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Branding During Times of Crisis Part 1: Back to Basics

Kristine Liu

Kristine Liu

It’s a strange time for marketers. Faced with stay-at-home orders and totally remote work routines, buyers’ behaviors are shifting. In response, your B2B company has probably had to adjust its messaging or offer pricing flexibility to adapt to the current climate. But have you considered the critical role your brand will play in determining how you adapt?

In this three-part series, we’ll share our recommendations of things you can do to fortify your brand while keeping it relevant and engaging. From leaning into your brand as a guide for decision-making, which we’ll cover below, to staying close to your audience and looking for alternative ways to drive brand loyalty, this series will help you tap into your brand as a resource during the current crisis and strengthen it to guide business decisions in the long term.

Right now: Let your brand be your guide

Adapting your marketing approach during a crisis is not about introducing an entirely new brand strategy — it’s about finding what’s most relevant within your existing platform to help guide your decisions. In the same way that you might modulate your message based on audience or channel, view the current crisis as just a new context for your brand to exist within. Start by digging into your brand elements, look to your team to help set your strategy for the short-term and remember to keep your team informed on any changes.

Lean into what’s relevant now

To help you adapt to the current climate, start by identifying which elements of your brand are currently the most relevant to the situation, and lean into those aspects. They’re likely the more human elements of your brand: your brand values, personality traits, brand purpose, etc. At Walker Sands, our brand values are Learn, Support, Do — and these days we’re rallying around our Support value to meet the needs of our clients and community.

For Uber, they’re focusing their attention on how their mission — helping people move from point A to point B — can adapt to continue delivering value, even when people aren’t moving around that much. They’ve launched two new services, Uber Direct and Uber Connect, to deliver produce and essentials, further strengthening their association with mobility and providing a valuable service to their customers during a difficult time.

Uber COVID-19 Response Facebook Post

Set your short-term strategy

If you don’t have a solid brand platform, you’re likely feeling a bit adrift. Use your entire team as a resource to help create a short-term strategy to guide your communication and decision making in the current climate. In other words, look beyond the marketing department — sales, customer service, operations and HR can all bring unique perspectives that can help shape your approach. Some questions to consider:

  • What is a story that is emblematic of our culture?
  • How do we want our customers to feel when they engage with our product/service?
  • What values guide our day-to-day work?
  • What inspires us about the work that we do?

Keep your team on the same page

Every single one of your employees represents a touchpoint to your brand. As you calibrate your new approach, it’s essential to make sure it’s universally understood across your organization. Consider creating a modified brand guidelines document and distributing it to your internal team to ensure a consistent brand experience for your customers.

Navigating your short-term brand strategy isn’t as daunting as it seems. By leaning on the relevant aspects of your brand to help guide your business through the current crisis, you will be able to weather the storm and will be well prepared to recalibrate based on how the market and your audience perceptions shift.

Down the road: Reevaluate the resilience of your brand

Whether you’re starting from square one or looking to reinforce what you already have in place, the period following a crisis is an opportunity to evaluate the strength of your brand and shore up any shortcomings. Start by identifying the challenges you faced, and trace them back to potential gaps in your brand. Here are some common pitfalls brands face in times of crisis, along with ways to overcome them:

  • There was confusion about where your brand can play. If your brand is anchored too heavily in product/service attributes, it can be difficult to adjust to an environment where a heavy sell is not appropriate. Look to better understand the outcomes your offering creates or the identity your customers seek to embody when they use your product to build a more flexible brand.
  • Your team wasn’t able to pivot your strategy quickly enough. Do you have clear brand guidelines in place? Are your brand values lived and actively applied in your organization? When your team is on the same page, you can move in unison and your brand becomes more agile.
  • You were invisible. Were you overshadowed by your competition or the situation? Just like people, brands without personality or POV get overlooked. Build a stronger voice for your brand to break through and make an impression, regardless of the environment.

After understanding more about your challenges, continue to push yourself by asking tough questions to determine whether the crisis has intrinsically changed the way your brand is perceived:

  • Has the situation shifted how our customers use our product?
  • Has there been changes in sentiment around specific values that might be an opportunity to pursue?
    • E.g.,. With more people out of work, frugality increases in importance. Could a cost-saving piece of technology, like Honey, be more relevant in this current environment?
  • Have competitors expanded into new areas or are there new competitors that have arisen as a result of the current environment?
    • E.g., Facebook adds “Messenger Rooms” video conferencing functionality to compete with the increasing popularity of Zoom and Google Hangouts.

There may be a lot of moving pieces currently, but don’t panic. For now, focus on your brand foundation and progressively evolve from there. A well-crafted brand can serve as your North Star to help guide your business during uncertain times. In our next post, we’ll talk about the importance of staying in close contact with your audience to adapt your strategies accordingly. Keep reading by clicking here.

If you need guidance on your brand strategy, Walker Sands is here to help. Contact our experts for a free branding audit with customized recommendations to enhance your B2B brand.