01.05.2020 Lifehacks

“The COVID-19 Crisis is a Chance to Show Empathy”

The majority of consumers lose trust when a brand puts profit over people in crises. Many established companies have experienced backlash for ignoring the hardships their employees, as well as customers, are currently facing. Nevertheless, challenging and uncertain times create opportunities for agile companies to support the community and connect further with their target audience. How can Startups with small marketing budgets maintain positive brand communication during the pandemic? F10 mentor and communications expert Lukas Ninck is convinced that no Startup is too small to support the community by sharing their knowledge, making solutions accessible to a broader audience or providing distraction from the daily struggles. These measures have an impact on brand image and on future success.

74 percent of consumers think that brands should not exploit the current situation and 78 percent of consumers believe that brands are supposed to help them in everyday life, a survey of more than 35’000 consumers conducted by the data, insights and consulting company Kantar shows. Just eight percent of respondents thought that brands should stop advertising in this uncertain time. The Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 by the global communications firm Edelman found that more than two-thirds of consumer lose trust in a brand if it puts profit over people. The sportswear producer Adidas learned about this the hard way after causing a shitstorm for announcing that they will stop paying rent during the lockdown, openly criticizing social distancing and prioritizing revenue over their employees’ health. Adidas competitor Nike approached the crisis differently communication-wise and supported stay-home and social distancing initiatives early on with campaigns. Among other positive examples for brand communications during the pandemic are IKEA and Mc Donald’s.

65 percent of respondents in the Edelman Trust Barometer said that a brand’s response to the crisis will have a huge impact on the likelihood of purchasing in the future. “Crises are a chance to show empathy and support the community”, F10 mentor and communications expert Lukas Ninck agrees. Lukas is a TV journalist, a long-standing news as well as a sports anchor with eight years of experience as a communications coach. He currently works for the Swiss television SRF and the Swiss communications training agency Marcel Juen. During the session “What Can we Learn from Fake News and #Flattenthecurve for Our Brand Story”, Lukas shared his expertise, know-how and examples for best practice in brand communications with the Startups in the F10 ecosystem.

No matter how small the marketing budget, Startups can always support their communities

According to Lukas, brands can take three positions to gain attention during a worldwide crisis: moral leader, helper or entertainer. The moral leader offers guidance, informs and stands for values; the helper offers advice, donates, educates, invents and produces, whereas the entertainer offers distraction, spreads positivity and entertains. The corona crisis is the perfect moment for Startups to test their messaging and find the role that suits their culture. Good prospecting and personalized messaging are crucial, as the attention span of the target audience is limited. Take the challenges and hardships your potential customers are currently facing into consideration. Regardless of the size of their marketing budgets and their reach, Startups can always take the role of the helper. “No Startup is too small to offer help”, Lukas says.

What can entrepreneurs do to help the community? The Swiss MedTech Startup Ava Women offers health industry players and research partners the Ava bracelet for detection and monitoring of COVID-19 at a discounted price. The Ava solution tracks temperature, breathing rate and heart rate simultaneously and has the potential to facilitate further research on the virus. The RetailTech Startup AI Retailer System provides a checkout-free solution for retailers wanting to operate autonomous stores. Their AI-based video analysis identifies in real time who is shopping, what products are picked up and invoice them to the right customer. This enables supermarkets to protect both shoppers and employees. F10 Startups are also leveraging the technology of their solutions to help members of their network or target audience, tackling the consequences of lockdown and social distancing. PXL Vision – a FinTech Startup that had participated in our P2 “Prototype to Product” program – offers free Identity Verification to small businesses affected by COVID-19 so that they can continue business as usual. Moving the full sales and onboarding process online will help the companies prevent losses. The cybersecurity Startup Futurae supports all Startups and SME with a three-month free usage of the authentication suite to secure their platform accesses. Futurae was in the first batch of our P2 “Prototype to Product” program.

What we can learn about storytelling from fake news

The examples above show that it is decisive to centre your approach around the needs and struggles of your customers and potential customers. What does your target audience need right now? “As the worst phases of the crisis pass, distraction and spreading positivity are becoming more important than in the first weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic”, Lukas states. After the initial shock, people have come to grips with the current situation and are now looking for positive news distracting them from their fears, problems and uncertainty. To take the role of the entertainer without big marketing budgets, Startups should focus on storytelling. Test your messaging to find out what appeals to your target audience and increases your reach. Analysing fake news allows us to draw conclusions for storytelling.

Since the new coronavirus was discovered, countless articles spreading fake news have been published, the topics ranging from dolphins swimming in the canals of Venice as the city stopped being flocked by thousands of tourists every day after the outbreak of the pandemic to black people being immune to COVID-19 or drinking alcohol as effective means to fight the virus. “When it comes to storytelling, we can learn from these fake news”, Lukas explains. “The storytelling is simple, appeals to the emotions of the target audience and is surprising. Brands should also aim to create content that sticks by including unexpected and emotional elements. In contrast to fake news, brand communications must be credible and concrete while still including surprising twists.” Now is the time to experiment with storytelling, visual elements or new platforms and find out what works for your Startup. Which social posts, newsletter elements or press releases attract the most attention? Is the content valuable to your community? How can you reach people outside of your network? Continuous adjustment of your storytelling is not just recommended during a pandemic, it contributes to keep the messaging tailored to the changing needs of your target audience.


Are you an entrepreneur wondering how your Startup can improve brand communications? F10 mentor and communications expert Lukas Ninck is happy to help the F10 community. Find free resources on his website or contact him via email for more tips on brand communications during the COVID-19 crisis.

Even while maintaining social distancing rules, F10 as THE HOME OF FINTECH brings the financial technology community together to boost innovation in finance. Before the virtual mentoring session, F10 Event & Community Manager Viola Zoller had asked the Startups in our ecosystem about pain points and interests to support the entrepreneurs as much as possible in this uncertain time.

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Alessandro Valente

May 01, 2020

100% FULL MATCH with the real vibe and feeling of our actual and new customers. A contribution which I believe to be a real treat and a gem for bringing actual and new businesses in the right direction. Thanks for making and sharing it with me.