Section 2: How are our instincts to care for others shaping our response to brands?


The care/harm foundation is related to our instincts to care for the young of our tribe or clan. The underlying virtues are kindness and compassion.

In the current environment, ‘caring’ has come to mean taking measures to protect those who are most vulnerable to COVID, either in terms of their health (frontline workers, essential workers, the elderly, those with underlying conditions), or in terms of their finances (those who have lost jobs or had to close businesses).

This presents a serious moral dilemma; do we prioritise caring for people’s health or for their financial wellbeing.


A)   Caring for financial wellbeing: Brands offering practical help to people who have been hit hard by the lockdown financially, by redirecting or donating money/products/services, were recognised and admired for their efforts to help those in need.

In the US:
“Wells Fargo has impressed me with their donations of $174 million to help the food banks. Before that I have had bad feelings about them from all the bad things they had done to customers thru their dealings with them. They are now giving back in our time of need.”
In the UK:
“Aldi actively employed lots of people who had had their income taken away by the pandemic.”
(the company has offered 9000 jobs to help during the crisis, 5000 of which are new temporary jobs and 4000 of which are permanent vacancies)


Conversely, brands that have failed/refused to adapt to the financial challenges being faced by their customers stand accused of not caring for people, and are driving some customers away as a result.

In the US:
“The company that disappoints me is GNV Health and Fitness Center. They are charging people to cancel their contracts because they’re uncomfortable about being around a bunch of people in a sweaty, unclean environment. I think at this time it’s not fair to charge extra fees. I understand that companies need to make money too but at this point in time we need to come together to make this work.”
In the UK:
“EasyJet took the refund option off their website and ‘forced’ you to claim a voucher. I wanted my money back, but the website was very unclear. I find this dishonest.”


B)   Caring for health: In the current environment, ‘caring’ also means taking measures to protect those who are at increased risk from Covid-19 – either because they are more likely to get it (the frontline and essential workers) or because they could get it more seriously (the elderly/those with underlying conditions).

Grocery stores are a case in point here. Those offering designated slots for elderly / healthcare workers have been applauded on both sides of the Atlantic for showing they care:

In the US:
“Lidl – it really impressed me that they not only were hiring extra workers, but providing free healthcare. Definitely shows that they care. I also like that they added in special shopping hours for the most at risk people.”
(While those failing to provide their ‘essential workers’ with adequate protection come under fire as they are being construed as doing harm.)
In the US:
“Publix Supermarkets didn’t want employees to wear masks or take any preventive measures until recently – they didn’t want to scare the customers!”


These examples show that people really are noticing what brands are doing. Opinions and likely behaviours are changing and forming.

Section 3 explores what brands should do about it. Click here to read more.