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Branding During Times of Crisis Part 2: Stay Close to Your Audience

Kristine Liu

In part one of our Branding During Times of Crisis series, we covered the importance of relying on your brand to guide decision-making in turbulent times. With a strong, resilient brand in place, it’s important to stay close to your audience so that you fully understand their needs and can adapt your business and strategies accordingly. Continuous monitoring of your audience’s behavior will ensure your brand is effectively reaching them in the right way, at the right place in the buyer journey.

Right now: Understand shifting behavior

Customer and prospect behaviors shift quickly in volatile markets, so it’s more important than ever to understand the needs of your audience. Keep a close pulse on your audience — research by Dentsu Aegis shows that customer attitudes and behaviors are changing at an increased rate right now. What is relevant today might become outdated faster than you expect.

Adapt messaging to the needs of your audience

It may be hard to determine the best way to communicate with your audience. Channel your brand personality and speak “person-to-person.” Now is not the best time to emphasize your competitive proof points or reasons to believe. Things to keep in mind when communicating:

  • Adjust your tone to your audience. Take a pause to examine whether your audience would appreciate the content and consider revising your audience segments to reflect audiences’ psychology during this time. Some audiences prefer you approach them as you normally would, while some prefer to not see ads and others might want to understand how you can help them better serve their companies and communities. If your brand provides a valuable service that could benefit your audience, you're doing them and yourself a disservice if you choose to go inactive right now.
  • Avoid drowning in the sea of sameness of COVID messaging. You need to differentiate your brand — and that doesn’t change, even when we’re in a crisis. So far, many brands are defaulting to comforting words like "we're here for you." Although your intent may be to express empathy, you may come off as disingenuous to audiences who are seeing these messages many times a day. Do something different to stand out. For example, Burger King is leaning into their quirky jester personality, launched a “Stay Home of the Whopper” ad to empower people and their “Couch Potatriotism,” and waived delivery fees.

Support your claims

Actions speak much louder than words. It’s easy to make claims when times are good, but how can you demonstrate those claims when times are rough? Keep a pulse on what your audience needs right now, and think about how you can benefit your customers or what adjustments you can make to your offerings to meet those needs. Things like adding a chatbot to your website to better serve your customers in real time might be a good way to back up your brand value of “responsive service.”

Comcast is following through with their value of “giving back” by making Xfinity hotspots free for everyone, including non-subscribers, and by providing new low-income customers free internet with increased speed for 60 days. For customers that can’t pay their bills on time, Comcast is waiving late fees through June 30 and ensuring that even though the fees may be delayed, the services will continue.

Shift channel strategy to match changing information consumption

Now is the time to think about how your brand can pivot to meet your audience where they are, even if it’s an unfamiliar channel. Not surprisingly, content consumption across all audience generations and genders has increased.

According to research by Global Web Index, people are spending more time watching videos (TV, YouTube and TikTok) and playing mobile games. They are also listening to music and podcasts more. How can you engage your audience on these growing channels? How does your brand “voice” sound — literally? How can your brand be translated into interactive mobile content?

Down the road: Keep an eye out for white spaces

As you continue to communicate with your customers, you need to clarify why they’re choosing to weather the storm with you. Your customers might be sticking with you because of your reliability or because of your uninterrupted customer support. If they weren’t part of your original strategy, make sure those values are considered as you move forward.

Keep your eyes open for any hidden values you didn’t consider pre-COVID-19. Are there audiences you may not have previously thought of? Are there industries or services that are growing because of the current situation? This could be the time to invest in these areas.

Bring your expertise to new industries

Many companies are leaning into their resources for new opportunities to support the healthcare industry. 3M’s mission is to “apply science in collaborative ways to improve lives daily.” To do it, 3M is transforming its supply chain to manufacture respirators to support the growing demand. On the other hand, IBM is focusing on its value of creating “innovation that matters” by making computing power available to scientists and researchers who perform large, virus-related calculations.

Identify new audiences

Because of the current situation, children are stuck at home and are facing new struggles in their lives. Headspace saw a new need to support young kids and partnered with Sesame street to launch a collaborative program, Monster Meditation. The program is Headspace’s debut with the young audience, introducing basic meditation techniques and practices to guide children through these difficult times.

By staying close to your audience and keeping a close eye on opportunities for future growth, you can ensure your brand is relevant and engaging. Our next post will cover the importance of building brand loyalty – both during uncertain times and after. Click here to read more.

If your B2B technology or professional services company needs help with your brand strategy, contact us for a free consultation.