Emma Parsons, head of content at M&C Saatchi Group AUNZ explores how Sydney's lockdown has given her cause to think about the way brands tap into connections
Right now, my city, Sydney, is struggling through the most challenging lockdown we’ve had since the pandemic began. It’s given me pause to reflect on what matters most during times of isolation.
I specialise in social content and the proverbial drum I beat is how we need to add value. Earlier this month, Lifeline (a national charity that provides crisis support) recorded its highest number of calls in a day. Ever. This worrying spike, combined with client’s actioning fresh Covid campaigns, got me thinking - how can brands add genuine value by tapping into what we all need most: connection?
Recently I devoured renowned trauma expert Dr Bruce Perry’s book, “What Happened To You”. In it he discusses the impact of adverse experiences, featuring various avenues towards healing; what stood out for me was the power of connection, not just on an individual but collective level. Yet community, Dr Perry highlights, is undervalued and underprescribed by modern medicine; drugs and therapy are today’s go-to for recovery.
Have we, as a society, lost the ability to self-soothe? As a reminder, we only need turn to Indigenous people who almost exclusively rely upon the power of community, unleashed through rhythm, storytelling and communion with nature. Such factors also feature in the enduring appeal of religion. “Belonging” in the face of adversity is how previous generations reconciled their trauma, yet here we are facing a “loneliness epidemic”. Short memories make for sure health crises.
Social media, for all its faults, plays a crucial role in connectivity, particularly for the younger cohort. The popularity of online self-care communities such as @TheArtidote
, subcultures on TikTok and Reddit and new apps that foster authentic connections (Hello, IRL, Popparazi), speaks to the innate need for connection to grapple with what’s happened to us. So, if tech developers can do it, how can brands also play a role in healing?
Connect your existing advocates. Foster your community, providing a platform for them to connect over their mutual interests whilst nurturing and rewarding loyalty. Can you be a go-to information source for people to share and discuss? Throw exclusive events? Set challenges? Host discussions? Gymshark
, a fitness apparel brand, nails it.
Think about your local community - how can your brand act as a responsible, caring member? Offer a physical or online space for them to connect? Support local initiatives, host fundraisers? Bunnings, Australia’s biggest DIY store
, hosts DIY workshops, sausage sizzle fundraisers and support grassroots community projects with their products, knowledge and resource.
Consider how you might support not-for-profit or community groups that focus on healing through connection. Our client, Commonwealth Bank
, have supported thousands of community programs, such as 107 Projects, a community space designed to bring together artists, locals and anyone interested in connecting over creativity.
Research existing communities or demographics relevant to your brand and consider ways you can facilitate their connection. Jansport’s #LIghtentheload
was created to drive open conversations amongst gen z’s and their mental health, during the pandemic.
5. Finally, look within - how do you transform your workforce into a supportive, connected community? My strategy team group chat supports each other with positive news, inspiring each other with what we’re cooking, and so forth. As someone who lives alone, my work chat is a constant connection to the outside world. M&C Saatchi Group is active too, with Lucky Mondays, Fun Fridays and regular updates keeping us all connected, feeling valued and, ultimately, on the path to healing.