Here’s how to keep building your 
brand through the current crisis

April 27, 2020 • 4 minute read
It’s been said over and over again: we’re living through something completely unknown and unprecedented. Every aspect of our lives feels like it’s been turned upside down. And if you’re a marketer, this disorienting new world is probably making you wonder if everything you’d been planning is still viable, and if your previous brand strategy is still relevant. This probably has you questioning: what are the priorities of your audience? Have they fundamentally changed? If so, how do you even begin to pivot? We’re here to tell you that, by staying connected to your audience in the here and now, answers and opportunities will arise—and applying those learnings will help you come out of this crisis with your brand intact. In other words, the worst thing your brand can do at the moment is nothing.

The change in human behavior

COVID-19 has caused a shift in human behavior, and we’re now more online than we ever were before. We’re spending weekends on FaceTime, giving presentations on Zoom, and using chat windows to share copious PDFs and memes. What was a slow-moving trend towards remote interactions two months ago has exploded into our lives as the only way we can talk to our friends, family, and co-workers—and many people have been left alone in their homes as they look for ways to connect. As a result, marketers are finding themselves in a state of adaptation, and many are continuing business online. The in-depth, in-person workshops that created valuable collaboration in the past are going remote (an undertaking we just managed successfully with our own clients.) When it comes to continuing the connection with their audiences, digital and/or remote are now the only options. B2B marketers are searching for ways to bring the convention floor into the digital landscape, and the movement towards digital sales tools has been accelerated by COVID-19—as selling at a distance has never been more relevant. Companies that already have a foot in the digital door are witnessing opportunities for success—from digital health firms that offer telemedicine and AI-powered remote monitoring tools, to online dating services like that give people a window into remote romance. And the D2C brands we’ve seen accelerate in recent years (Warby Parker, Peloton, Casper) are seeing a significant uptick in sales as consumers spend more online than in-person. But what’s running high through all of this is your audience’s sensitivity and concern about personal and economic uncertainty—and more importantly, the health and wellbeing of their family and friends. Now, more than ever, it’s important for brands to be purposeful and cultivate an emotional, compassionate connection with audiences.

Finding new ways for your brand to connect

At this point, it’s probably clear that we’re headed for change, and brands have an opportunity to support their audiences through the current struggle. At Fwd People, this is where we believe you have the greatest opening to build your brand towards the future—and we have some tips to help you get started down the path of brand re-realization.

Step 1: Re-align

The first step to understanding your brand’s place in the current crisis is to take a step back and outline the position that your audience is now in. Keep up with your customers and ask them about the current state of their days, how they’re managing the current situation, and what’s inspiring them to engage. This will give you a better picture of where your brand can fill a need, and can aid you in performing a holistic assessment of your communications. The needs of your audience have changed, and the best initial reaction a brand can have is to assess the situation and re-align their approach.

Step 2: Re-discover

The world we knew before has changed, and our communications have to change with it. For many marketers, this means re-assessing what a brand stands for—a process we like to call discovering your brand story. The story of your brand helps the product grow past its functionality, allowing you to reach beyond what it does and towards how it makes your customers feel. And, let’s face it: there’s never been a more important time to emotionally connect with customers. If your brand is in a lull, then it’s the perfect time to take a step back and figure out who it can be for your audience. We’ve written a thorough guide on how to do so here.

Step 3: Re-focus

This is a stressful time for everyone, and we know that you’re getting all the same news alerts we are. With the world changing so rapidly, it’s natural to have a hard time figuring out exactly how to keep your eye on the ball. But the best thing that brands can do right now is deliver a clear, concise message and refrain from overreacting with more volatility. The more stable and evident brands are for their audiences, the more they will thrive once the economy recovers. Once you discover the story that your brand can tell in these harrowing times, put your full weight behind it. Don’t let anything distract you.

Step 4: Re-connect

When we look back at past recessions, we can take inspiration from how brands responded then. In 2009, Hyundai did something that we found admirable: they launched an “Assurance” program that helped customers stay secure in their car purchases. If a customer lost their job up to a year after purchase, they’d buy back the car at a maximum of $7,500 of the cost of depreciation, or they’d actually take care of a customer’s first 3 months of car payments in full. By doing this, Hyundai met their audience exactly where they were in a time of economic uncertainty. They outperformed all other automakers in February of 2009 as a result. Offerings that benefit and stabilize your audience are a great way to build trust and a lasting, meaningful relationship—and, once again, there’s no better time to do so than now.

The ultimate benefit of taking action now

Smart brands understand that a recession doesn’t have to be a setback, and are already planning to make their competition irrelevant through re-imagining and re-investing in their brand communications. Audiences need hope and encouragement, and brands are in a unique position to deliver on that through empathetic messaging and specially tailored offerings that meet them right where they are—at home, and remote. Forging an emotional connection in these times will not only create long-term loyalty, but profit for you and the market as a whole. Be relevant. Be purposeful. It will connect you with your audience every time.
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