There is no doubt about it, 2020 is perhaps the most difficult year any of us has had to face. This year is also challenging for many of the world’s top brands. Top brands are now being forced to rethink their communication strategies. These leading brand strategies are now focused on communicating in trust, taking responsibility, having direct interaction and effectively communicating to consumers all while remaining empathic and positive.
Consumers and business leaders are suffering from unprecedented stress and uncertainties. With the lockdowns and restrictions coming and going and economic uncertainty hanging over everything. In this climate, brands are having to be more sensitive in their communication strategies.
The last thing anyone wants to see right now is an advertisement full of smiling revelers having the holiday of a lifetime. While, the rest of us are stuck at home worrying about our health, jobs and when we will get to see families and friends next.
Businesses are having to think long and hard about how to get their messages across sensitively. These new messages focus on remaining positive. This current climate is driving significant shifts in the communication strategies of just about all the world’s top brands.
Communicating in Trust During the Pandemic
The trust economy existed before Covid-19. With the emergence of ‘fake news’ and Social Media’s ability to spread this information in the blink of an eye. Building consumer trust begins to take on as an important role. This is mainly in part of the product’s capabilities or taste.
Since the Coronavirus outbreak, this leaning toward the building of consumer trust is amplified. Leading brands and companies are now placing less emphasis on selling by the quality of their product and more on building a trusting relationship with their consumers. For example:
- Southwest: Announced leaving the middle seat open at the start of the pandemic and has stayed true to this commitment through November 30.
- Tesla: The electric car manufacturer switched some of its production lines to build ventilators, which they subsequently donated.
- Anheuser-Busch: Converted some manufacturing lines to produce sanitizer during the shortage.
These are examples that have an obvious mechanism toward the building of trust. Consumers have long memories and acts like this will serve these companies well for years to come. But, there are more subtle examples.
In the Philippines, the CEO of the McDonald’s operation in that country created a video. This video details the safety measures McDonald’s is taking to protect both consumers and their staff.
This might seem like an obvious approach. However, at the same time other companies are portraying their staff as ‘heroes.’ This approach is being criticized for ignoring the fact that the employees are in as much need of protection as the consumers are.
Consumer loyalty was until recently something a brand achieved by offering quality product and slick marketing. Now, companies are building trust by being loyal to their customer base.
Taking Responsibility of Branding During the Pandemic
These days we all must take a level of responsibility in whatever we do. Whether it is self-isolating with symptoms, wearing a mask in public places or just washing your hands frequently. These actions are the new norm. And top brands are taking the same level of responsibility in order to maintain consumer trust.
Successful communication strategies tell the consumer about a brands responsible approach to the current situation. A classic example of this occurred early in the pandemic when a toilet paper manufacturer began a campaign designed to dissuade consumers to stop panic buying.
Asking customers to not buy your product may seem counterintuitive. But what it is doing is building customer trust by making the consumer aware of the empathic nature of the brand.
Another brand that is using a similar strategy is Nike. While a lot of the world is still reeling from the pandemic, Nike encourages people to ‘play inside.’ Again, from a company whose product lines are generally designed for outdoor use, this may also sound counterintuitive. But Nike is playing a clever game with an empathic approach. This approach does not lose sight of the brand’s main selling point. Check out the campaign here.
It is this understanding of the situation, the ‘we’re all in this together,’ ethos that brands are increasingly turning to.
Direct Interaction and Conversation in Brand Strategy
Directly communicating with their consumers, mainly through Social Media, is a tactic companies are increasingly resorting to during the pandemic. This brand communication strategy was in place before the pandemic struck. But with more of us being forced to use Social Media as our main form of communication with friends and loved ones, it has become increasingly important for brands as well.
For example, Reebok used Twitter to establish what home workout equipment their consumers are likely to own. By utilizing Twitter, Reebok is able broadcast their newly established series of home workout routines based on the consumer responses.
Another leading brand strategy during this pandemic, is the “Water Wipes” brand of baby products. They created a virtual group named “Early Days Club.” This group is designed to let parents interact with each other while sharing advice and tips. All while assisting each other while overcoming the challenges arising from raising a child during the pandemic.
Many other brands are establishing similar communication approaches. Some online platforms offer free-for-all courses and restaurants publish their famous recipes for consumers to cook at home.
Overall, there is a movement away for brands being admired for products to now brands being admired for trustworthiness and empathy. This new movement seems to be working. In a recent consumer survey, it is shown that during the pandemic, consumer trust in larger brands is increasing.
Branding Looking Forward – After the Pandemic
These are seismic changes to the ways large brands communicate with consumers. Brands with foresight are switching more toward a communication strategy that involves building trust with consumers. These new efforts open more direct communication channels.
It is a drive toward consumer centricity that is unlikely to change even after the pandemic eases. It was a world that was on the verge of major change anyway. The global pandemic is pushing many of these changes upon us without letting them ‘evolve’ naturally.
As ever with global brands, leading brand strategies during the pandemic are quick on the uptake. It is the ones who fail to see this and don’t shift their communication strategies that will fall by the wayside.
Stay up to date and continue to see how the trends are changing due to Covid-19 by following my next VLOG or blog.