From Mask Shame to Mask Fame
Businesses can find more creative ways to enforce the mask mandate. Shutterstock

From Mask Shame to Mask Fame

To maintain brand integrity, consider reframing the mask mandate.

Human interaction has new rules, which means immersive and educational experiences need to adapt. Masks are standard now and likely will be for the next few years until we achieve herd immunity through a vaccine or people stop fearing this virus or others. So, whether you want to or not, mask up.

But, like any other accessory we carry around, it’s easy to forget. It certainly could happen to a professor of marketing and special projects agency owner as he walks into his favorite coffee shop. Now, as the forgetful person, you’re faced with being judged as either a grandma killer, anti-masker, or making a political statement.

The phrase that was used to alert me at my second favorite coffee shop was, “Hey, you can’t come in here without a mask.” And, the next time, at my third favorite, “Hello, sir, we can’t serve you if you don’t have a mask.” The assumption with those statements is I had entered the experience with the intention to go without a mask.

The experience you’ve designed, or perhaps accidentally pulled together over the past years, is certainly upside down. You still need to get back to what is the intention of the experience you’ve designed. Have you designed for speed, like Target, McDonalds, and most gas stations? In contrast, have you designed for immersion, education, and positive memories? (Think REI, Byerly’s and Lunds, and my favorite coffee shops.)

Your messaging should reinforce the design. If you’ve designed for speed, just hand out free masks and keep people moving. The message is: We are here to save you time. If you’ve designed for immersion and education, you’ll need to consider options that allow mask wearing to be a positive part of the experience. The messages need to be more creative and working hard to be an addition to the experience.

Start by shifting from a mindset of: “This is now the law, and we need to inform people with strong language.” Go to a place where you’ve proactively added this to the experience and want to help people enjoy it. Yet, it doesn’t help to lecture; there are more creative ways to alert someone.

Here are five options to change the context and add to experience:

  1. Hello, your dentist called and said you shouldn’t have your smile exposed to the general public — way too bright for our eyes.
  2. We’re trying to keep your celebrity under wraps; we don’t want a mob scene of your fans showing up. Can you wear a mask while you’re here?
  3. I know it is odd, but we need you to hide your identity until you reach a table, then we can show people the celebrity you are.
  4. Kim Kardashian called. She must know you’d be here today; she said to give you her table for the night. She also said you’ll need a mask to get there.
  5. Have you heard of smizing? It’s the new thing, all the kids are doing it. You have to wear a mask to practice it.

Now you’ve got options. Try some on and see what kind of reaction you get. Then, refine and improve until it starts to feel like the experience you’ve designed before Covid. It’s also wise to stay away from shame and negativity.