Blake Dowling: Branding amid a crisis
We could have told you that already.

As we look ahead to reopening our state, the branding will start to change from crisis branding to getting back to work messaging.

Branding in a crisis …

If you watch regular television (which is still a thing), it’s hard to miss the new onslaught of advertisements focusing on the health crisis. Some are very well-done; Uber and Kraft have adjusted their branding and messaging very nicely.

Others seem to be way off the mark; but overall it is nice to hear from American institutions like Ford, who spotlighted that they make what America needs as they move forward with ventilator production along with their core business.

In Florida and around the world, anyone that did not before now has a newfound respect for the supply chain — particularly our food supply: truckers, warehouse workers, and cashiers who can’t work from home. This has been documented by many but this piece out of Orlando was on point on how these professionals play such a huge role in our world.

Thank you to all those who show up every day in every essential business.

In the world of food in Florida, Publix is an institution.

Image via Publix.

I had a friend (more like family) who used to work for them. Randy Roberts was his name, and whenever I think of how amazing a person he was I recall a day at the Governor’s Club where I was speaking to an under-40 professional group (back in the old days when I was too was under 40) called Access Tallahassee.

Roberts yells from across the room “What’s up, cupcake!” and ran over and gave me a hug.

His good-natured mission on that day was to catch me off guard and rattle me while I was attempting to look competent as a speaker. Well played. Mission accomplished.

The guy was walking joy; I don’t think I ever saw him in a bad mood once, the closest thing might have been during a Gator football loss, which was very rare in those times. Kind of like how those losses are rare once again the past couple of years (smack talk module deployed for Randy).

You can check out the foundation to Randy’s memory here.

I brought up Randy for a couple of reasons: To showcase his foundation, honor his memory, and because the company (Publix) he used to work for brands like no one else.

Their messaging in the spot below about being kind is a home run. Great ad.

They were also early adopters of the idea of clear partitions at check out to protect their staff and customers.

Mr. Randy Roberts. Photo courtesy of the Randy Roberts Foundation.

As we look around the state, not all branding and essential business make complete sense.

I suppose I am going to have to see what is up with WWE.

The last time I watched any kind of wrestling was during the “Hulkamania” era when I was a kid.

But if it is listed as an essential business they must be branding and positioning themselves in high gear and doing something for the greater good?

I suppose as a state, we took a national hit for reopening some beaches recently. The hashtags were not very nice in this column.

When I first read it, I thought it said “#FloridaMormons.” Either way, not nice.

As we move forward, there will be lots of finger-pointing, particularly after beaches and more things start opening.

This week Gov. Brian Kemp to our North said “let’s get Georgia reopened”; same in Tennessee, S. Carolina, and Texas in the coming days/week.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has his task force ready; I would expect some announcements next week. A May 1 soft open? May 15? June 1? Place your bets.

These actions and decisions whatever they are will be met with praise from some and sharp criticism from others.

To that end, in the coming weeks, there will be a flurry of verbal bullets flying and sharp tongue lashings. Hopefully, more people will stay out of it and will get creative vs criticizing, doing things like the “My Spot Challenge” (#sharethelovegetacard) that Andrea Messina from the Florida School Boards Association introduced to me on Twitter.

The goal is to support local businesses by picking up a gift card, posting a picture of it, and challenging more to do the same.

Pretty awesome, and much better than finger-pointing. My gift card from Mimi’s Table Restaurant in Tallahassee is a go! I ordered dinner for my MGT team and their families to thank them for their service. Hopefully, this digital grassroots effort will help in a small way of keeping brands of the small business community in Florida top of mind for everyone involved.

My challenges are coming up @Ajax @Structure @CapitalCityConsulting etc. Get ready.

(Update: Nick/Ron and the team at Capital City Consulting made a donation of meals from Andrews Downtown for the Kearney Center here in Florida really helping those in need right now, nice work gents.)

As we look ahead the conversations and announcements on reopening our state, the branding messaging will start to change from crisis branding to getting back to work messaging.

Check out a great column from Sarasota this week by Florida Chamber of Commerce President Mark Wilson. His opening line sums up where we as a state are as we approach May.

“Like it or not, restarting the world’s 17th-largest economy is going to be even more strategic, complicated and lengthy than the ramp-down has been.” Full article from Mark here.

Thank you, Mark.

Raise your hand if at one point in your life you did an impression of one of these gentlemen?

It’s going to be a long summer, but things are bound to get better. I certainly miss my friend Randy, I would love to hear his optimistic opinion on the current situation and give another shoutout to all those in the food supply and health care business.

The jury is still out on WWE (maybe I will become a die-hard fan).

I suppose anything is possible as the Xbox I bought this month outsmarts me at every turn and I need a new hobby.

There are just too many buttons, remember the Atari 2600, it had 1 button. Am I right?

Stay safe Florida, and take care of each other. As the Publix ad says, be kind, and have some hoppy beverages this weekend.

(I’m dedicating this column to one of the great ones, Randy Roberts. We miss you brother.)


Blake Dowling is the CEO of Aegis Business Technologies, the host of the Biz & Tech podcast, and writes for several organizations. His Zoom background is also amazing; you can reach him at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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