Big brands asked to donate social feeds to small businesses

Forsman & Bodenfors and The Media Kitchen launch "#LikeALocal" to put otherwise dormant media to good use.

Forsman & Bodenfors Canada, alongside planning and buying sister agency The Media Kitchen, have created a new initiative to help brands use their influence and social followings that might otherwise be under-utilized during the pandemic to lend support to small businesses.

Small businesses impacted by the crisis are being asked to add the hashtag “#LikeALocal” to one of their Instagram posts to signal that they are willing to participate. Big brands can then search the hashtag on Instagram or by using one of their social listening tools to find a local business they’d like to support, reposting their post and explaining why. From there, the brands are encouraged to get in touch with the small business directly to find out if there are other forms of media they might be able to donate.

In the early days of social distancing becoming the norm, many brands “went dark” out of an abundance of caution, pulling ads that might strike an inappropriate tone during a global crisis, as well as figured out changes to business operations so that consumers could more readily access their goods or services. While some brands recently returned with ads that promote e-commerce offerings, show gratitude or support to frontline workers or demonstrate their brand’s role in the current situation, others have either remained dark or scaled back their in-market presence significantly.

Matt Hassell, CCO at Forsman & Bodenfors Canada, says it makes sense for some brands to stay silent about themselves, but they still have influence that could be used to help stimulate local economies.

“We’ve heard from both sides that they wish there was something extra they can do,” he says. “This isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, but it is one thing to do with an influential brand feed. Just make this part of your regular rotation and your calendar. The idea originally was, when everything gets back to normal, this might be something we could do, but these businesses need help now. So we’re rushing the social side of it out right now.”

Originally planned last month as something to do “once all this is over,” Hassell says the project was accelerated once it became clear that small businesses were in more immediate need of support. On the side of the bigger brands, he adds that participating in “#LikeALocal” and doing something selfless could help them achieve the authenticity they so often strive for.

“Authenticity is part of every brand. It’s the first part in every brief we get,” Hassell says. “This acknowledges the community you come from, serve and want to be in as a brand. This might be a moment for you to be quieter and ease off the hard sell, but there is still something they can do. And I feel like people will remember and acknowledge making that effort, especially when they are doing it without an obvious upside.”

Hassell also says this is a way for brands to be seen doing something that has a tangible benefit during the pandemic. According to a recent survey by Corus, the majority of Canadians who want brands to keep advertising during the pandemic would like them to show exactly what they are doing to help.

“Like A Local” will develop organically, though Hassell says the agencies are happy to help facilitate any connections between businesses, and will be reaching out to brands and influencers to encourage them to take part. The agencies have also set up “Like A Local” social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter, which will be used to amplify posts made using the hashtag.

The struggles that small businesses are facing during the pandemic have become top of mind for many Canadians, and major brands have been making efforts to help. Several major brewers – such as Molson and Stella Artois – have created platforms that encourage customers to buy a gift card to a bar or restaurant that has been closed due to the pandemic and which could use some short-term support in the form of revenue. In Quebec, Lg2 brought more than a dozen of its clients together into a single campaign, with each one encouraging consumers in the province to buy from a different local brand.