As of this writing global coronavirus cases have reached 186,440 with 7,453 deaths reported thus far. Sri Lanka, where I live, has 34 cases. These numbers will rise in the coming days. Thankfully, the local authorities are taking every possible step to curb the situation. I can only assume the same is true for other countries around the world. Unfortunately, it might not be so.
In such a situation, it should come as no surprise that much of the online attention is directed towards #COVID19. Some see this as an opportunity to grab some of that attention. Now, if you’re a news organization, a health professional or someone working on getting important information out, it's understandable. But if you’re a corporation that sees this as a crafty chance to gain some marketing momentum, then think again. There’s no creative play here. You’re just being an insensitive prick.
Care for a $200 christ-centric bio hacking course?
I found it amusing Kirby de Lanerolle has a $200 program on boosting immunity. “Monogenetics: Christ-centric Bio Hacking” may sound like some mystical weapon Constantine uses to chase demons away. But its actually supposed to be a 5-day live course for Christians that focuses on “spiritual protocols for strengthened immunity”.
The program itself raises many questions. But the timing of this is what makes things worse. Unethical is too kind a word to use on someone that wants to capitalize on people’s vulnerability. Mind you, the course’s original fee is marked as $300. That’s a little over LKR 55,000! Surely there are better ways to spend 55,000?
I don’t know about you. But I would rather listen to the health experts than an exploiting preacher who targets vulnerable people in a global pandemic situation.
Tsk tsk Kapruka
Among the many horrible attempts at capturing the audience's attention, one stood that out for me was from Kapruka. This came in the form of a “live tracker” of all the coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka. It may sound like something useful. But its as useful as coloring a map of Sri Lanka with crayons.
The live tracker shows a map of Sri Lanka with the demarketed provinces. On the left, shows the list of confirmed coronavirus cases according to the provinces. On the right, it shows a similar list, but of recovered patients. According to the map, the most number of reported cases have come from the Western and Northern provinces.
If you’ve been following the news then you would know that this isn’t the actual scenario. Much of the reported cases are those who have contracted the virus from Italy. But the data representation paints a far more misleading picture. At first glance, you would think that there’s a coronavirus outbreak in the Western and Northern provinces of Sri Lanka. There isn’t.
Furthermore, there’s a lot more publicly available data that could be included to make the data representation more useful. A merely highlighted map of Sri Lanka with just the reported cases marked to the provinces isn’t going to help anyone.
This begs the question, what’s the whole purpose of the supposed live tracker? Maybe it's just a ploy to get some quick website hits. The “subscribe to new case updates” button on the page makes me wonder if this was just another attempt at gaining people’s contact details.
Maybe I’m overreacting here. But if you really wanted to help, there are more effective ways of going about it instead of trying to be opportunistic.
Irresponsibility, thy name is Power World Gyms
Of course, it isn’t just eCommerce platforms trying to grab a slice of the attention. These range from gyms to disinfectant manufacturers. Power World Gyms for example, informs its SMS subscribers that drinking water every 15 minutes will wash down the virus to your stomach and kill it. In another message, the gym claims that 95% of its members are below 50 years of age; “having the immunity to fight and destroy any virus. Trust the science. Go gym”.
Granted, working out is always good for one’s health. But this is a time when everyone should be exercising caution. The likes of Power World is just being irresponsible and potentially inviting trouble.
At the end of the day, if you’re trying to link all your marketing efforts to the coronavirus, your marketing standards aren’t worth piss, as the below slideshow illustrates perfectly.
We have to remember, this is a global pandemic situation. Authorities are doing everything possible to turn the tide on coronavirus. We as individuals, along with the corporations should do everything in our power to help these efforts.
What we should be doing
So, let's not be opportunistic leeches. Instead, let’s try being a little more helpful towards our communities. A little empathy can go a long way.
If you’re a corporation, consider opting for a remote working arrangement. The tech sector has already employed a Work From Home (WFH)approach. This includes companies like PickMe, Microimage, Hutch Sri Lanka, Rootcode Labs, etc. Not all companies might have a WFH policy in place. But this is a good time as any to make the switch.
But this shouldn’t be limited to deploying a remote working mechanism. A company’s support staff and daily wage workers should also be taken into account. Companies like WSO2, for instance, has pledged to pay daily workers and support staff while employees work remotely. The point is, not to leave anyone behind as your work environment shifts as a result of COVID-19.
As individuals, the simplest thing we could all do is stay home and practice social distancing. Practically, it might not be a possibility in every case. That being said, don’t be as arrogant as a Roy-Tho big match attendee. Remember that even if you don’t get the virus, there’s always the chance someone else might through you.
On another note, since most of us will likely be spending more time on social media these days, here are a few accounts you could follow for important updates,
- The Health Promotion Bureau Facebook page
- Watchdog Sri Lanka
- If you’re on Twitter- News First, Azzam Ameen, Marianne David, Ranga Shamil
- World Health Organization website
- Roar live blog
Hoping for the best
While we all try to work our way through this pandemic, do remember that this isn’t your brand’s marketing opportunity to grab everyone’s attention. It’s also not the time to test your immunity system either. So stay indoors, maintain social distancing and maintain basic hygiene. Fingers crossed and let’s hope for the best.