Maintaining a consistent brand equity has always been a priority for businesses, but never more so than now. For years, B2B marketing professionals have built up the value of their brand: boosting overall brand awareness and encouraging brand loyalty. But in just a few months a lot has changed, and brand marketers are navigating a new, unknown landscape.
The nature of the COVID-19 pandemic is that uncertainty is king. How long will this last? What will be the new normal? What should we be doing? While there are a lot of unanswered questions, one thing is clear – brands need to be able to keep their brand equity consistent throughout the highs and the lows in order to ride out the storm. Here, we share a few tips on where to start.
Regardless of industry or sector, for many the immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic was to pull the plug on planned activity. 62% of marketers have changed their marketing strategies due to COVID-19, and only 14% of UK marketing campaigns are now continuing as ‘planned’. Coca Cola, for example, which spent $5.8 billion on advertising in 2018, announced in March that it was stopping all Q2 marketing efforts in the UK due to the economic turbulence caused by the pandemic. Although it may seem tempting to pause activity during uncertainty, there is a risk that this will do more harm than good in the long run.
Brands that disappear from the public eye completely during times of crisis risk disappearing from the mind of the consumer and, once the pandemic has passed, may need to rebuild their brand equity from scratch. For example, a 2009 study looked at brands in 1929 and how their response to the Great Depression impacted their fortunes in the years following: Procter & Gamble, unlike their competitors, ramped up their marketing efforts and customer communications and, as a result, dominated share of voice in radio advertising. You don’t need me to tell you how successful the business is today.
If silence isn’t the answer, what can I say?
A brand is more than a tagline or marketing campaign. It’s the connection a business makes with customers, both logical and emotional – and it should run through everything you say and do, regardless of tough times. Demonstrating your business’ value to the customer is key. Across the board, your staff should embody the business values, mission statement and purpose to customers, to communicate a strong and aligned business, and this also goes for any content or collateral you roll out. Why? Customers will remember you for what you say and produce at this time.
And, on the other side, listening is just as important as speaking. Talking to your customers, while continuously measuring sentiment and buying behaviour, will allow you to adapt your messaging accordingly and offer as relevant a service as possible. However you proceed, keeping your customers front of mind is absolutely key – after all, they are going through the same challenges as we all are right now, and will be looking for brands they know and trust to remain consistent and authentic.
Staying strong, together
It is crucial to remember that this isn’t all about ‘you’ – you need to demonstrate to your target audience that your business is there for them. Make your communication less about your business, and more about the challenges your customers are facing and the solutions they need. Prove yourself as a trustworthy and reliable brand, and customers will be more likely to stick with you through both the bad times and the good.