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Covid-19 Weekly Update from the Experts at GEM. Issue No.4

Covid-19 Weekly Update from the Experts at GEM.  Issue No.4
Published on
20 April 2020

Grenoble Ecole de Management brings to you its fourth Covid-19 issue with opinions from its Experts on the evolutions they foresee in crisis communications, culture, innovations in health, consumer behavior and customer relationships, both during and post the pandemic.

1. Communication: how can we avoid falling into Coronasurfing?

When the key principles of crisis communication meet those of responsible communication.
An unseen, exceptional, complex, surreal, and tragic…crisis. All these adjectives have been used to describe the current situation. So how should we, "communicators", position ourselves in this crisis?
What if, effectively communicating here and now, means combining responsible and crisis communication standards?

Here are 15 ideas on how to communicate "responsibly" in the current context:

  1. Don't stop communicating, be dignified and humble in your messages.
  2. Inform your internal audiences first and explain all decisions taken by the organization regularly, ideally through a single spokesperson.
  3. Communicate usefully, giving simple, precise and meaningful information, ensuring you do not mislead recipients.
  4. Think – more than ever – people receiving your messages may be experiencing difficult personal and professional situations.
  5. Claim and prove you brand commitment through actions, not just with words and always with humility.

Read the rest of the article on the EFMD Global network blog
By Annelaure Oudinot, Brand, Digital and Communications Director at Grenoble Ecole de Management

2. Covid-19: Culture as a means of support!

"Culture is a treasure as it helps people to live better (J. de Romilly). Sometimes it even helps people to survive! Austria in the year 2000. A train transporting skiers caught fire in a tunnel inside a mountain. When its doors finally opened, 150 people rushed to the top. Everyone perished except for 12 people that followed a man's cry to go down to survive as he knew Archimedes law on the fact that smoke rises and it would suffocate them.
The Covid-19 crisis has caused serious dysfunctions. From the beginning, a book should have come to mind: The Plague, by Albert Camus, everything on our present is in this book. For example, 'the scourge is not on a human scale, so we tell ourselves that the scourge is unreal, that it is a bad dream that will pass. However, it does not always pass […] it is the people that pass […] because they have not taken their precautions.' If we had not forgotten this, we would have experienced far fewer tragedies.
When so many students dispense themselves from acquiring knowledge, culture in schools should be reintroduced to train good professionals. In a novel, M. Boulgakov described a doctor preparing for his first surgery. Anxious, he revisited his medical books. The operation was a success and, in a confused way, he felt as if his hands had been driven by his knowledge. The experience repeated itself and, with high insight, he said to himself, 'you must read, read and always read more."
By Yann Roche, Expert in Pedagogy at Grenoble Ecole de Management

3. When governments should support innovations in health!

"Catastrophic events, such as wars or epidemics, have often accelerated the rate of innovation in many sectors including health. In the current case of the Covid-19 pandemic, most countries have found themselves without enough ventilators and other complex machines required to treat critically-ill patients. A number of initiatives are flourishing in this period to fill this gap. For example, re-orientation or ramping up of production, between manufacturers and industries, sometimes unrelated, upon government demand.
There are many challenges in these approaches that remind us of WW1 and WW2 when car and truck firms were converted in tank manufacturers (generally through hefty contracts).  This time around, the scale of the conversion is much bigger and the time available much shorter. Therefore a response may come from quicker and dirtier approaches such as those of teams of scientists and entrepreneurs around the world, which are developing projects, and prototypes of ventilators. They use off-the-shelf components to reduce costs and technologies like 3D manufacturing very useful for fast prototyping and small batches. Some of them are generously sharing their drawings so that people in need can use them immediately and hopefully save lives. This is all very well, but there is a risk limited adoption because of excessive formalities and other vested interests. Governments and health authorities should be fast in adapting their regulations and procurement policies so that medical staff can use the best innovations to treat patients, innovators can see their efforts rewarded, while citizens can monitor the fairness, transparency and effectiveness of the solutions adopted."
Michele Coletti, Expert in Innovation Systems and Sustainable Development at Grenoble Ecole de Management

4. When basic human needs drive consumer behavior

"Consumption patterns are affected by many factors. Recent research highlights how basic human needs can negatively influence our consumption habits.

The current Covid-19 crisis has caused some unusual behavior in terms of consumption. As with most situations that threaten our livelihood, people have a tendency to stock up on basic goods—a fact illustrated by the rapid disappearance of certain basic goods such as toilet paper in many supermarkets! At its heart, stocking up on basic goods can be attributed to our need to feel safe in uncertain times. Recent research highlights the impact of basic human needs on consumption patterns.
'Our research is not directly related to the current crisis. We focus specifically on understanding how basic needs such as hunger or temperature can impact a consumer's choice in terms of buying sustainable goods,' highlights Robert Mai, a professor in the department of marketing at Grenoble Ecole de Management, who is studying consumer behavior and automatic judgments in decision making.

Do your values go out the window when you're hungry?

On the question of how fundamental human needs guide consumer decision making, Robert and his colleagues carried out a very controlled experiment to test the impact of hunger on consumer lay beliefs about sustainable products and the consequences for purchase decisions. Two groups of participants were asked to refrain from eating for 18 hours. The first group was then fed breakfast at the lab, while the second group continued their fast and had it after completing the experiment. Both groups were then asked to perform an exercise to choose 10 products (with sustainable options available for each choice).
'There was a substantial difference between how the two groups behaved: consumers who had breakfast showed a much stronger tendency to purchase sustainable goods than those who were still hungry, 8% in our study. The specific scope of this study means that these percentages cannot necessarily be translated directly to real life. However, they highlight the fact that fundamental human needs have an important impact on our consumption habits and what we purchase (or do not purchase). This speaks to a hierarchy of needs and that sustainability and the environmental impact of consumption become less relevant to consumers in certain situations or environments where the need for survival far outweighs considerations of sustainability,' explains Robert."

Basic needs implicitly impact our choicesread the rest of the article.
Robert Mai, Expert in Consumer Decision Making and Implicit Cognition at Grenoble Ecole de Management

5. Covid-19 and the customer relationship. The great challenge for brands.

"While everything seems to be on hold with the drop in consumption imposed by confinement, brands must continue to nurture relationships with their customers. They could even take advantage of this context by identifying new opportunities or developing new relationships, for example, with artists that propose creative solutions, which can positively impact their image.

Brand management requires a clear strategic definition of its identity. Identity models, such as that of Kapferer (1992); include two dimensions specifically: culture (the values that define a brand's actions) and the relationship (that a brand cultivates with its customers). These dimensions are particularly emphasized in this period of crisis. Many companies are driven by values such as solidarity (manufacturing health related products even if unrelated to their core activity and business). Solidarity is also demonstrated when companies invite artists to share their creations and experiences with customers. Art is a sensory, aesthetic and emotional experience that promotes psychological well-being. In addition to the benefits for the customer, it also reinforces brand attachment, through what is known as the 'art infusion effect'.

Thanks to all types of contacts and exchanges that consumers may have with a brand, through its core products of course, but also through its communications or staff, customers develop their brand image. Through art, brands cannot only improve the relationship with their customers, but they can also provide additional effects favorable to mental health."

Marianela Fornerino and Caroline Cuny, Experts in Marketing at Grenoble Ecole de Management

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