Change is always a disruptor to the business-as-usual mindset, but the exciting thing is that it allows new creativity to come into play that you may not have dared to attempt previously in your tried-and-true methodologies. In times of a crisis, it can be hard for businesses to know where to begin. But every company needs a brand strategy, especially during COVID-19. The role of branding during a crisis should include creating a shared sense of an “in-it-together” camaraderie.

It’s a tougher marketplace for many companies, but there is good news and that is, everyone is home, online and paying attention to different digital mediums. Many companies have been pushed forward into realms they were originally uncomfortable with, yet have been finding success and opportunities, which will ultimately drive how business moves forward when recovery comes.

Companies are adapting to a completely digital environment. And brands are adjusting and innovating with new creative, pivoting to virtual events and digital solutions. A marketing tactic that was once unfamiliar to some is being fast-tracked partly due to the coronavirus pandemic. After some initial messaging about the disruption in business operations resulting from the coronavirus, companies are back to marketing. Without a physical product to ship, they have been diving deep into nurture campaigns and lead generation, planning for a successful future.

This “new” way of doing business online ensures that consumers have anything and everything they want, literally at their fingertips and in real time. Companies are presenting products digitally and substituting in-person events for webinars, virtual tours and video calls. It’s prime time for moving more heavily into social media, case studies, blogs and other thought leadership content to engage people now, as they are seeking escapism, entertainment and information.

Branding efforts need to remain strong, so customers will recognize, remember and consider your products or services amidst your competitors. What is important is how you portray your brand. What is your brand promise, beyond your products? How about your company’s value proposition? It is a great time to determine how you can make the same offering for people in a virtual setting. Track human behavioral trends, associate your brand with good, use social media to pivot as circumstances change and turn to digital mediums to connect with customers.

We Are Social and Hootsuite’s latest collection of Global Digital 2020 reports reveals the following compelling digital key trends and insights:

  • There are 19 billion unique mobile users in the world today, up 124 million (2.4 percent) compared to 2019.
  • There are 4.54 billion internet users in 2020, an increase of 298 million (7 percent) versus January 2019.
  • There are 3.80 billion social media users in 2020, with the worldwide total growing by 321 million (9 percent) since this time last year.

The sheer numbers of digital users around the globe speak to the immense possibilities that businesses have if the right marketing strategy is employed, especially during the coronavirus outbreak.

When done right, digital branding during a crisis offers companies an opportunity to:

Focus on the Customer Experience

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to preserve and build relationships with customers when their world has been turned upside down. How can businesses maintain and strengthen relationships with consumers amidst social distancing?

When communicating to your customers, especially during these uncertain times, keep your message brief and thoughtful. Although they care about the good deeds your company is doing, don’t overdo it. Ultimately, customers will care most about the value you create for them and striking the right tone is key.

Begin by executing your brand promise. As such, your marketing strategy needs to revolve around consistently following through on this promise, to intensify the customer experience, across all of your digital channels. Tactics without a strong strategy fall short of reaching business goals, no matter the landscape—digital or not.

For example, Vimeo’s value proposition is to “Make Life Worth Watching.” While this is already set for online marketing, the concept of extrapolating the value proposition into other mediums would be to include other creative ways to make their customer’s lives memorable, which helps to humanize the brand.

The fact that someone needs to see a message seven times before they remember it has not changed. Customers hold the power today because of the massive amount of information and choices that digital technology allows. In return, we know much more about our customers thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). This method of leveraging customer data anticipates your customer’s next move and improves the customer journey. Customers now expect us to know about their wants and needs. Therefore, they demand that we serve them relevant content across the channels they engage with on a daily basis. If they don’t know your brand, providing content they’re interested in is the best way to open the door to your offerings.

Branding has never been solely about a catchy logo and a quirky tagline. It’s about delivering on your promises, through all of the different mediums your target audience engages with on a daily basis. Be sure that your messaging matches not only their interests across the customer decision journey but is also appropriate for the specific medium to deepen their experience.

Add Value to Customer Relationships Amid COVID-19

While consistency in your look and feel across digital channels is incredibly important, your brand promise is the best entity you have to offer to your customers. Your brand promise is your competitive advantage in the marketplace. Right now, that means using mindful marketing—tying in simple messages that address COVID-19 and social responsibility. Tone and human centric messaging are incredibly important and will resonate when recovery comes—that is the emotionally driven take-away to inspire your customers. Highlight how your brand can help by sharing valuable content and responding with compassion.

While addressing the current pandemic thoughtfully and remaining true to your brand promise, you can still market simple things such as quality, selection or even fast delivery. The way in which marketers respond during the coronavirus crisis can make a difference in determining how your brand is perceived in the long-term.

Whatever is most important to your target audience needs to come through in all touch points and channels, as well as with how you deliver on your promise. You might have heard that a brand is not only the products or services offered by a company, but mainly the promise and values the company puts forth. This is critically important especially during these uncertain times. Your brand actually lies in the perception of prospects and customers. It’s the collective impression—the lingering resonance of feelings that stays with a customer or drives a lead to engage with your business. Good branding is a lasting impression that sets expectations for your product or service.

Tactical elements of digital marketing campaigns including social media, SEO/SEM, email marketing, behavioral targeting and programmatic can get incredibly disconnected and fragmented across vehicles, if your branding isn’t strong. As a result, customers will engage with another company over yours if your brand promise—be it through image choices, targeted content or whatever the medium—doesn’t come through. During the COVID-19 pandemic, that means evaluating your imagery and language, sharing helpful and hopeful messages while swapping out visuals that don’t make sense amidst a retreat to isolation, social distancing and remote working.

On a strategic level, build the foundation for your business with content—take the time now, because we won’t always have it. From large to small, there is always something you can do. For example, if you own a catering business, you can offer instructional videos or your “secret” recipes for a fee. The sky is the limit when it comes to creativity.

Go virtual. Offer seminars that feature your company’s experts. Provide an opportunity for participants to ask questions in real-time. People are listening and engaged!

Alleviate consumer concerns by providing product-specific tutorials or education surrounding health products. While in downtime, offer consulting or training on your products or information related to your industry. Subscribers will pay monthly for your expertise and knowledge! Or consider monetizing your website—add content to draw people in, and then add advertisers.

A strong brand will always provide you a competitive edge in the market. It’s a given that enhanced credibility, ease of conversion and earned media will happen naturally with a smaller cost-per-conversion when your brand holds its weight in the market.

Increase Credibility and Trust During Times of Crisis

Customers want to do business with people they trust. Your branding efforts during COVID-19 need to reinforce your company’s credibility and affinity with your customer’s values. Your customers’ positive interactions with your business can trigger lasting feelings of trust and loyalty.

Don’t just deliver content. Instead, deliver relative, emotional, value-added customer experiences. Developing powerful, recognizable and relatable offerings—which sets you apart from other companies and speaks to the current times—will solidify brand trust. Customers value trust more than obtaining products or services at a lower cost.

Remember, whatever your company does now will remain in peoples’ minds once they go back into the default world.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and Coronavirus Pandemic, 62% of respondents said their country will not make it through this crisis without brands playing a critical role in addressing challenges. Consumers are looking to brands to offer fast, tangible solutions that build a new level of connection.

Digital channels, such as social media and online reviews, which consumers trust, allow increased personal interactions between your brand and your prospects.

Showcase Shared Values

Brands exist to provide value, and the products or services that help during this stressful time of uncertainty deserve the attention of those who can benefit from them. This global crisis will fundamentally change how we think, behave and consume. If what you do supports or enhances your consumers’ lives while quarantined, tell that brand story.

Your branded “content” should match your prospects’ and customers’ values and inspire them to re-engage with you, when they’re interested in making a purchase decision. In addition, these target audiences expect you to remember them.

However, what are you doing for them to remember you? They want consistency in what your brand stands for, across all marketing touch points, along the consumer decision journey. The messaging also needs to be appropriate for each touch point. In addition, they want what’s important to them to be important to you too.

In the digital age, not much has changed when it comes to branding. Customers want consistency of your brand promise. Although, how it’s delivered has changed dramatically. On top of that, the role of branding in digital marketing is constantly evolving. Building a brand is never “done.” It’s an ongoing process of refining and growing the defining characteristics of your business or offerings. Still, it’s well worth the effort. Strong digital branding ensures that you’re always in the consideration stage, as your prospects and customers see and engage with your online content.

Engage customers and humanize your brand across all digital touch points, especially during this global crisis. This helps invite prospects into your brand experience. If your company’s value proposition is for full service to your customers from start to finish, how can you offer full service to them now, while they are sitting at home?

Contact us today to get the conversation started.

The original blog post appeared in its entirety on the CMA Blog page.

CMA is a full-service communications, marketing and association management firm, which has provided its clients with award-winning and proven results for more than 30 years. To drive ROI, it utilizes its strategic solutions including branding, digital marketing, web and mobile app development, social media, public relations, advertising, collateral, association management, event planning, publications, and advertising sales.

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