The coronavirus outbreak has taken the world and the economy by storm, leaving most brand leaders anxious and confused about how to navigate their business, let alone their brand’s messaging and outward response during this time.
But what remains true, especially during times of chaos, is that organizations must behave in ways that are consistent with their values to stay strong and relevant. If you’re uncertain about what people really want from your brand amidst the pandemic (regardless of the services or products you offer), here are a few tips that can help guide you.
Period. If you don’t know what’s next for your business, it’s OK—tell your stakeholders that. In turbulent times, it’s not about having all the answers. It’s about sending a message that you’re here, you’re committed, and you’re figuring it out. This means communicating clearly to both internal and external stakeholders; studies have shown that leaders play an integral role in reducing employee anxiety in times of uncertainty.
There’s a lot we don’t know about what’s to come. But what we do know is that consumers are paying attention to how brands are responding to upheavals due to the coronavirus. Organizations have to be careful about coming across opportunistic or marketing nonessential services amidst mass layoffs. Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist and professor emerita at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, suggests leaving flashy ads and complicated creative behind for the moment. “All of the sudden all these little people around the world are becoming our heroes…all brands can attach to that somehow. They have these employees. Attaching to that human element of their brand is where I think the action is today.” This may mean different things for your organization. But as much as you can, take care of your employees, join causes to support vulnerable members of your community and determine if your business can play an integral role on the front lines of fighting this virus.
Determination and focus.
Now is not the time to make drastic changes in how your brand operates or communicates. Although it’s hard to envision an end to the current situation, this too shall pass. Ipsos, a global research and consulting firm tells us, “It can be tempting for brands to go into cost containment mode in times of distress, quietly weathering the storm. But we have a unique window where brands can earn trust by maintaining presence and delivering relevant value in a fluid period of heightened anxiety.”
From monitoring industry trends, we know that many businesses have completely stepped out of the advertising space, offering a unique opportunity for other brands to remain in the game with less competition. Obviously, dollars come into the equation. But if it’s not life or death, we strongly recommend maintaining a presence for your brand in the marketplace.
So, what does coming out of this on the other side look like? To brand leaders who stay the course, it’s emerging from this challenging period with stronger brands and more loyal stakeholders that advocate freely and happily for your organization. So be present. Invest in relationships. And as always, trust the process.