Deliver on your brand purpose when communities need you the most

It's safe to say that our beautiful city of New York is still recovering from what has been characterized as one of the worst storms of the century.

It's safe to say that our beautiful city of New York is still recovering from what has been characterized as one of the worst storms of the century.

New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction. At its peak, Hurricane Sandy stretched across 1,000 miles, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million, and caused the cancellation of nearly 20,000 flights. Damage has been estimated at $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in US history, just behind Hurricane Katrina.

When I read these devastating numbers, I reflect on words from my grandmother, who once told me that “in the midst of life's storms, if you look hard, you can always find purpose.”

In the midst of this disaster, some companies were able to deliver on their brand purpose to communities at a time when they needed it the most.

Duracell sends power trucks
Duracell, the “trusted everywhere” battery, delivered power to thousands during Hurricane Sandy. How? Duracell's Power Forward Community Center and its Rapid Responder trucks were neatly outfitted with charging stations for mobile phones and devices, as well as computers with Internet access, allowing storm victims access to their email and social media accounts.

AT&T sets up mobile hotspots in NYC
To help alleviate the crippled communications systems left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, AT&T provided special hotspot trucks to New York. Hooked up to the satellite grid, these self-contained trucks provided both Wi-Fi and cellular service in a radius around them, and also offered charging stations that passersby could use to power up their mobile devices.

Food trucks offer free lunch
In five locations throughout New York City, 12 NYC Food Truck Association members — in a partnership with JetBlue Airlines — gave out hot meals from 12 pm to 4 pm to people without power.

What can we learn from these brands?

Connection is real-time
Stay connected to your customers and their communities. Be ready and flexible and able to act quickly in an emergency.

Authentic support
In these times, it's truly about the “serving” and not the “selling.” The true ROI comes from authentically serving and not opportunistically selling.

Selecting credible partners
It's also vital that charitable partners you work with in times of crisis are vetted carefully.

Celebrities gone good are valued assets
Your greatest asset can be a celebrity with a giving heart. Look to partner with celebrities who may also want to contribute in time of crisis. For example, many celebrities jumped in to lend a helping hand during Hurricane Sandy including Carmelo Anthony, Timberland, Justin Timberlake, and Jessica Biel.

In my previous blog, I mentioned the importance of brands engaging multicultural audiences through purposeful engagement. After all, more than 85% of multicultural consumers expect brands to make a sincere effort to be a part of their communities.

Being a part of the community includes understanding its needs even in the time of disaster — this may just be the time your customer needs you the most. Many of the areas hit by Sandy within the New York-New Jersey area are made up of diverse communities. So this was indeed a touch-point for your brand to lend a helping hand to multicultural audiences.

Although not an ideal situation, some brands dramatically delivered on brand purpose during Hurricane Sandy — in way that I'm sure will leave lasting impressions for those at the receiving end of their services.

Teneshia Warner is founder of Egami Consulting Group, the strategic diversity partners for MSLGroup, and author of Profit with Purpose: A Marketer's Guide to Delivering Purpose Driven Campaigns to Multicultural Audiences.

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