens of thousands of rides to those with essential transportation needs. In India, ITC Foods partnered with Domino’s Pizza and Uber partnered with Big Basket to provide a last-mile delivery option of essential services. Also, Swiggy launched its new service ‘Genie’ in some cities to pick and drop any product from one place to another while Zomato on-boarded local vendors and started delivery of groceries.

  • Free services/ fee-waivers:

Many hospitality brands like The Four Seasons in New York and Tata Group Hotels in India and Claridge’s Hotel in London opened its doors for medical fraternity offering them free stay and meals. Oyo Rooms offered its hotels and Airbnb requested hosts to convert rooms into quarantine centers. Starbucks offered free coffee for healthcare workers. ITC Hotels supported distribution of food across cities in India.

As gyms across the world closed down, many sports and fitness brands made their services free during lockdown to encourage people to workout-from-home. This included Nike Training Club, Decathlon coach, PUMATRAC, ClassPass and MyFitnessPal in New York, Curefit in India, among many others.

Many e-learning platforms like coursera, linkedin, skillshare, upgrad, udemy, etc. made some of their courses free while some Indian online ed-tech firms (like Byju’s, Unacademy, Vedantu, etc.) started live classes to enable learning from home. Loom made its video recording and sharing services free for teachers and students. Audible made a collection of educational kids’ books free to listen and Scribd opened up access to its digital library for 30 days. Many museums in Europe offered free virtual visits. Cambridge Publishing UK offered online reading editions of some of its books while broadway in US offered free online operas.

Many brands like Salesforce and Adobe not only made their largest events virtual but also free to attend regardless of location or budget. Cisco Webex, Google GSuit and Microsoft Teams made their videoconferencing products free to ensure business continuity during crisis.

  • Committing funds for the cause

Apart from this, globally, brands pledged monetary commitments to support research and relief efforts. As on date, the biggest pledges made includes Google and Alphabet ($800 mn), Cisco ($225mn), Gates Foundation ($250mn), Tata Sons and Tata Trust (INR 1,500 cr ~ $198.5 mn), Wells Fargo & Company’s charitable foundation (175mn), Wipro and Azim Premji Foundation ($154 mn), Facebook ($100mn), Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey ($100mn), Amazon’s Jeff Bezos ($100 mn), Bank of America ($100mn), Netflix ($100mn) and many others.

Phase 3: The New Normal
Over past two months, COVID-19 has drastically altered the way we operate. Now it is a known fact that this situation will continue for a while now and this is ‘The New Normal’ – be it social distancing, avoiding mass gatherings, steering clear of handshakes, video conferencing, working from home, online learning, increased usage of digital platforms, etc.

Brands have started incorporating these nuances in the way they communicate. We are seeing prevalence of communication around the following two themes:

3.1 Real-time marketing in these seemingly unreal times
There are few brands which excused themselves when loads of other brands were focusing on situational messages. Two recent campaigns – Surf Excel Ramazan 2020 and Cadbuary Dairy Milk ‘Every Home tells a sweet story’ are the ads made for this new normal world. They are not directly related to COVID-19 but use storytelling to restate their brand purpose. They used real time marketing to remind users of their higher order association with the brand – Surf Excel’s ‘Daag ache hai’ (‘Dirt is good’) and Dairy Milk’s ‘Kuch acha ho jaye, kuch meetha ho jaye’ (‘If something good happens, have some sweet).

3.2 New Times, New challenges
The national-wide and region-wise lockdown in many countries, brought in some good and some bad news from social perspective.

Good news was that nature could breathe again. Dish TV leveraged this in its campaign ‘Desh recharge ho raha hai’ (Nation is getting recharged) giving users extension if they aren’t able to recharge their connection because of some reason.

However, there are multiple issues also that this lockdown brought. Below mentioned are some of the issues and how some brands are helping to spread the message.

  • Fake news is spreading faster than the virus itself: Nigeria Center for Disease Control warned people that fake news can put their friends in danger and hence, ‘Don’t Spread It!’. Miami Ad School, Germany started the ‘Spread The Truth Project’ by which they used fake news to redirect them to actual news. UN released print ads on ‘Disinformation is Contagious’.
  • Domestic violence cases have increased drastically: Anais Association in Romania started #IsolateViolence initiative by twisting the COVID-19 imagery to reflect the increased domestic violence. UN Women released a digital post mentioning Staying Home is not equal to Giving consent. In India, famous personalities were roped in to convey #LockdownOnDomesticViolence.
  • Water is being wasted while washing hands: Tata Steel in India urged people to Save Water through its campaign ‘The Washout’.
  • People are hoarding stuff: Pick n Pay, second largest supermarket chain store in South Africa, created a song encouraging people to shop thoughtfully.
  • Pets are being abandoned: Fresh Pet US encouraged people to take good care of their pets. Senim-Meirim in Kazakhstan rearranged logos of some global brands to signify ‘Keep distance with Humans, not pets’. Misu, pet food company in Venezuela, insisted people to adopt the pets.
  • Small and medium businesses are being shut down: Postmates US urged people to ‘Order local’ so that their businesses are sustained.
  • Kids are getting bored since they couldn’t go out and play: Ikea Israel launched “Stay Home” catalog – family boredom solution. Nature Bakery in US created Snack Sized Adventure with 100+ activities that they can do with kids.


What should be the brand narrative going forward to build long-term salience in the new normal world?
As we have seen in the detailed analysis of brand messaging so far, many brands have been agile and have quickly tweaked their narrative to communicate what was the need of the hour. They played their part to spread the awareness, brought in the positive message and helped us cope up with the difficult times.

However, as seen in examples above, albeit few, the brand narrative has been more or less same across brands. The big question that arises is that are the brands getting lost in sea of sameness? Would the consumers be able to differentiate one ad piece from other or even recall which brand was the campaign for?

To avoid getting lost, how should the brands communicate in the New Normal world so that it is not just meaningful but effective as well?

Below are 5 guiding principles for brands to communicate in the times to come:

  • Don’t go into hibernation mode: COVID-19 outbreak has definitely overthrown all the marketing plans out of window. Many businesses have been hit. But we know that situation will slowly improve and we will be back to our regular activities. If brands don’t want themselves to go down the consumer’s top-of-mind recall and start afresh, they need to keep the engagement going. Let’s learn from the automobile brands, which were among the worst impacted but still encouraged the consumers to follow the rules.
  • Sense Plan Act: For the next few months, restrictions will be pulled on and off, new guidelines will be imposed and market will be dynamic. As has been seen in past few weeks, media consumption habits will also change drastically according to the situation. Brands need to be agile and quick to sense the changing market uncertainties. Also, brands might need to do geography-wise planning since situation in one city might not be same as other. A single creative approach might not work anymore. What is needed is to pre-empt rather than react. Let’s learn from the disaster which happened when KFC London released extension of ‘Finger Licking Good’ without thinking through the implications during these times.
  • Creative ‘creative strategy’: Since social distancing will be there for some time, brands need to innovate in ways in which they can execute the campaign and tell the story. Visuals should be contextual and should incorporate the new normal way of life. From using old footage to shutterstock/getty image, brands have moved to shot-from-home videos. But brands need to be creative in what else can be done. Let’s learn from Tata Pravesh’s campaign which created entire film through internet crowdsourced pictures of locked doors or Netflix ‘The Spoiler Billboard’ campaign which involved creative use of outdoor media.
  • Bring Brand Purpose to life: As seen in many examples above, every brand is communicating on similar lines. Now, more than ever before, brands need to restate and marry their brand purpose with their day to day communication. This is what will differentiate them from their competitors and make them stand-out. But just restating brand purpose through a video won’t do any good. Brands need to make the purpose come alive through its brand assets/properties. Nike’s brand purpose is ‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.’ Nike didn’t just say ‘Play Inside, play for the world’, they made premium programming on Nike Training Club App accessible to users free of charge during this time.
  • Generate solutions, not just campaigns: In the last two months’ brands have been quick to empathize and inspire us in times of crisis. But that will not be enough anymore. It is easy to do campaigns but unless they bring solutions to consumer’s problems in these changed times, they would be lost in a whiff. Zomato in India said ‘Stay Home’ but they didn’t just end there. They started delivery of groceries and will soon launch contactless dining in light of the scenario.
  • In coming times, we will witness forms of creativity like never before. What will matter is how brands stick to their values which are so deeply ingrained in them and live upto their core purpose. If done right, brands will have an opportunity to come alive and gain consumer salience and loyalty like never before.

 

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