Give your brand a new life | Sunday Observer

Give your brand a new life

17 May, 2020

In this virus ridden market crisis, it may be hard for marketeers to know where to begin. In a few short weeks, people have shifted into conservative mode, focused on themselves, their families, their employees, their customers, and their communities.

The one and only priority for almost two months was safety and health but the time has come to restart and revive the economy. With social distancing keeping a sizable percentage of people still at home and incomes being severely impacted, we are also seeing major shifts in behavioral trends. Consumers have returned to two extreme ends; good old habits of vendors coming to your doorstep and excessive use of ecommerce platforms.

Meanwhile, the need for physical goods is placing pressure on new channels, with demand for e-commerce rising to new levels. For those who do venture out, grocery and convenience stores are the source for essentials, but supply is inconsistent. Some of these behavior changes may be temporary, but many may be more permanent. As people move beyond the current mode of survival, the momentum behind digital-experience adoption is unlikely to reverse as people are forced by circumstances to try new things. 

Do not exploit the market

Make a fresh start. Assess everything you currently have in the market, starting with the channel that gets the most eyes. Evaluate those assets and messages from a new point of view: one that is living in a world with record-high unemployment rates, economic uncertainty, and general anxiety.

During times of uncertainty, people feel vulnerable. Empathising with your customers is critical and beyond business you have a social obligation too. The nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever.

Brands that use this time to be commercially exploitative will not fare well in the long term – your brand may run the risk of rejection. If your brand has no answers to an issue your brand does not control you need to acknowledge that. If you make pledges, even during uncertain times, you have to be able to deliver on what you say. 

People will remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis, particularly if done with a true heart and generosity. This could take the form of donating to welfare organisations, providing free products for medical personnel, or continuing to pay employees while the company’s doors are closed.

Some companies who never had alcohol-manufacturing capabilities made hand sanitisers, alleviating short supplies in a newly emerged market and marketing with socially friendly messages at cost.

Depending on the product you market, feel-good content that alleviates anxiety and promotes positive messaging will go a long way to enhancing the brand. However, companies need to show that their contributions are material and not solely for commercial benefit. Intelligent consumers recognise authenticity and true purpose.

Track behavioral trends 

Frequent tracking of human behavioral trends will help marketers gain better insights in real time. Marketers will want to measure sentiment and consumption trends on a regular basis to better adapt messaging, closely observing the conversation across social-media platforms, community sites, and e-commerce product pages to look for opportunities and identify looming crises more quickly.

The marketing team should work closely with finance and operations to forecast different scenarios and potential outcomes, depending on how long the crisis would last. Craft a message that is sensitive to the current situation, takes into account your customers’ new situations and concerns, and is honest, transparent and human.

Locally too, it’s encouraging how quickly many companies were able to transition to remote working arrangements. Deploying collaboration technologies can seamlessly provide chat, file sharing, meeting and call capabilities, enabling teams to stay connected and remain productive.

Already, virtual happy hours are emerging as the new normal to build team morale. Partners are ‘pitching’ remotely, recognising that an in-face sales call is yet unlikely to transpire for weeks to come.

Leaders have to do their best to transition each element of the operating model — from marketing, to sales, to service — to this new normal. New sources of innovation and even margin improvement will emerge out of our current discomfort.

We have seen some real life examples during the past two months where even some small timers who were not IT literate at all, suddenly becoming low end ecommerce players. Brands that were kept alive and ‘helped customers’ during this difficult time will be remembered for years to come.

Plan now for beyond Covid-19

We are in the acknowledge-and-adapt phase of the pandemic. But we also have to plan for life beyond the crisis. As we navigate what we know, marketing and brand managers must work externally to keep their brands and customer journeys focusing on the impact of business interruption, lean into digital ways of working and connecting with customers, mitigate risks to the customer experience by thinking realistically from the outside-in. Unquestionably, there is a forced acceleration of the digital transformation agenda as we recognize how quickly customers and employees have embraced digitally enabled journeys and experiences.

Brand leaders have to think, operate, and lead in new ways during these uncertain and unprecedented circumstances, and we will all have to learn together with both confidence and humility. I have seen lots of brands pulling back on their paid advertising to conserve the cash flow which is quit understandable.

But, the other side of the coin is that, when we come out of this on the other side, your brand may have been forgotten. If you can afford it, keep your paid ads running, and find ways to budget instead of pulling out completely. By the time the Corona is dealt with you don’t want your customers to forget that there was a brand like yours. The very same reason why you invested in brands still remains. What you should consider, though, is moving away from conversion-focused advertising toward brand marketing. The message now is more about communicating your identity and values than saying buy my product.