The outbreak of Covid-19 is the most serious existential crisis humanity has faced in living memory. Unprecedented times have shaken the world. It has shaken brands. Businesses now fall under two categories, those that can continue to trade and those that can’t. For both, the question remains the same. How should you adjust your brand strategy in a time where this is anything but business as usual?
Stay Front of Mind
Disruption caused as a result of the virus looks set to continue indefinitely. The situation is changing day by day, hour by hour. It is important, however, to look to the future. This will be over at some point. When that time comes, you want it to be your brand that consumers think of as we revert back to normality. Social media usage has surged by 61%, web browsing is up 70% and some platforms such as Instagram have even crashed as a result of demand. Additionally, TV numbers are up by 63% as people are locked down in their homes. Arguably, brands have never been presented with such an attentive audience. Salience is incredibly important right now, even more so when combined with having a meaningful impact. Although tempting, don’t smash the majority of your budgets into short-term sales promotions and performance marketing. Confidence is low. People are worried about their jobs and are likely to hold off on most purchases. This is the time to focus on building your brand for the long-term. Target the channels which are going to have maximum reach, TV and social media.
If anything, the virus has laid bare the industry’s weakness for short termism. This isn’t about immediate sales, it’s about sales in a few months’ time or a year. Resisting the temptation to cut advertising budget today is an investment in the future. Obviously, this is difficult to stomach when faced with the prospect of turning off the lights. However, it is important to consider the cost of rebooting your brand when this is over, a cost that will be compounded if your rivals continue to maintain presence in the mind of consumers. Make sure it is your brand that remains front of mind when the time comes.
Temperature Check Sentiment
Research by Kantar has found that just 8% of people think brands should stop advertising, but 78% believe brands should help them in their daily lives. 74% think companies should not exploit the situation, 69% are more receptive to a reassuring tone. Clearly, there is a balancing act in the way brands communicate during this crisis. You may need to adapt your tone, it’s important to read public mood and sentiment. For example, KFC adapted their slogan to read “Turns out finger licking isn’t good. Rather, reach for the soap”, Guinness adapted their St Patrick’s day messaging to send out a cry for everyone to “come together even if we’re apart”.
It’s time for brands to demonstrate the role they can play in society, so if possible, use your platform to help people escape. Consider ways in which you can use your platform to help maintain mental and emotional wellbeing. The Government put out a request for 250,000 volunteers to help the NHS. They hoped to recruit this number over several weeks. Yet, in just 24hrs, 405,000 people had signed up to help. Brands should look at the mindset of the nation and use it as a moral compass. This is about offering genuine, generous, help and contributions to society. And if you can’t do that, don’t do something half baked. Just stick to advertising your brand so it’s still here when all this blows over.
Realise Brand Purpose
Many brands are realising their potential for positive social impact in this moment of crisis. This is not about profiteering. Any brand seen to be profiteering from the crisis risks a public backlash. We’re in this together. It’s about uniting to solve a common goal that every human in the world is currently experiencing. Navigating this space can be risky, and so brands must be sincere in their attempts to help. If you have a service that can genuinely contribute to public wellbeing, then do it. Look at the number of breweries and distilleries that are currently pumping out hand sanitizer to companies such as Unilever, who are committing millions through donations of soap, bleach and food to help the lives of those affected, to Iceland who allotted certain hours for the over 70s, to PRET who are offering NHS staff free hot drinks.
The response to the Coronavirus should be seen as akin to the war effort. Marks and Spencer were massive recipients of public goodwill in the 60s and 70s as a result of wartime efforts and brands acting now should expect a similarly positive response. It’s time to get creative, be brave and think about how your brand can contribute. What can you offer? This is one way to seriously strengthen your long-term brand building, but more importantly, have a significant impact on the betterment of humanity. The brands that step up now, help us get out of this crisis and offer a genuine contribution will be the ones that people remember when this is all over.
At Ponderosa we have the knowledge and expertise to weather this storm. We’re already busy creating new digital strategies, adapting social media plans and rapidly getting businesses trading online. Get in touch with our team today.