Recently I was watching a Gary Vaynerchuck video where someone called in and asked him about branding and making money during the current COVID-19 situation. 

Gary Vee’s comments were that it’s a terrible time to be in sales, but it’s a great time to be in branding. (Then he encouraged everyone to sell their unused stuff on eBay or Facebook Marketplace or whatever, so we can pay the bills until things get moving again in a few months.)

In other words, it comes across as tone-deaf to try to sell a bunch of stuff or offer people a free week of your service. But this is an excellent time to create content that positions your brand as desirable so that when all this is over, your customers come rushing to you.

“You’re not asking for the sale, you’re creating demand.”

I’m seeing a lot of brands sharing what they are trying to do to help the community right now, rather than close the sale.

There’s a footwear company I really love called Thursday Boots. Last week they posted that they were working with one of their factory partners in Mexico to make medical-grade masks. The masks aren’t even for sale. 

I think pretty much all distilleries in Tennessee have pivoted to making hand sanitizer. Corsair Distillery announced their hand sanitizer on social media, then made it exclusive to hospitals.

Some friends of mine at The Grey Umbrella have started making non-medical-grade masks at cost. Their supplier is donating all profits this month to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of John Krasinski’s Some Good News show on YouTube, where he shares heartwarming news stories with humor. He makes somebody’s day by connecting them with the cast of Hamilton or someone like that. Krasinski is probably between projects right now, and with suddenly homeschooling like the rest of us, he’s figured out a way to stay creative. What does this do for his brand? Well, we know he is a real human being like the rest of us and is trying to look for the best and do it with humor.

I’m not saying any of these people are doing this for attention. They could be, but I doubt it. I think these are all people who see a need and are trying to fill that need in a creative way using the tools at their disposal. And in doing so, they’re building their reputation. That’s really all a brand is — reputation. Are they making money from it? I think the distilleries are making a little bit, but it’s more of a headache than not. They’d rather be doing their normal job of making whiskey.

I think when this is all over, we will ask ourselves what we did with our time.

Did we sit on the couch and binge-watch the latest show? Or did we do what we could with the tools at our disposal? Our greatest reputation will be the one we have with ourselves.

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