New Normals

How COVID-19 has seen brands embrace the purposeful and practical power of experiences

12 November 2020

By Sara Moore

As the world grapples with the ongoing global pandemic, there has been a widening disparity in who has been financially hit the hardest. Contrary to the “we’re in this together” narrative we’ve been hearing, women of all races, but particularly Black and Latinx women in the USA, have taken the largest brunt of the economic fallout, in what is now being called the “she-cession”.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) monthly jobs report, in September alone 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce in the U.S. compared to 216,000 men. Mothers in the pandemic have reduced their work hours four to five times more than fathers in order to care for their children. Women of color, who are more likely to be sole breadwinners and low-income workers, are suffering tremendously. Black and Latinx women had unemployment rates in September at 11.1% and 11%, according to National Women’s Law Center data. That’s compared to White women having an unemployment rate of 6.9% and White men having a rate of 6.5%.

But brands are taking notice and launching initiatives aimed at putting women back to work. With limited opportunities for consumers to engage with brands, many companies are shifting how they spend their budgets from traditional experiential activations to more purpose-driven and practical experiences such as fellowships, job training and educational programming for students, to help communities get back on their feet.

Many companies are shifting how they spend their budgets from traditional experiential activations to more purpose-driven and practical experiences.

One of the largest initiatives is from Unilever’s United for America campaign, “a movement to unite retail partners and non-profits to help our hardest-hit communities recover.” In the second phase of the campaign, Unilever is investing $5 million in 10 cities in efforts aimed solely at women and student initiatives. Unilever is joining the group Luminary to provide 250 fellowships for impacted women business owners, with 79% of them awarded to women of color, aimed at “Helping diverse women-owned businesses across America impacted by COVID-19 recover, rebuild, and reimagine their future.”

They are also partnering with retailers like HEB in Houston, Dollar General in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Vons in Los Angeles to provide computers and data plans, to help close the education gap for students without adequate resources for learning at home. Unilever and retailers will also support Boys & Girls Clubs and other local organizations in several of the cities to provide in-person education programming, school supplies and other technology resources for students.

It is truly a beacon of hope to see brands stepping up and addressing the struggles felt by so many.

Unilever’s enlisted support from 96 media, marketing, law and transportation companies and organizations including Interpublic, VaynerX, Pinterest, SiriusXM, Meredith, Conde Nast, Edelman, Loeb & Loeb and J.B. Hunt Transport among others to help execute the campaign.

While it’s important to note that the issues being addressed were around long before the pandemic and will remain long after it’s over, it is truly a beacon of hope to see brands stepping up and addressing the struggles felt by so many. We can only hope that initiatives at this scale do not disappear with the emergence of a vaccine and we can continue to take on the challenges that the “she-cession” has brought more into focus and return to our old lives – whatever that may look like – on more equal footing.

New Normals is a content series focused on the rapid evolution of the experience economy in response to the global pandemic. TRO, the brand experience agency, in collaboration with the global network of Omnicom Experiential Group, will share weekly stories and insights from around the world.

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