PANDEMIC BRAND STRATEGIES

Brand strategies during the pandemic

There is no doubt about it, 2020 is perhaps the most difficult year any of us has had to face. This year is also challenging for many of the world’s top brands. Top brands are now being forced to rethink their communication strategies. These leading brand strategies are now focused on communicating in trust, taking responsibility, having direct interaction and effectively communicating to consumers all while remaining empathic and positive. 

Consumers and business leaders are suffering from unprecedented stress and uncertainties. With the lockdowns and restrictions coming and going and economic uncertainty hanging over everything. In this climate, brands are having to be more sensitive in their communication strategies. 

The last thing anyone wants to see right now is an advertisement full of smiling revelers having the holiday of a lifetime. While, the rest of us are stuck at home worrying about our health, jobs and when we will get to see families and friends next.

Businesses are having to think long and hard about how to get their messages across sensitively. These new messages focus on remaining positive. This current climate is driving significant shifts in the communication strategies of just about all the world’s top brands.

Communicating in Trust During the Pandemic

The trust economy existed before Covid-19. With the emergence of ‘fake news’ and Social Media’s ability to spread this information in the blink of an eye. Building consumer trust begins to take on as an important role. This is mainly in part of the product’s capabilities or taste. 

Since the Coronavirus outbreak, this leaning toward the building of consumer trust is amplified. Leading brands and companies are now placing less emphasis on selling by the quality of their product and more on building a trusting relationship with their consumers. For example: 

  • Southwest:  Announced leaving the middle seat open at the start of the pandemic and has stayed true to this commitment through November 30.
  • Tesla: The electric car manufacturer switched some of its production lines to build ventilators, which they subsequently donated.
  • Anheuser-Busch: Converted some manufacturing lines to produce sanitizer during the shortage.

These are examples that have an obvious mechanism toward the building of trust. Consumers have long memories and acts like this will serve these companies well for years to come. But, there are more subtle examples. 

In the Philippines, the CEO of the McDonald’s operation in that country created a video. This video details the safety measures McDonald’s is taking to protect both consumers and their staff. 

This might seem like an obvious approach. However, at the same time other companies are portraying their staff as ‘heroes.’ This approach is being criticized for ignoring the fact that the employees are in as much need of protection as the consumers are. 

Consumer loyalty was until recently something a brand achieved by offering quality product and slick marketing. Now, companies are building trust by being loyal to their customer base. 

Taking Responsibility of Branding During the Pandemic

These days we all must take a level of responsibility in whatever we do. Whether it is self-isolating with symptoms, wearing a mask in public places or just washing your hands frequently. These actions are the new norm. And top brands are taking the same level of responsibility in order to maintain consumer trust. 

Successful communication strategies tell the consumer about a brands responsible approach to the current situation. A classic example of this occurred early in the pandemic when a toilet paper manufacturer began a campaign designed to dissuade consumers to stop panic buying. 

Asking customers to not buy your product may seem counterintuitive. But what it is doing is building customer trust by making the consumer aware of the empathic nature of the brand. 

Another brand that is using a similar strategy is Nike. While a lot of the world is still reeling from the pandemic, Nike encourages people to ‘play inside.’ Again, from a company whose product lines are generally designed for outdoor use, this may also sound counterintuitive. But Nike is playing a clever game with an empathic approach. This approach does not lose sight of the brand’s main selling point.  Check out the campaign here.

It is this understanding of the situation, the ‘we’re all in this together,’ ethos that brands are increasingly turning to. 

Direct Interaction and Conversation in Brand Strategy

Directly communicating with their consumers, mainly through Social Media, is a tactic companies are increasingly resorting to during the pandemic. This brand communication strategy was in place before the pandemic struck. But with more of us being forced to use Social Media as our main form of communication with friends and loved ones, it has become increasingly important for brands as well. 

For example, Reebok used Twitter to establish what home workout equipment their consumers are likely to own. By utilizing Twitter, Reebok is able broadcast their newly established series of home workout routines based on the consumer responses. 

Another leading brand strategy during this pandemic, is the “Water Wipes” brand of baby products. They created a virtual group named “Early Days Club.” This group is designed to let parents interact with each other while sharing advice and tips. All while assisting each other while overcoming the challenges arising from raising a child during the pandemic. 

Many other brands are establishing similar communication approaches. Some online platforms offer free-for-all courses and restaurants publish their famous recipes for consumers to cook at home. 

Overall, there is a movement away for brands being admired for products to now brands being admired for trustworthiness and empathy. This new movement seems to be working. In a recent consumer survey, it is shown that during the pandemic, consumer trust in larger brands is increasing. 

Branding Looking Forward – After the Pandemic

These are seismic changes to the ways large brands communicate with consumers. Brands with foresight are switching more toward a communication strategy that involves building trust with consumers. These new efforts open more direct communication channels. 

It is a drive toward consumer centricity that is unlikely to change even after the pandemic eases. It was a world that was on the verge of major change anyway. The global pandemic is pushing many of these changes upon us without letting them ‘evolve’ naturally. 

As ever with global brands, leading brand strategies during the pandemic are quick on the uptake. It is the ones who fail to see this and don’t shift their communication strategies that will fall by the wayside. 

Stay up to date and continue to see how the trends are changing due to Covid-19 by following my next VLOG or blog.

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BRAND YOURSELF | CRAFTING YOUR BRAND STATEMENT

Your brand matters

After nearly two decades of marketing and branding businesses, I needed to shift and use my experience to brand individuals for a new career path.  I quickly came to realize it is much more challenging branding a person than a company.  I now have much admiration for influencers and other individuals who have excelled in doing just that.

For starters, companies spend big money on branding. They hire outside agencies, have decent budgets and many have spent years building a strong go-to-market identity.

I’m hoping my blogs and Minute of Marketing YouTube series offers value in helping you lose all inhibitions to create your own personal brand and campaign.  The process is entirely egocentric and at times uncomfortable, but you’ve got to flaunt what you’ve got.  Let’s get started!

DEFINE YOURSELF BY BRANDING

Who are you and what value do you bring to your profession or lifestyle?  Don’t dig too deep on this one but seriously, what are you good at?  If you’re a real estate agent, are you a location expert because you’ve grown up in an area?  If you’re a lawyer, what area of law do you specialize in? Are you a consultant or specialist, what is your niche – where do you excel? What makes you, you?  Pretty much, what are you good at and why does that deliver value? Most importantly, what is your unique selling proposition?

Keep in mind that your competition may deliver the same service as you do. Don’t think of it as WHAT you do but HOW you do it.  It’s your client’s experience they have with you that sets you apart, keeps them coming back for more and referring you to others. You should be able to provide the answer to what results you deliver and how that sets you apart.  How do your clients feel after working with you?  

When I was in the consulting world – not only did I deliver marketing strategies which are the same as my competitors, but I guaranteed results and offered measurability.  What made me unique is that I focused on ROI and didn’t require a long-term agreement. This way if I didn’t deliver or they didn’t think I did – they weren’t stuck with me and could cancel in 30-days at any time.  

ESTABLISH THE IDEAL CONSUMER

Who is Your Target Market?  

This is more difficult to answer. “I want to target women who make more than $100K per year”, is not enough.  You need to clearly define what your audience looks like.   Is your target customer an entrepreneur? Do they have a family with kids? Do they work for a small or large business? Are they younger or are they older?  Where can you reach them?  Are they online, are their noses buried behind magazine covers? Where do they work? Are they in stores, on social media?  Most importantly, are they empowered to make decisions?

What are they looking for? What do they need?  Are they looking for a real estate agent, lawyer, mortgage, a logo, campaign, a new hairstyle?  Write a narrative about what they look like and look for so you can target them.

Also, who is your target consumer going to now for the service they desire and why would they use you?  What makes you special (from your defining exercise above) and why would they switch?  What conversation would you have with them if you were sitting across from them? 

For me, I was looking for small business owners with a business offering I could relate to.  I knew from years of helping dentists or accountants, that was not the direction I wanted to go.  I wanted a relatable field – fitness, fashion, entertainment, food or retail.  Because I pride myself on becoming the expert in whatever I market, I want to understand all sides of my task and it must be something I enjoy.  

I also focused on business size – I wanted a large enough business to have a decent budget to work with but not a huge entity that I couldn’t manage on my own without hiring a crew.   

LET YOUR PERSONALITY SHINE THROUGH YOUR BRANDING

Your brand should be authentically you.  Be relatable!  Remember your customers are real people and they want to identify with you as a person.

Show off how compelling and interesting you can be and why you are the expert in what you do.  Be multi-dimensional and do not edit your personality out of your writing or videos.  Your personality is a big part of what will make you a brand.

Combine your value with who you are targeting and wrap it up with your unique personality as part of the brand building process. Mix in your recreational hobbies, sports, strengths, weaknesses – anything that defines you and creates a bond.  Make your story personal and authentic.

For me, I used that I’m “small but mighty” and not a “slippery salesman in a shiny suit.”  I noted that I like boating and the energy of the water, the smell of ink fresh off the press and how my son is a wrestler. So, I understand the fear of stepping on a mat knowing you might not win but have the strength to go out anyway.  I added that I’ve had many personal fails, so know what it takes to get back up after falling.

LET’S GET STARTED BUILDING YOUR BRAND

Now that you’ve defined yourself and your value, identified your target market and thought about how to let your personality shine – write your branding statement.

This is not unlike writing a positioning statement for a business. This is unique to you and will clearly describe what you do and who you serve.  This statement will be on your website, your social media platforms and woven through all of your messaging. 

On my next blog, I will expand more into using your brand to develop visual elements and setting up your own domain, website layout, blogs, social presence, videos and more.

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The Power of Free in Marketing

Free marketing has an incredible effect

In terms of reaching your target market, free giveaways or free samples are more successful in earning a response from your audience. Free samples are surprisingly more cost effective than traditional marketing.

Using “free” as a strategy allows businesses to reach potential customers that may have never reached with traditional marketing.  Often, your potential core consumer doesn’t even realize your product or service is needed until they’ve experienced it firsthand. Hence why free samples are the way to wiggle your way into new customers ‘must haves.’

If you’re going to try this premise, the item, service or content you provide must have value to your target customers. By delivering the value your core customer most desires, you will not only pique interest but odds are you’ll also gain a loyal customer.

Why is free so powerful?

 

Brand Awareness

By giving away a free sample of your core product, you are reaching potential customers that may not have realized your business or product line existed. When people try a product first they are more likely to buy it later because sampling fosters reciprocity and brand loyalty.

Stepping outside of your target audience might seem daunting but this is crucial to increase exposure of your product and company. Free samples increase your product and company’s awareness.

Since this broad, new audience now has your product in their hands, consumers make both a physical and mental connection. Next time they are in the store or shopping online and come across your product, they are more likely to make a purchase. Thus, making the transition to becoming a customer all because of the familiarity they had from your free sample.  

Law of Reciprocity

In a book written by renowned professor and author Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, the “rule of reciprocation” states that if someone gives us something, we feel obligated to give something back.   It is an inert tendency in humans to feel compelled to reciprocate when given a gift (whether it is a gift, act of kindness or unexpected free item).  This means when we give something of value away free, our core consumer should give us something in return. This may equate to future business, a referral or brand loyalty.

Word of Mouth Marketing

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools.  This is successful when people  spontaneously talk about your product, service or brand. There is no better way to do this then with the power of free

Happy users or customers are more likely to sing a company’s praises and refer their friends and family. When people tell others about your product they are referring new customers, free of charge your way. When you reach potential new customers with your free sample they are likely to talk about it with their friends, family and coworkers. These conversations are where your product will gain reputability.  

Enhanced Budget

Word-of-mouth marketing will increase your marketing budget, after all, your customers are doing your marketing for you! 

Have you ever seen a free Starbucks day online?  It is picked up by the media, talked about amongst your target market and goes viral across social platforms.  The buzz surrounding free can get millions of impressions for less than a paid ad.  The goodwill created by delivering this experience will be tenfold.

Increased Sales

It’s easier to keep your customers happy than it is to get new ones. Outside of your current customers talking about your product and business, it is essential for you to continue to increase new customers.

Once you have won your customer over with your free offer, they are more likely to upgrade and spend more if they like what you offer.  Retained customers buy more often and spend more than first time customers. Once customers learn the value of your product they come back again and again.  

Brands that attract new users with a free offer forge new relationships. Long-term these relationships translate into valuable brand awareness, increased sales, loyalty and an unprecedented ROI.

For more social media and brand communication tips – follow Communication Strategist Edan Gelt and her recent blog series – edangelt.com/blog.

Learn More

Follow my next VLOG or blog to learn how to use your videos.

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