The importance of brand strategy has heightened during COVID-19. From successfully running ad campaigns to supporting our economically and mentally distressed community, businesses’ brand strategy is playing a pivotal role in how humane and empathetic they are towards consumers.
If the last year of our lives has done anything for us, it has proven how quickly the world can change in just a matter of seconds.
From personal life to everyday communal interaction, we have witnessed the entire world grapple with the life-altering effects the pandemic ushered in. The fallout of COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the entirety of the business landscape as we once knew it. Consumers and businesses alike have been transformed.
Not only have consumers’ buying behaviors changed, but they now expect more from the businesses they support.
The question remains, how should a business best navigate and adapt its brand strategies during these unprecedented times?
How COVID-19 Altered Brand Strategy
By its very definition, brand strategy is a “long-term plan for the development of a successful brand in order to achieve specific goals.”
If implemented correctly, a brand strategy affects all facets of a business. A well-defined brand strategy should be directly linked to not only the competitive landscape but most importantly to the consumer needs and emotions.
Survey research shows that a majority of consumers want businesses to prioritize public service, brand purpose, and public health, over blatant marketing efforts.
Growth Rocket sites the following statistics:
- 37% of surveyed consumers want brands to continue to advertise as normal.
- 75% of surveyed consumers believe brands must address COVID-19 and deliver socially responsible messages.
- 56% of surveyed consumers have an interest in a brand’s initiatives efforts to fight COVID-19.
While there is disagreement on the appropriateness of various response tactics set forth by brands, one fact remains: every response to COVID-19 should be managed with the utmost empathy for consumers, as well as vigilant attention to detail. Due to insensitive messaging, many brands have come under fire for ill-timed campaigns and poor foresight.
One example of a company that fell victim to this unfortunate timing was KFC as they geared up to launch their “Finger Lickin Good” video campaign. Understandably, this campaign was received poorly by the public as worldwide awareness of health and hygiene was growing at astronomic rates. KFC received a plethora of complaints which ultimately forced them to shut down the campaign and eliminate their signature “Finger Lickin Good” sauce from their menu.
We know what a brand strategy failure looks like, but what would success entail under COVID-19 circumstances?
Two significant factors that influence the survival of a company’s brand strategy are: embracing change and adapting quickly to the unexpected. A key difference between a brand strategy that will survive versus one that will flounder during COVID-19 is prioritizing consumers and community over cashflow.
Brand strategies that focus on how companies can add value to their customers, employees, and their cause during COVID-19 are more likely to survive than those that stubbornly object reprioritization.
Companies With Successful COVID-19 Brand Strategies:
BetterHelp immediately recognized the usefulness of its platform. It realized that increasing the need for mental health professionals was critical to support people’s mental health.
This need goes beyond COVID-19 as well, as the accessibility of proper mental health options for low-income individuals is staggeringly low. The combination of health-related stress, travel restrictions, and the overall complexity of relationships and connection during this time have increased the e-therapy app market.
BetterHelp expertly assessed the need for communal coping and has developed an entire campaign around offering that service.
Amid COVID-19, Nike recognized that the majority of its business relied on team sports and people’s access to gyms, both of which were limited.
Nike pivoted their marketing strategies to adapt to COVID-19. It launched its #PlayInside and #PlayForTheWorld campaign that encouraged consumers to get active, while still following safety protocols.
This campaign works because it taps into the consumer’s needs and emotions without compromising Nike’s brand identity. Nike’s response efforts go beyond just a hashtag and include more actionable tactics like manufacturing and donating personal protective equipment to various health care organizations in the US.
At the start of the pandemic, Google knew its platform would be the primary source people would turn to for COVID-19 related information. It quickly assessed that there was a drought of information and Google was in a position to provide it.
In order to do this, Google banned ads that mention the coronavirus in an attempt to prevent the profiteering and purposeful spread of misinformation. Google funneled their attention to providing its users with the most accurate, up-to-date, and useful information about anything COVID-19 related. This effort empowered Google’s brand identity, as its core statement is to create a sense of shared community, even when physically apart.
Every brand has had its unique methods for responding and coping with the crisis at hand. Some have remained silent, flying under the radar – an understandable tactic considering the delicateness of the situation.
Other brands, however, saw COVID-19 as an opportunity to pivot their business model. This tactic involves a higher risk, with the potential for a higher return.
The 7 Factors to Consider in Creating a Positive COVID-19 Brand Strategy:
1) Be useful
2) Perfect digital communication
3) Show empathy and awareness
4) Monitor changing expectations
5) Be a part of the community
6) Support the cause
7) Continue the dialog
Companies that pivot their brand strategy into relevant and timely actions yield the highest positive response from the market.
The key to brand strategy during COVID-19 is having a genuine and vested interest in adding value to consumers, workers, and the community.