COVID-19 has changed the way we do business. More people are working at home, or they’re not working at all. Schools have had to rethink education and many kids are learning from home. Restaurants, bars, theaters, retail establishments and even churches face mandates that limit access to brick-and-mortar establishments. Adapting to this changing environment is a frightening prospect. We’re all facing uncertainty and brands are in a tricky position. They may know they can’t simply “ghost” their audience (the practice of ending a personal relationship by suddenly, and without explanation, withdrawing from all communication) and stop advertising altogether – either out of financial fear or avoidance due to lack of guidance. And the inclination to fade (“softer and gentler,” or more cowardly approach, of gradually withdrawing from a relationship) on your audience can be even more dangerous. You risk damaging the valuable connection you worked so hard to establish.
In order for people to trust you, they must first feel like they know your brand and what it stands for. And in order for people to recognize and remember you, you must show up in ways that are relevant and consistent. That means choosing to move forward with a steadfast branding effort – even in uncertain times. While it may be tempting to avoid the issue altogether, now more than ever, consistent and coordinated communication is crucial.
Treat Your Audience Like They’re Spoken For
Brand consistency helps put you in a position where your audience is more likely to remember and consider your business, product or service. It’s not marketing voodoo or corporate jargon. On a psychological level, it’s how the human brain remembers things. But it takes more than consistent use of brand visuals and messaging. The best branding is built on relationships.
And as a brand, engagement goes far beyond successfully selling ideas, services, programs and products with campaigns that deliver return on investment. It’s important to take an empathetic, purpose-driven approach.
Now is not the time to be opportunistic. It’s time to channel a more human side. You’ll find that the strongest brands consistently deliver a return on relationship. And keep in mind that it’s not only your brand that is facing uncertainty, your employees are the connection to important audiences – including clients, prospects, board members, investors, community leaders the media and more. Seriously consider taking a meaningful stand, growing a community of brand believers and inspiring a level of brand loyalty that can transform your best customers and clients into brand ambassadors. Culturally speaking, being “boo’d up” means you’ve taken the relationship to the next level. You’re official. That’s the relationship status every brand should aspire to.
The Value of Taking a Stand During Scary Times
If branding provides the glue of consistency in your message, taking a stand in the middle of uncertainty offers an opportunity to build trust among your audience. There’s been a marked shift and departure from how companies usually ignore politicized moments. A number of brands let the public know that they were helping by making donations to aid pandemic relief, support human service efforts; manufacturing masks and offering grace periods for credit cards, utilities and mortgage payments.
- Google launched an educational site for users to get quick access to advisory information and live tallies.
- Apple is working to update Siri to address questions about coronavirus.
- The WhatsApp chat platform has partnered with WHO, Unicef, the UN Development Programme and the International Fact-Checking Network to develop a Coronavirus Hub, including fact-checker information.
- YouTube pledged $1 million “in support of efforts to address social justice.”
- Since 2015, and the protests in Ferguson, Mississippi, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has taken a bold stand supporting Black Lives Matter.
- Penzeys Spices has a history of backing the liberal left with campaign funds.
The lesson here may be, don’t be so quick to avoid uncomfortable or controversial issues. Consider if there is an opportunity for your brand to take a stand and do the next right thing – especially during uncertain times.
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