We’ve seen how certain brands around the world have stepped up despite the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Some brands have equated the current pandemic to the global financial crisis back in 2008, where they saw the opportunity to invest in marketing and advertising when their competitors have decided to lay low. A classic yet strategic way to gain advantage over market share and mindshare.
This COVID-19 crisis though, is a different story. As the world is faced with not just a global financial crisis but also a worldwide health crisis, brands are uncertain as to whether they should keep it low and go dark, or stay visible.
Now, it’s interesting to note how this virus has become the greatest disruptor of all time. As the fear brought about by COVID-19 has created a new and emerging market that we now call the “new normal” consumer, it is perhaps important to keep in mind what the consumers are going through right now, and keep them on top of mind during this crisis.
As more and more people are locked up in their homes consuming indoor media, constantly on standby when it comes to social media alerts, panic-buying on the essentials, increasingly hungry for new information about the global health status, it is very obvious that we are dealing with a traumatized population.
If you’re a brand currently torn between stepping up or staying quiet, perhaps it is important to make the consumer’s state of mind as a starting point.
Once you’ve taken to heart and have understood what the market is feeling and thinking at the moment, it might just be a good time to revisit as well what your brand is all about.
- What is your brand’s purpose?
- What are its core values? What does it stand for?
- How does it want to be remembered?
- What does your brand value most?
Did these questions help refresh your memory? If not, perhaps it may be a good time to create a brand based on these important questions. Once you’ve figured that out, the next thing to answer is, how should your brand position itself during this pandemic?
Messaging. It’s understandable if messaging could be a struggle in a global situation that is unfamiliar to most of us. Perhaps a proper mindset can help get this started: Acknowledge that all businesses and brands – all of us – have a role to play in this pandemic.
As mentioned, we are currently dealing with a traumatized population that’s constantly facing the fear of uncertainty, so when you can, provide or be a vehicle to timely and accurate information based on the current situation.
Also, think “community” when it comes to messaging. Now, more than ever, people need to feel that they are not alone. Messages like, “We are in this together” and “You are not alone” are so powerful and helpful to a consumer at this time.
Lastly, now is a good time to do more social listening. Find out what people are talking about and how they feel through their social media posts and engagement. A lot of what they put online could give you a better idea of what their pain points are. By knowing this, you are in a good position to craft the right message that will help your brand resonate with them.
Tone. To be tone-deaf is the last thing you want to be during this pandemic. Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, people these days find themselves in a strategic position to call out anyone who comes across as selfish, uncaring and insensitive during such trying times. People or purpose over profit is what people expect to see from brands who are at a good vantage point to help.
So, whenever necessary, keep in mind this E-T-C-H mnemonic as your tone for your brand:
E – Empathy. For a brand that does not want to start at the wrong foot during this time, it is imperative to practice an empathetic tone. As consumers are trying to adjust and come to terms with the current situation, they need people (brands) who can afford to go out of their way and fill their shoes during this phase.
T – Transparency. This is equally paramount when it comes to building up the right tone for your brand. Pandemic or not, people expect nothing but the truth. Providing accurate information at a time when people are faced with the fear of uncertainty about what is happening, and how the business is handling it are just some of the main concerns that need to be addressed with transparency.
C – Compassion. Now more than ever, brands are expected to exercise a tone that values lives. Piyush Pandey, Chief Creative Officer, Worldwide, Ogilvy states, “Brands that value lives will live on for many lifetimes, just like friendships. Before you do anything in these times, ask yourself, what would a good friend do right now.”
H – Human. As COVID-19 is technically the first pandemic in the age of digital technology, the element of being human is needed now more than ever. At the end of the day, the best, most admirable and most memorable decisions come from being human. Let your brand’s human’s side be your guide in steering your way to resonate to a hurting consumer.
Bottomline, be a brand that is ETCH-ed in people’s memory during this time.
Intent. Now is not really a good time to immediately push for selling. If your brand does not fall in the category of essentials for the consumers, it might just be a good idea to rethink your intent during this pandemic.
As intent (or intention) and purpose go hand in hand, it is always a good idea to revisit a brand’s purpose and check if it’s relevant to the current situation. Simply put, when you think about your intention, draw yourself back to your brand’s purpose – your greatest why. And while your purpose is your greatest why, your intent (or intention) is your how.
People will remember brands who have the intent to help, with the intent to care.
Action. We’ve seen (and read) marketing thought leaders advocating and preaching about authenticity, and this is the best time to see authenticity that’s coupled with action.
In the recent weeks, this has been evidently seen all around the world. Brands took action and re-allocated their marketing and advertising budget to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners, as well as implemented “no work with pay” for their employees who have been displaced; and some service-based brands waived at least a month of subscription to ease the burden of its customers. In a nutshell, action gives people hope and a reason to trust.
As a summary, and as an answer to the question stated early in this article, keep in mind: “The right message, the right tone, the right intent and the right action will put your brand in the right position.”