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Can clever brand strategy help nudge us out of a pandemic?

What role could brand strategy specialists play as we all emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Across the nation, Australians are bracing themselves for a return to normality in the post-pandemic world. But for some there is still a major roadblock that could prevent them from enjoying this freedom: vaccine hesitancy.

I recently participated in a live webinar with Richard H. Thaler, behavioural economist and the author of the Nudge Theory series of books, in which he was asked how we could better ‘nudge’ people towards vaccinations. Thaler explained that people who tend to be vaccine hesitant often had little exposure to data and may have trouble understanding it.

Their behaviour is fuelled by emotion, rather than rational reasoning. Add to this the influence of confirmation bias, which is amplified as people are now less exposed to positive herd behaviours during a lockdown and more reliant on their small social media bubbles where an algorithm continues to feed them content that reinforces their beliefs.

From the start of the pandemic and especially with the vaccine rollout, the government has relied heavily on a rational approach in its communications. While rationale is necessary to present the facts, emotion always prevails – especially among data-shy groups that still need convincing as to why they should get the jab.

This got me thinking about the role trusted brands could play in nudging Australia’s vaccine rollout in the right direction. Aside from demystifying the data and promoting easy-to-consume facts, brands can also wield their influence by emotionally incentivising people.

Where brand strategy plays a role in the collective good

Qantas is a prime example of a brand using its trusted reputation to communicate the importance of this issue. The airline, which frequents Roy Morgan’s annual list of Australia’s most trusted brands, has tapped into human emotion with its recently launched ad campaign, Fly Away. The advertisement focuses on incentives and reward, serving as a reminder to Australians that getting vaccinated is their ticket to travel again and see their loved ones.

Qantas has created a great emotive piece that links the benefit of being vaccinated to a real human truth. If we had more little nudges like that from trusted brands that demonstrate the positive outcomes of us making the right decisions for the collective good, it might help to get those people that are sitting on the fence to either act a little bit faster or be pushed into that herd mentality.

The return of international travel is an attractive reward for many Australians – and one that aligns with Qantas’ brand purpose. It is authentic to what the brand stands for.

Not all brands can offer the same, and nor should they. Brands, supported by their branding agency, need to look at initiatives that align with their own brand purpose. If not through communicating the benefits of the vaccine or rewarding customers, then through more functional means.

This includes Bunnings and potentially Officeworks offering up their car parks and warehouse spaces as vaccination hubs. Or it could include Uber using its delivery services to help get vaccines out into remote communities.

The brands and branding consultants who get it right will not only nudge the vaccine rollout in the right direction, but also have the opportunity to forge positive and trusted relationships with customers in a post-pandemic world.

Here at Brand Council we help organisations develop brand strategy with powerful and engaging purpose, as we have done over many years for Goodman Group. If you’re looking for the right brand identity agency with the expertise to help put your purpose into practice, contact the team today.