Communication in Times of Crisis.. 5 Egyptian Brands that Did it Right

August 11, 2020

There are a million strategy books out there on emergency communication and preparing for unforeseen circumstances. But when it hits, few companies manage to weather the storm. 

Sponsored by Mountain View, this year’s Creative Industry Summit was packed full with creatives, marketers, and business ladders, who offered invaluable insights and shared real-world success stories. 

If you have missed the event, do not fret. Among the dozens of stories shared on the virtual stage, here are 5 success stories of Egyptian brands that showed true ingenuity during unprecedented circumstances. Grab a coffee and a notebook, read carefully, and start brainstorming. 

Lifebuoy.. Don’t Make a Campaign, Make a Movement

If your quarantine boredom made you download TikTok, you must have come across the Lifebuoy challenge, where people dance and lip-sync to their jingle. As demand on disinfectants skyrocketed, Lifebuoy ramped up their production, adding new variations of soap and hand sanitizers to their portfolio, and pushing their products to the markets as soon as possible. What made Lifebuoy standout, however, was their campaign that took the internet by storm. With 300 million views and more than 7000 user-generated videos, the jingle could be easily dubbed the “Pandemic Anthem.” It was light, funny, and -above all- very useful. In 20 seconds it gave clear step-by-step instructions on how people wash their hands in accordance with the WHO instructions to avoid possible infections. 

“Unilever is built on a fundamental belief that companies with a purpose last. Brands with purpose grow. People with purpose thrive,” says Marco Tadros, brand manager of Lifebuoy, a Unilever subsidiary. Tadros says that the message of Lifebuoy is to help parents ensure that their kids fall ill less. Having the message as the guiding force for all of their communications, they thought of the importance of handwashing as the first line of defense against Covid-19. Creating a message that is very message-centric paid off. Many celebrities and influencers volunteered in taking part in the challenge, praising its value as a powerful public service announcement, rather than a mere advertisement. 

“It wasn't a campaign anymore,” says Tadros, “it was a movement.” 

El Araby Group.. Family Comes First 

Putting their employees first, El Arabi Group, hands down, had one of the most unique and successful communication strategies during Covid-19. “We are a family business, and this fact guides us in every decision we make in our business,” says Manal Negm El-Deen, head of digital at El Araby Group. 

The group was one of the fastest industrial entities to take decisive actions in the face of the pandemic. While some businesses were reluctant to shut down their operation, El Araby took the exact opposite direction. They gave their 36,000 workers two weeks paid vacation and ensured them that they will not be sacrificed for profits. They used the lockdown to enforce rigid safety measures in all of their factories and stock up sanitizers and protective gear. 

But it did not stop there. El Araby Group conducted mass tests on its workers. All workers who showed symptoms were given paid leaves and were provided with self-care kits and enough food and supplies for two weeks so that they can take care of themselves without having to ever leave their houses. Moreover, the company established and funded their very own field hospital with a capacity of 45 beds to offer healthcare services for affected workers. 

“We did not advertise these efforts,” says Negm El-Deen, “We did that because our workers are our large extended families.” 

However, word of mouth was enough to spread how good El Araby Group was to their workers, in comparison to other news spreading about mass layoffs and salary cuts in other companies. Thousands of people volunteered to write posts praising the company’s policy and encouraging others to reward it through buying their products. El Araby group started trending on social media platforms, without announcing any initiatives or executing any activation.  

EG Bank.. A Safe Harbor for The Truly Creative

While some companies enforced drastic salary cuts to avoid bankruptcy in the reception of Covid-19, freelancers faced a very rough patch. 

Heading into a recession without a steady income, freelancers were among the most vulnerable segments, hit hard by the pandemic. 

“We wanted to deliver on our brand promise, centered around supporting youth,” says Nelly Mahmoud, Head of the Marketing and Communication at EG Bank. With a small budget, and a sense of urgency to make a much needed immediate action, the bank launched a competition “With the Youth,” asking freelancers to submit their best work in an online portal, for a chance to win cash prizes, free training sessions, career consultations, and exposure. 

As many companies wanted to offer a helping hand for the creative community and help freelancers to survive the rough patch, EG Bank managed to attract 31 partners to support the competition. 

Mahmoud says the competition and its promotional material were seen by approximately 5 million viewers, including at least a million freelancers. Winners received free training courses and consultations from Wuzzuf, Al Mentor, among others, and approximately 800 thousand pounds were given in cash prizes and incentives. 

“We had a very limited budget, but we made sure to prioritize offering direct support to freelancers,” says Mahmoud. 

The sense of solidarity and the real tangible impact of the initiative helped mobilize participants and companies alike to get excited and make it work. Another factor that helped EG Bank to pull such an activation within a few days is its laser-focused strategy to cater for a defined segment. “When you have a specific target audience, you can understand them deeply, deliver and respond to their needs swiftly,” says Mahmoud. 

La Vache Qui Rit.. Allying with Millennial Mothers 

With a core target audience of mothers, the iconic dairy products brand found their consumers facing a unique challenge. How do they keep their kids occupied in a 24/7 lockdown? As the quarantine forced schools to shut down their doors, and workplaces to switch into working from home protocols, families were bound to spend a lot of time together. 

“Being a mother myself, I knew how challenging it is to keep children entertained under these circumstances,” says Rana Anwar, Brand Transformation Manager at Bel Egypt, owner of the La Vache Qui Rit label. 

Within the challenge at hand, Anwar saw an opportunity that it is true to the brand’s purpose. “We are always allied with mothers. We promise to support them whenever we can,” says Anwar. The opportunity was: this is a perfect time to create happy memories. Children will not remember the global impact of Covid-19 on the global economy, but they will remember that unusual time where everyone was sitting at home.

Capitalizing on a network of influencers and mothers' social media communities, La Vache Qui Rit launched a campaign to distribute a special toolkit full of traditional toys and fun family activities.

On one hand, it gave kids an appealing reason to disconnect from their ipads and gadgets, on another hand, the games were catering for the moms as well. “We were targeting millennial mothers, so we filled the box with ‘Connect 4’ and ‘Monopoly’ and other nostalgic games from their childhood.” 

The campaign was a hit, reaching more than 3 million women, and distributing more than 10,000 boxes, exceeding its original goal of 6000. 

“It became a trending topic among mothers, and created lots of excitement as they started sharing pictures of the unboxing and family gatherings.” 

Mountain View .. Serving the Small Community and the Larger One 

In times of uncertainty and negativity, a positive supporting community may be the only thing that matters. “Residents of Mountain View are our community; they are people who trusted us enough to live in properties we built, so we have a huge sense of responsibility towards them,” says Ahmed El-Hussieny, Events Manager at Mountain View. 

Before Covid-19, the Mountain View team was planning for a series of events, especially as Ramadan was approaching. 

As Covid-19 hit, the team changed plans with a focus to spread positivity. Quickly, the team created a move under the name "Standing Together", this purpose behind this name is to deliver the message that we're all in this together till it passes, and that Mountain View’s team is in at arm’s length whenever you need them. Family care box, filled with games and activities for all ages, were distributed it to residents. “We wanted to do our part in keeping all of our 1500 families entertained,” says El-Hussieny. But it was not a one-off activation. The gifts and boxes kept arriving at the residents’ doors for 10 weeks. Consistency is what really hammered the message.

Besides addressing the needs of their community, Mountain View launched a campaign targeting the wider community. Through cooperation with Masr El Kheir, one of Egypt’s most trusted philanthropic organizations, they launched the “Let’s Protect Those Who Protect Us” campaign. Starting with raising funds internally from Mountain View employees donations to networking with partner companies, the campaign raised 22 million EGP worth of protective gear, essential for Covid-19 medical teams and frontline workers. Through focusing on community needs, Mountain View’s message was that ‘together we can pass anything.’ 


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