These are crazy times. Businesses are being whiplashed with changing regulations and guidance related to the pandemic. Customers are fearful and frustrated their lives have been turned upside down. Employees fear for their jobs and struggle with adjusting to a remote work environment.
Now is exactly the time brand builders need to keep their wits about them and refocus on the fundamentals of what branding is all about.
To ground ourselves, it is important to remember a brand is a promise. It sets an expectation of an experience. To be effective, a brand promise must be relevant, competitive and authentic at key touch points both now and over time. Marketing is the communication of the brand promise in a mind and heart opening way to a target audience with a need the brand promise addresses. It creates desire. Selling is a subset of marketing. Selling is about directly connecting the brand promise to an individual’s specific need in a way that not only opens the mind and heart, but also the wallet. Consequently, selling creates both a commitment and revenue.
Even though the emotions of the world have shifted fairly dramatically during this pandemic. The fundamentals of brand building remain rock solid.
That isn’t to say there is no impact. There is certainly an impact on how you decide to communicate you brand promise in order to create the mind, heart and hopefully wallet opening occasion. My strong counsel is to revisit Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model and contemplate the ramifications it has on your communication strategy. For many consumers/customers the pandemic has dramatically increased the relative importance of safety. Recall, Maslow theorized man’s basic needs must be met before higher order needs will be considered. This is admittedly an over simplification of the framework, but useful to consider the branding implications.
For some brands, safety was assumed. An example would be luxury brands. The fundamental safety of an individual was rarely addressed in communicating the brand promise. But now for example, if the product or service is delivered in a retail setting, consumer safety (social distancing, mask wearing) is top of mind. Ambiance was the focus before, feeling safe is the focus today. Before the pandemic, television commercials rarely featured actors wearing masks. Now if actors in a commercial don’t display safe pandemic behavior, many viewers are turned off and their minds closed to the messaging.
It is important to have a thoughtful conversation with employees, managers and agencies about the implications of the pandemic on your branding investment. Start with a review of the branding fundamentals. List the key touch points in the consumer/customer interaction with your brand. Identify the impact the pandemic has on each touch point. Then, develop strategies and tactics to address the impact with the goal of ensuring you can successfully creat a mind, heart and eventually wallet opening outcome.
If you stick to the fundamentals of branding and use it to guide executional changes, you will have minimally ensured you have done no harm to your brand during the pandemic. And, you may actually strengthen your brand when this pandemic is over and things return to a more normal/predictable status.
Take the time to have the conversation and to make proactive decisions. Failure to do so may condemn your brand to the garbage heap.