Editor's note: Based in New York, Fiona Blades is President and Chief Experience Officer at MESH Experience, a global research consultancy. 

Marketers have moved from grief to action over the last week as they grapple with the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis.

Only a week ago the disaster facing CMOs was the sadness of not being able to air a new campaign that may have taken months to create. The care with which the idea had been nurtured, the negotiations to get the best talent, the budget secured from the C-suite, all were about to be lost. All that hard work, gone.

“Meeting the needs of your customer at a profit,” the famous definition of marketing from Professor Philip Kotler, needed rethinking. What good is a highly paid celeb in your ad enticing you to buy your product if your customers are losing their jobs and can’t pay to keep their homes? What are the needs of your customers now? And should you be thinking about short-term profit or lifetime value?

For the last few years, talking about brand purpose has been in vogue. Last week was a great test for brands to stay true to their purpose and values. How could these values guide decision-making?

On Tuesday, March 10, TSB, NatWest/RBS and Lloyds Bank in the U.K. announced they would help customers affected by the coronavirus with mortgage payment holidays and other measures. These were the urgent needs that many banking customers had. Yet in the U.S., it was Thursday, March 19 before announcements were seen that Bank of America would help customers to defer mortgage payments if they were impacted by coronavirus. 

MESH Experience, the company I founded, is a small data, analytics and insight business. We work with big banks and other very influential clients in companies that can make a difference to the economy and the way society feels. We added new questions to our U.K. retail banking study and by Thursday discovered that 49...