“Can you hear me now?”

It’s been 100 days since Boris Johnson declared a lockdown in the UK. We had already packed up the OPX studio by then and were all working remotely.

In the months that have followed we’ve spent a lot of time listening. Often to clients asking for help to dramatically rethink their business, their priorities and their timelines. Sometimes over bad wifi with glitchy video. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve been listening and learning from those rightfully demanding change in response to George Floyd’s death.

Clearly things won’t get back to normal for many months, but is that even what we want anyway? We echo the sentiment in the Durex recent campaign ‘Let’s not get back to normal’.

As some countries begin to open up again, it has set us thinking about what we have learned and what we want to hold on to.

See: Durex campaign — Let’s not get back to normal

We can do new things and we can do them fast
When we shut up the studio and set up remotely, we had no idea how it would work. But the speed with which we were up and running and the continued dedication of a dispersed team has been inspiring.

Countless businesses have been forced to adapt and some have done it so quickly it shows just what’s achievable. Whether it is moving to remote working, reinventing the way you do business, radically changing what your business is, or joining forces to help each other — it shows what we can do when we put our minds to it.

Read: HP and Partners — 3D printing for critical medical supplies
Read: Tharsus — Bump, getting business back to work

We have to be good
Almost every brand has impressive values pledging to do good in the world, but we’ve had vital reminders that it’s action, not words (nor rainbow avatars) that count. Hilton Hotels’ values promise integrity to ‘do the right thing’, and they lived up to it when they partnered with Open Kitchens to provide meals for the vulnerable.

Likewise we have seen the direct action by Unilever and Patagonia (among others) in boycotting Facebook to demand the company curb the flow of hate speech on their platform. Brands have the global power to drive behaviour change in a way no government can, and with that power comes huge responsibility. As an agency, we too have to take responsibility for what we create and the advice we give, to ensure we use our skills for good.

Read: Hilton UK — providing 50,000 meals per month
Read: Lost Stock — Supporting Bangladeshi factory workers
Buy: Windrush posters — Rianne Jones Purpose makes perfect

In the world of branding we have been speaking about the importance of purpose for some time. Consumers increasingly expect brands to align with their values, and deliver not only great experiences but also take action that helps make the world a better place. But what we have seen during the last few months is that brands with a strong core purpose and a genuine commitment to do the right thing have been able to make decisions and act quickly.

Take Microsoft who have offered 12 weeks’ paid parental leave to any full-time employee juggling homeschool with work. They’ve been using their resources directly in the interests of their employees and their customers, which is a welcome move away from prioritising shareholders and profits.

Read: Smart generosity
Read: The purpose shift
Read: Shareholders come last

Working together is better
When crises threaten entire communities, maybe even the entire planet, collaboration becomes even more important. And we’ve seen countless examples in the last 100 days. Individuals and businesses are collaborating in ways they would never have done previously.

Some new partnerships may be a cause for concern — like the teaming up of Google and Apple — but they are no less significant nor unexpected. It is a lesson we should remember: We are better when we work with people from all different disciplines and backgrounds, and we must continue to seek these opportunities out.

See: Jack agency — Design collaboration
See: Vent — artists collaboration
Read: Apple and Google — Contact tracing

Less is always a good thing
Less is always better in design terms, but it is also better for our world. People have been forced to stop doing so many things in recent months — and the planet is feeling the benefit. We’re proving we don’t need to fly so much, pollute with our commute so much, nor buy so much. Of everything. And while it’s taken an existential threat for us to re-evaluate what’s important, it’s still a positive change.

Sustainable food, fashion, packaging and manufacturing are vitally important. We are seeing much needed innovations from global brands and from emerging startups, inspiring us to think carefully about the choices we make as consumers, as agencies, and as businesses.

Read: Coke and Carlsberg — plant based packaging
Listen to: Kestrel Jenkins — Conscious chatter podcast

Who knows where we’ll be in another hundred days, regardless, there will no doubt be plenty more opportunities to listen and learn.

Frances Jackson

PS: Since lockdown began we’ve been supporting a number of charities — starting with The Trussell Trust back in March — and focusing on those who are tackling issues close to our hearts. While we know that public contributions to charities have surged during the pandemic, it’s important we remember that demand for their work has greatly increased too. And sadly, regular donations will inevitably drop as people are forced to re-budget, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to promote the charities we’ve supported here:

Trussell Trust
Positive Futures
Stop Hate UK


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