24 Mar 2020 20:02 IST

Amid Covid-19, prepare your brand for the future

Now is the time to fix gaps, re-evaluate, and inspire customers through relevant actions

Anything with considerable importance or worth is regarded as valuable. Yet, in times of uncertainty, the word ‘valuable’ needs to be assessed prudently. Today, it’s no anomaly that people are re-assessing what’s valuable in their lives and what’s not. With a downturn, all but official, and amid an unprecedented health crisis, brands must reflect on how they are going to persist being valuable to those most central to their future. There is no doubt that these are extraordinary times and are likely to affect every business, every brand, and every individual.

With markets in chaos, and ambiguity at peak levels, leaders of brands are asking — what now? Because in times of crisis, people look to leaders for the right information, direction, and reassurance. And, increasingly, they also look to businesses as well. As people are asked to self-isolate, there will be a number of attitudinal and behavioural changes that might impact their needs, besides how they interact with familiar brands.

These testing times are certainly not a marketing opportunity. But this is a new reality that requires astute steerage. Even brands that create value may struggle to survive, as consumers are more discerning and picky during a crisis, apart from the fact of availability of certain products. The past offers insights into a brand’s significance and favourable impressions can help take the edge off the ambiguity. During the last recession, brands adopted varied measures to respond to changing consumer attitudes and behaviours. In 2009, an empirical study led by JWT found that most approaches fit into seven buckets: customer empowerment, humour, nationalism, nostalgia, optimism, price and value.

Let’s look at those approaches and contemplate how they apply to your brand right now.

Customer empowerment

Making your customers know that they have more control will help strengthen your brand in difficult times. Looking to be the provider of choice with different payment options and plans, an assortment of sizes, various options, experiences or time-frames will give ample control back to your customer and, thereby, increase your value to them.

Humour

Brands can make light of a gloomy situation through spirited humour. Humour, being the most phlegmatic form of advertising, can make your brand attractive to those seeking some escape. Ask yourself if there is anything that you could do to make your customer feel happier, what would it be.

Nationalism

If you can make the assertion, make a point of highlighting the positive impact that doing business with your “Made in India” brand has on the local economy. A downturn marketing strategy must unswervingly address the economy in your customer’s world. Remember, that world could have a small radius. Make a strong case that your brand helps invigorate even this small economy.

Nostalgia

When the going is tough, anxiety and nostalgia go concurrently. It’s inherent to seek comfort in memories of simpler, easier times. Reflect on how you can remind your customers that you have been with them through good and bad times. Paint a picture of the world you shared together and the better future you will create with them.

Optimism

In times of crisis, people learn to live with minimal wants and uncertainty, making them gain a fresh perceptive on the things that really matter. And in such situations, fraught with risk and with lives being lost, people tend to ponder upon the true meaning of life. Being a beacon of optimism, brands can inspire consumers in such troubling situations.

Price and value

In response to anxiety, consumers are most likely to make all sorts of value judgements. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the majority of the downturn related work spins around price and value. To encourage consumers to buy in a depressed economy, brands must strategically roll out price promotions, discounts, or more-for-less messaging. Nevertheless, it is imperative to use such strategies sparingly. Being the “brand that discounts” is always better than being termed a “discount brand”.

History tells us that brands need to act quickly in times of crisis. They need to create stronger consumer connections and generate greater value. Now is the time to fix gaps, re-evaluate and inspire customers through relevant actions. Simply put, now is the time to prepare your brand for the future.

One thing is certain: The world will never be the same again. Brands which recognise this and adapt early will make the cut.

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