As I write this, there’s a theory bouncing around social media that alongside the usual symptoms of Covid-19 – those being, of course, a high fever, a dry cough and an extraordinary loss of income – the novel coronavirus which is currently causing more damage to the world than even Donald Trump could dream of also distorts the sufferer’s sense of smell.
I have no idea whether that’s true but I do believe the virus is messing with us in other ways – it’s bending our sense of time and distorting our ability to communicate.
Think about it. Just how long have you been working from home? When did you sit down at the dining table? Have you changed your socks this week? It all feels a bit… wrong, doesn’t it?
The thought occurred to me when I considered how many days had passed since the UK government started using (and then rapidly abandoned) the phrase ‘herd immunity’.
Remember that? Boris hunched over a Downing Street podium, adopting his best serious face whilst gravely instructing us that a great many of our loved ones were now in the firing line of government policy and were therefore about to die. At the time, it felt like a fairly natural expansion of his Brexit policy. On the bright side it would at least mean more turnips to go round once the pound finally collapses.
But no, this was serious Boris. Scientifically-advised Boris. Churchillian Boris. At least, it was until the next day, when media pointed out the risks of trying to achieve herd immunity without a vaccine in place, at which point most of the British cabinet called up the BBC to deny ever having used the phrase, heard of the phrase, heard of the Prime Minister or indeed the English language.
Now that feels like ages ago, but actually it’s only been about a week and a half. Since then, the whole world has changed. Possibly forever.
Some things, however, do not change. Just as Boris and his pals probably didn’t mean to stoke up a global media backlash, neither do the many, many companies who have spent the last fortnight emailing their databases with earnest assurances mean to irritate the crap out of the rest of us.
Yet irritate they do! I have no idea how many emails I’ve received from mystery brands that have been lurking in the deepest recesses of my digital footprint, but I’m fairly certain that despite their protestations, they are neither here for me in this worrying time nor putting my welfare at the top of their list of priorities. If I’m wrong about that, then these people are clearly idiots.
All of which brings me to my point. Of course brands should reassure their customers. After all, none of us can smell anymore, we don’t even know how long our socks have been doing that weird crispy thing and the wine is about to run out. Thank god Tesco is still in business.
But just trotting out the same old bullshit won’t do the trick.
If you do send that email or post that social update, make it original. Share how you and your team are getting through this. Show your customers that we’re all in this together, that you’re also working from your kitchen in last Wednesday’s underwear and downing three bottles of red before 2pm. Or maybe not that last part.
Just, whatever you do, don’t follow the herd.