Even in more predictable times than our COVID-19 world, brand relevance is a constant challenge. To be relevant is to be flexible and up-to-date. It means keeping up with trends that relate to your services and your audience. Essential to all marketing strategies is a willingness to take on the next new challenge, all the while listening to the shifting demands of your core customers. This means never being satisfied with taking the same approach you took last year, or even last quarter. In fact, in the face of a global crisis with COVID-19, portions of your brand marketing strategy may even shift from week to week.
If your business isn’t on the front lines of healthcare or medicine — running a hospital, manufacturing PPE, testing vaccines, even pivoting from a distillery to a hand-sanitizer production facility — you may be questioning how to stay relevant right now. You may even wonder if audiences want to hear from you at all mid-crisis.
But opportunities abound to reach them now, if done correctly. For example, 63% of surveyed Americans who say they miss going out to bars and restaurants are also “extremely worried” about the idea of returning to those establishments. This is a major opportunity to create reassuring narratives in food-service marketing.
No matter your industry, audiences right now need you to be open, transparent, and most of all, authentic. Churning out generic messaging to anyone who’ll listen won’t help, and could actually damage your brand reputation.
With that in mind, here are 3 key marketing strategies for keeping your brand relevant, even in the face of a global crisis.
1. Don’t Assume How Your Audience Feels Right Now — Check In
There are a number of ways to keep abreast of the needs and sentiments of your audience. Brand tracking is one of the most effective. It reveals how your marketing efforts are performing, and can help you keep up with the performance of your competitors as well. It also helps measure the behaviors and attitudes of your core customers. These insights are essential for understanding where your brand fits into your industry and into the lives of your audiences. And especially in times of crisis, they can show you how the wants and needs of your core customers are changing.
If you have brand tracking in place already, evaluate your messaging and marketing strategy to ensure it reflects any changes that may impact your industry (such as appointment-only visits, social distancing, temporary closures or modifications to the customer experience). If not, consider building surveys, amping up your social media-engagement, and other tactics to encourage buyers to interact with you now. This gives you valuable information into their most pressing wants and needs.
2. Stay Current with News of the Crisis
Generating unique insights about your core customers is the first step to making sure your marketing efforts aren’t tone-deaf in the context of a crisis. But you should also combine these insights with what we know about the overall impacts of COVID-19, stay-at-home orders, essential business operations, and more.
For instance, 72% of surveyed Americans say they’ll reach their emotional breaking point if stay-at-home orders continue through early June. At that rate, there’s a good chance your audience is a part of the group that’s ready to burst. What steps can you take now to reflect that knowledge back to your audience, making them feel understood?
Similarly, states across the country and countries across the world are making plans to safely reopen. Keeping your messaging current with local and national guidance will help establish trust. That way, your audiences will feel they can rely on you for up-to-date information about how your business and their lives will be affected in the coming weeks.
3. Adapt, But Keep Your Marketing Strategy True to Your Brand
The exact messages you’re delivering to audiences right now could be vastly different from before, but they’ll still feel genuine and familiar if you stay true to your brand. You should not waver your core brand identity in the face of a crisis — at least, certainly not without good reason and careful planning.
Self-described “poop-positive brand” Poo-Pourri is a great example of this. Their brand tone is lighthearted, punny, and just on the edge of crude (given their fondness for bathroom humor). Even in the face of a serious global situation, they haven’t altered that approach. Check out the example from their Instagram above.
While this post in the COVID-19 era may at first seem surprising, it serves them well. That’s because it’s a genuine expression of their brand and their product. For a brand like Poo-Pourri, pivoting to a more serious approach would most likely feel forced. This may not only discourage new customers from interacting, but could alienate existing customers who thought they knew what the brand represented.
You may launch a new campaign or initiative — even a new product or service — that could have its own unique visual language, distinct from your overarching brand. But if you’re putting out messaging that represents your organization as a whole, stay true to the work you dedicated to developing that brand. Maybe you have a brand persona that helps guide voice and tone in your messaging. Perhaps your brand has a signature color or relies heavily on its logomark for brand recognition. Whatever the case, even in a crisis, retain what makes your brand special.
Strong Brand Marketing Strategies Can Put You on the Right Side of the Future
We’re marketing to a world that’s new to all of us. A world that’s changing every day. A world where we can still make predictions, but with decidedly less confidence. It will be exciting to see how consumers and brands weather the storm, recover, and triumph. The right marketing strategies can empower your brand to be one of the many success stories that will inevitably emerge from these challenging times.