Most marketers feel paralyzed in the current environment. Either they are in a state of crisis or wait-and-see mode. With slashed budgets and uncertainty, the immediate question becomes do we respond? If so, how? And is this the time to continue brand building?
The reality is, in order to do our jobs effectively we must not shy away from the conversation of consumer patterns, pricing or brand strategy. Whilst these may pale in comparison to the questions we’re asking our governments, they are essential if we are to keep demand alive, markets going and economies moving. On the surface, we may think going dark with our marketing initiatives is the best course of action. Think again. A COVID-19 survey by research company Kantar of 25,000 consumers around the world found only 8% of respondents believe that brands should stop communicating.
In times of uncertainty, human nature instinctively leads us in search of reassurance and comfort. And if your company isn’t providing it, your competitor likely is.
An overwhelming majority of interviewees expect brands to make a positive contribution to society. 78% want to hear how companies are helping make daily life better. 75% want to be kept in the loop about new measures and 74% feel strongly that brands should not exploit the situation with an overt hard sell.
FACT: Brands build the strongest loyalists during hardship. Think KFC or even Nike and its sweatshop labour practices. Why did brand Air France survive two highly visible crashes, yet Malaysian Airlines took an irrecoverable beating?
Whilst we’re in uncharted pandemic territory, one thing most certainly holds true – companies who honour their values, invest in their core customers and employees but also excel at communicating are those that will succeed. Time and again history has told us this story.
THE GREAT PARADOX OF BRANDING IS SIMPLY THIS – YOU OUGHT TO LIVE WHAT YOU KEEP COMMUNICATING.
Richard Branson frequently flouts his company values as ‘a family of friendly and inclusive people who pull together and openly help each other…’. Virgin Atlantic has been one of the first big corporates to shortchange its family of employees during this time.
For marketers and business owners, slashed budgets mean an impulse to drive sales promotions to save the short term. But this isn’t what your audience is looking for.
Only 30% of the survey respondents are interested in seeing discounts and offers. Truthfully, no clever sales gimmicks can entice purchasing when consumers are uncertain and terrified.
So, what should we be doing? Strategizing and putting the best minds to work. Think LONG TERM. What’s the long term viability of your business, how can you keep revenue flowing in spite of the challenges? Are you able to effectively execute a digital distribution strategy without compromising quality and delivery? Are you able to foresee the changes in your customer habits post COVID-19 and work towards meeting those needs?
The jury is still out on how long economic recovery will take. And if the forecasts of a long haul prove true, brands that do nothing will quickly fade away both operationally and in the minds of their customers. Consumers do not forget lightly; they have long memories – and they will remember the brands that communicated and those that left them hanging.
During the Financial Crisis of 2008, data shows that stronger brands recovered almost nine times quicker in stock market value than their counterparts according to BrandZ. Ultimately the health of a brand is dependent on its visibility. And if that isn’t convincing enough, Kantar affirms if companies go dark for even just six months they will destroy the longer term viability of their brand.
So, where will you be when your consumers are looking for you in these times? Will you have checked-out of the process, or will you be fighting to salvage your budget to take you through to the finishing line?