COVID-19 is reshaping how brands engage with consumers. If you want to simplify your brand ecosystem during this crisis, it’s time to amplify your communication strategy.
As you look to reshape your brand communications, consider the importance of your brands’ actions during this time. While consumers may have always been aware of how brands behave, today they are actively scrutinizing and analyzing every detail of your brand’s actions. The key to addressing the new normal and the shift in essential needs during this pandemic is to activate your brand’s purpose as a means of engaging consumers.
As we’ve worked with a range of clients on their brands’ communications during the pandemic, we’ve uncovered several recurring themes that reflect what consumers currently want from brands:
- To reconnect with a mind towards wellness
- To socialize in new ways
- To support the mind and spirit by connecting deeper to their culture
- To take time for a break and escape
If these are the themes that interest consumers right now, what are the topics brands should touch upon in their communications? Following are three key actions brands can take to communicate clearly with a voice of assurance during this time:
1. Express Continuity
By now, you have seen hundreds of these messages—from your bank, your gym, your local restaurants—almost everyone has sent an email message or created a social media post describing how they plan to continue to serve their customers. This illustrates to the consumer that they can expect continuity of service and support they have always received both now and post-pandemic.
2. Feature Crisis Management
Brand ecosystems are starting to adjust as their operational models are being modified both globally and locally via new regulations. Discussing how you are responding and assuring consumers that you are positioned to weather the storm will help allay consumer fears about supply.
3. Highlight Generosity and Solidarity
Many manufacturers have shifted their production lines to produce much-needed items, such as facemasks/shields, hand sanitizer, and other essential products, for first responders, essential workers, and families in need. Communicating these actions in a simplified, humble, empathetic manner will amplify both your generosity and your solidarity with those in need.
If the above communications are what brands should be talking about both during and post-pandemic, the question then becomes how best to do that? Answering some of the following questions can help.
Which channels could be used?
Consumers are filling their newly found free time with increased content consumption. Are you amplifying your communications with them through these channels? Choosing the right channel for the right audience will be critical for this unpredictable time.
With the removal of physical interactions, brands are engaging and differentiating their services through creative channels, such as digital brand experiences and online pop-up "stores.” From conferences to exercise classes to fashion shows, the implementation of live streaming platforms is moving experiences online and speaking directly to your consumers is key to driving engagement.
It is also important to recognize that spending is not dropping; it is just shifting to different channels. Take time to step back and focus on a few key channels to drive your engagement strategy.
Brand marketers may consider taking a cue from direct-to-consumer communication channels. Direct-to-consumer brands simplify their messaging by focusing on speaking one-to-one with consumers—an effective strategy for amplifying engagement.
Can you use their approach to connect with your consumers in a personalized way (rather than through general, proclaimed speeches)? Leveraging the direct-to-consumer approach across online channels may be an effective way to add a personal touch to your brand communications.
Can you shift your sales funnel online?
Consider the consumer journey and how it has changed during the pandemic. As consumers strive to minimize human-to-human contact, contactless payments and onboarding services are on the rise. And of course, eCommerce has grown by leaps in bounds since the pandemic began.
Easing the transition for consumers between how they shopped pre-pandemic and how they must shop now is key. Your communication strategy should reflect that shift and amplify the ease of finding your brands (discoverability) and where and how your brands can be purchased (buyability) in a frictionless manner.
How can you modify your CX based on current sensibilities?
In short—humanely. Be empathetic. Many brands speak through their CEOs or through their employees, but the key right now is to simplify by being approachable. Opt for candid imagery and lose the suits. With a lot of the population working remotely, odds are, many folks are going about their day-to-day lives as comfortably as possible. Your brand communications should amplify this shift.
How can companies and brands become an enabler and relevant to consumers' emotional needs?
What brands have learned since the start of this pandemic is the importance of building community. Giving consumers a sense of belonging even though they may be forced apart from their loved ones for a time is driving people to look for comfort in new ways. Whether through virtual meetups or finding ways to perform safe group exercises, brands that can help build this sense of community are flourishing. Often the most praiseworthy actions are relayed via the brand community, a powerful ambassador during this time.
How can you measure your communication efforts?
We all know that the key to any successful strategy is accurate and effective metrics. Beyond conversion rates and click thru rates, there’s a way to gauge how consumers are reacting to your efforts. Didtheyhelp.com is a website designed to inform consumers about the brands who are taking action—both positive and negative—and collects and highlights news and anecdotal stories of how companies are behaving in responding to the pandemic. Ensuring you have a good score can help build goodwill and positive feelings toward your company and brands.
Consumers are paying close attention to how brands are reacting to the pandemic. According to a Forrester study, 52% of US online adults prefer to buy from companies that show how they are protecting customers against the threat of COVID-19.
Now is the time to modify your communications strategies so that you can build brand resiliency into your ecosystem. Shifting to digital content or engagements can influence your intended audience. Showing empathy for your consumers’ current situation and the larger environment we find ourselves in can build goodwill. Analyzing your end-to-end customer journey and finding ways to remove friction or contact areas can ease consumer anxiety and encourage purchase.
Moreover, build your communication strategy so that it is community focused, it expresses empathy towards the current situation, and it delivers your messaging through consumers’ preferred digital channels.
About Delphine Dauge
Delphine has an extensive background in branding and design with a career that spans a highly respectable group of agencies form design to communication. Prior to joining Brandimage in 2010, she confirmed her expertise in brand management and the branding of luxury goods.