Less Selling, More Selfless

Meg Strange
Senior Account Executive

Less Selling, More Selfless

Brands have always been held to a high standard when it comes to managing and preserving their identity, reputation, and connections with consumers during times of crisis. During times of national or global crisis, a brand’s response matters, even if their industry Is not directly related to the crisis. With that in mind, brands are under scrutiny to nail their response, with consumers and stakeholders responding well to transparency and authenticity.

What they don’t respond well to (to say the least)? Tone-deaf sales pitches. When an opportunistic brand attempts to leverage a crisis to grab attention or boost sales, most people have a very adverse reaction to this type of cheap marketing ploys. Ultimately, this can harm your reputation and relationship with consumers.  

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting everyone. This puts brands in a unique position as they all have a role to play and a place for response. In fact, the 4A’s recently reported that 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from their brands during times like these, and 56% want to know how brands are helping people in response to the pandemic. This powerful new video from Google points out that “how to help” is being searched at an all-time high rate globally, especially as it relates to the medical and healthcare communities.

Since many consumers are closely scrutinizing brands communications efforts right now, a thoughtful and carefully crafted response to this crisis is critical to maintaining a positive reputation. Ultimately, we think it comes down to empathy—during times of uncertainty, brands should strive to understand the challenges people across the world are facing and find the ways to connect with them in a way that communicates genuine care and concern.

What’s been incredible and encouraging is how brand marketing has responded. And in turn, made some pretty significant adjustments to crisis management and communications. Whether a brand has an in-demand product or not, the smartest marketing is empathetic. In many cases, sales-oriented calls to action have been removed almost entirely. In their place, brands are using messages of positivity, safety, support, and togetherness in the face of COVID-19. 

We are seeing great examples of this from large and small brands alike:

It’s an unprecedented and challenging time for all of us, but we truly believe that the brands that understand and embrace the power of empathy in times of crisis will be able to not only persevere, but also grow stronger bonds with both consumers and communities.

Lifting Up Our Community

Randy Micheletti
VP, Director of Brand Strategy

Lifting Up Our Community

Make it Mean Something is our guiding principle here at Geile/Leon. And not just in the work we produce, but rather in all facets of our lives, including how we communicate with others, how we help improve our communities, and how to make the world a better place both individually and as a brand. When the stars align and we work with a client that also understands the importance of making it mean something and giving back to our neighbors and the city we love, we relish the opportunity to fully pursue our mission. And we couldn’t have asked for a better match than our client and our partner, Club Fitness.

Let me try and paint the picture. Club Fitness is a locally and employee owned company that has 20+ locations and over 130,000 members. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, they temporarily closed all 20+ locations throughout the St. Louis Metro area. And you don’t need a calculator to realize that means zero income. With that in mind, they’ve had to reduce their staff, rethink their operations and maintain consistent and timely communications with all of their members.

When these types of setbacks happen in St. Louis, we don’t run from them. We stand together, lend a hand and do what we can and ensure that we’re doing what’s right for our communities and neighbors. That’s exactly what Club Fitness is doing. They’ve chosen to continue to #LiftLocal, be empathetic and support our communities by partnering with the Red Cross by opening up five of their clubs for local blood drives. 

If you’d like to #LiftLocal and help your community, click here and enter the sponsor code provided below to make an appointment, or just call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

Date | Location | Sponsor Code
April 21 | East Alton | ClubFitnessEastAlton
April 22 | Maplewood | ClubFitnessMaplewood
April 23rd | O’Fallon, Illinois | ClubFitnessOfallonIllinois
April 28 | St. Peters | ClubFitnessStPeters
April 29th | St. Charles | ClubFitnessStCharles

It would have been easy for Club Fitness to focus on their own problems without considering the greater good of the local community that has supported them for over 35 years. But at their core, that’s not who they are and that’s not what they believe. They are determined to pay back the support that the community has shown them for over three decades, no matter what. This is just another example of them being there for every BODY!  Thanks to Club Fitness for realizing that when we support each other, we are all stronger.

For the rest of us, let’s give them our support. Please help save a life and give the gift of blood.

In a Time of Crisis, Turn to Maslow for Marketing Advice

Melissa Ross
Digital Content Producer

In a Time of Crisis, Turn to Maslow for Marketing Advice

My time during these past few weeks has been occupied much in the same way yours and many others’ has. I spend my time at home worrying. The irony is that we are all isolated while feeling the same sense of worry.  

Is there going to be toilet paper when I brave the grocery store? Is my loved one going to get sick? Heck… am I going to get sick? And I know I’m not alone. 

The word “survival-mode” may be overused (did anyone from Survivor actually risk not making it off the island safely?!), but psychologically, this is where most of the world is at, asking themselves daily, “Are my basic needs going to be met?”

That places me (and millions others around the world) at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The Cliff Notes version is that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a psychology model that presents itself as a pyramid, with the idea that needs lower down in the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals become concerned about fulfilling the needs at the next level up the pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

image courtesy of Simply Psychology
image courtesy of Simply Psychology

According to the Wall Street Journal, within the last week of March, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment. Like I said, millions are at the bottom of this hierarchy. Brands know this, too. Those brands that have been created to serve the top of the hierarchy? Most aren’t relevant right now. But that doesn’t mean they’re out of the game – there’s a way that those brands that are normally serving the top needs can connect with people at the bottom. 

Brands like DoorDash are not only helping those end users get food, but also aiding those locally-owned restaurants by waiving delivery fees and pick-up order commissions. They are also supporting their contracted delivery people, known as Dashers, by moving deliveries to no-contact, and providing them with free hand sanitizer. And for those Dashers that find themselves sick? They’re receiving financial assistance  from DoorDash. 

Another shift in DoorDash’s services that we’re seeing: they’ve partnered with convenience stores nationwide so that they’re not only able to provide their customers with food, but also household essentials.

Locally, a St. Louis brand is really changing up their business model to help those in need. Arch Apparel, who defines themselves as “A St. Louis-inspired streetwear brand,” announced on Instagram that they will be creating and selling masks to help in this pandemic. They’re donating a portion of the proceeds to a local group providing meals to St. Louis health care workers. Additionally, all of these meals will be sourced from local restaurants. A great example of St. Louisans helping St. Louisans.


And to keep the examples coming from our home base here in St. Louis, Anheuser-Busch announced that it will start producing hand sanitizer. The company said they would consult with the American Red Cross and other nonprofit partners to figure out the best places to send the newly bottled sanitizer, using its extensive supply and logistics network to get the sanitizer into production and into the hands of those who need it. This is just the latest effort in the brand’s long list of supporting communities during times of crisis.

And in a way, that’s the great thing about the economy. At its core, it’s designed to meet people at their position within the hierarchy and fulfill their needs. There are probably hundreds of examples of brands shifting to reach people at the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs during these difficult times, and that list probably grows by the day. 

It’s important to listen to your customers, discover what they need and strive to demonstrate how the brand can fulfill their needs. But never in our lifetimes have these needs been greater, so it is inspirational to see the empathetic response from so many brands. We believe that is how we will succeed, by working together and focusing on maximizing your Return on Empathy.

When What You Say Matters Most, Choose Your Words Carefully

Shawn Maher

When What You Say Matters Most, Choose Your Words Carefully

During this worldwide health crisis, brands should be communicating frequently with their customers and stakeholders. And even more importantly, listening carefully. Maximizing your Return on Empathy is crucial right now, and communication is a large part of that. 

However, when it comes to crisis communications, nobody’s getting an A for effort. It’s NOT the thought that counts. People will hang on your every word and find deeper meaning in any ambiguity or thoughtless turn of phrase. It’s imperative that leaders and marketers take great care in choosing the right words. 

In times like these, your words will be remembered forever. Your words can engender loyalty and inspire people to come together to lift up each other. However, the wrong words can create a sour taste that, no matter what you do, may never go away. So when you choose your words, remember these three points. 

Do not place blame or make excuses. Put the onus for progress on yourself. 

This is the time for strong, clear directives. Provide an unwavering vision for how you plan to move forward. A plan with caveats, escape hatches and ambiguity is unlikely to be taken seriously at best…and destined for catastrophic failure at worst. 

Ensure that your customers, employees and stakeholders know that you have accounted for them and you have a plan in place moving forward. It’s not always going to be a happy message or a best-case scenario. But your upfront honesty and empathy will prove to be the best long-term strategy. 

Do not tell people what to do. Inspire them to do it.

There’s a reason why we’ve all heard the saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Effective leaders do not provide commandments and speak from an authoritarian position. They provide the inspiration to achieve. They speak to their audience respectfully, giving them the facts and the framework for a plan. 

An empathetic leader motivates, appeals to passion and lets others share in the credit for successfully executing a plan. They provide the map and empower you to reach new heights. Instead of giving you fish, they teach you to fish. Dig deep into your empathy and understanding. You will find that it is the glue that unites us all. 

Do not mislead or misdirect. Speak and act in a forthright manner.

This seems obvious, of course. However, sometimes leaders in a time of crisis can lean towards ambiguous communications. And the thing is, it doesn’t come from a malicious place. When our situation is constantly changing and our understanding of the health crisis is constantly evolving, it’s natural to not have all the answers. Plans may have to change. And sometimes leaders don’t have all the answers.

However, an empathetic leader can communicate these things. Your audience will be grateful to know that you are still actively seeking new information and solutions. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Nobody expects that. 

Constant communication, empathetic listening and ensuring that everyone remains abreast of the latest developments may not bring certainty, but it will certainly engender trust. During a crisis, leaders who contradict themselves or speak with bravado only to be proven wrong will breed uncertainty and create mistrust. And once you lose the trust of your customers and your organization, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to regain. 

Now is the time for strong leaders, but also leaders who are thoughtful. Your marketing, PR and communication efforts must reflect that. There’s no cure-all here, but true leaders rise to the occasion. You undoubtedly have a vision. We can help you communicate it. Get in touch and we can discuss how you can benefit from approaching your communications with one important metric –  Return on Empathy. It can lead to increased customer and employee loyalty which is invaluable to a brand.