Re-Examining Your Branding & Marketing Strategy in the Age of COVID-19

It is likely the understatement of the decade (or maybe the 21st century at this point) that the pandemic has changed the way we do business.

With the largest health and economic crisis in over 80 years landing at our feet, our lives and business operations have been upended seemingly overnight — from work-at-home mandates to the complete shuttering of entire industry verticals.

That tremendous disruption has driven a major (and likely permanent) shift for marketers in how we position our organizations and communicate with our audiences.

With the pandemic comes new brand and marketing challenges:

  • Maintaining a consistent marketing plan tied to business outcomes is difficult in an unpredictable environment, especially with reduced budgets.
  • The effectiveness of various marketing channels has changed due to the shift in consumers’ life schedules.
  • Gaining attention is more challenging than ever. Communication volume has increased significantly, while attention spans have decreased.
  • Buying behavior and attitudes that drive purchasing decisions have changed dramatically.
  • Consumers expect to see organizations act and communicate differently now because of the pandemic.

So, what’s a marketer like yourself to do?

Be Visible

With so many industries decimated, now is not the time to drop off the grid. Stay present.

According to a WPP Study, 62% of consumers feel companies should continue to communicate with them through the crisis, particularly about what they are doing for their customers and their communities. Simply put: falling off your audience’s radar is not an option.

Brands may need to scale back and/or adjust their messages, and strategies may differ depending on the industry and situation. But, don’t make the mistake of looking at branding and marketing as overhead. Brands should not shut down completely or they may be left behind.

With seismic shifts in reaching our audience, we must pivot.

Industry events and in-person networking — two of the primary networking channels — have been shut down or gone virtual. Personal outreach has become increasingly more difficult. And, what’s the point in sending direct mail to an empty office? In just a few weeks and months, we’ve experienced a multiyear shift toward digitization.

More than ever, it’s time to lean into digital to stay visible.

  • Make your website sing your praises. It may be the only place potential buyers can learn about you right now. It is your most important asset.
  • Keep showing up at virtual conferences. Not surprisingly, attendance is up but are they qualified buyers or is the audience weaker? Some things are yet to be determined. One thing is for sure, participants are still employed, so if your current database list has been decimated, this is one way to help rebuild it.
  • Host and participate in webinars and panels. This is a perfect time to engage in virtual events like roundtables, speaking opportunities, and lunch-and-learns. Share (some of) what you know to remind your audience of your authority.
  • Update your presence and current information in online listings and directories.
  • Create relevant content, such as blog posts and white papers.
  • Bridge the gap with video. Your prospects are not as easy for your sales team to reach directly in 2020, but video can help. (Say goodbye to the handshake deal over lunch.)
  • Plan and deploy relevant e-campaigns.
  • Develop and maintain consistent social media messaging.
  • Budget for digital advertising. Digital search and conversion rates are soaring.
  • Take advantage of SEO/SEM tactics. Make sure your audience can find you where they are searching.

The key to building a great relationship with your audience hasn’t changed. Only how to reach them and what to say.

Be Human

This is a difficult time. With so much uncertainty in the world, people are looking for authenticity. We are communicating human-to-human, after all.

It may be outside of your comfort zone (either as a company or an individual), but it’s time to get personal.

Human nature dictates that people tend to only accept, believe, and surrender to the thoughts and actions that match their emotional state. And right now, people want empathy.

According to SRI, emotionally connected customers:

  • Buy more from you, driving recurring revenue
  • Visit your website and store more often
  • Care less about price
  • Pay more attention to your communication
  • Follow your advice
  • Recommend you to others

Be Relevant

Have you reviewed your key messages lately? Are they still relevant and relatable? What about your mission and core values? Are you living them in this difficult time? Your company’s core values, implemented correctly, can better define your culture — your greater mission and reason(s) for existing as a company — beyond the tangible products or services you offer.

Social media consumption has skyrocketed 61%. But it’s the content and tone of the conversations that are interesting — brands are becoming less superficial and getting more personal. Your brand should follow suit.

Your tone and your image should reflect the times. Look at your brand through a COVID-19 lens. Are you still showing images of people shaking hands, tightly gathered around a conference table or sharing an appetizer? If so, you may look out of touch with reality. Make sure your brand is relevant to the times. Part of authenticity is not being tone-deaf.

Contrary to popular belief, emotions are at the heart of B2B decision-making.

Business is obviously changing, and your business needs to evolve as well. You’ve seen the #newnormal hashtags and they’re not going away. Business has shifted because life has shifted.

By staying visible, being human, and staying relevant, your brand will come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger than it was before.