COVID-19 and the Rise of Kindness

Dan Calladine

Head of Media Futures, dentsu

At a time of widespread anxiety, one positive trend we are seeing coming from the pandemic is the rise of kindness and community from both individuals and companies. Crises can bring out the best in people and, so far, it seems that the biggest crisis of recent years is making people feel more neighbourly and more generous. This trend has even spawned a new word: ‘caremongering’—the generosity-based antidote to a climate of fear.

In large part, the dynamics of the virus force us to be more considerate of others. Normally the old and the vulnerable are largely hidden from our screens and our thoughts. Now they have to take centre stage and the whole country has to adapt to ensure that they stay safe and well.  It’s not about whether I will catch the virus. It’s about whether I may pass it on to someone in a riskier situation.

As a result, we are becoming conspicuously kinder and more community-minded.  People in your street are doing it—corporations and their leaders are doing it too.

Across the world people are organising to help each other, using apps like Nextdoor to connect with people in the same location. They’re creating WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups, detailing advice and resources on shared documents like Google spreadsheets.

I live in South London and it took less than 10 minutes to find groups for my neighbourhood and connect to people. Within a couple of days I was out pushing flyers though letterboxes in my street, letting people know that I could be contacted if they were self-isolating and needed help shopping or even a friendly phone call. It is surprising and heartening how quickly people assembled online, many of them office workers now stuck working from home and willing to donate time and skills.

Companies are mirroring this trend and there are many great examples of kindness and philanthropy. This started off in China, with Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma donating money, resources and expertise to their users and then to international efforts—for example, sending medical equipment to many countries including the United States, Italy and every country in Africa.  More recently,  another Jack (Jack Dorsey) of Twitter and Square announced that he was donating $1bn of his own money (28% of his wealth) into a fund that he would devote to good causes.

Many generous gifts are coming from Google, Facebook, Tesla and more, either as cash or expertise.  For example, Tesla is going to turn over a factory to making ventilators, and Uber has pledged to provide 10m free meals to health workers and vulnerable people.

But it’s probably the smaller, newer companies that are being the most creative with their generosity. In London, restaurants forced to close down are donating food to good causes. For example, Honest Burger is turning the meat and potatoes it would have used for its burgers into cottage pies to deliver to centres that feed the needy. Brewdog, the Scottish brewer, is making sanitiser to donate to the NHS and its joint CEOs have announced that they will not be taking a salary this year.

The learning from this is that in these times more than ever before, brands need to show empathy and stand up for what they believe in. For many this means being kind, open and helping create the changes that their customers want.

Dan Calladine is Head of Media Futures at Carat. For more insights, you can listen to our #OnBrand podcast where we talked about the rise of community and humanity during crisis.