How Leading Brands are Finding Success During COVID

Author: Copacino Fujikado

As we know, Coronavirus has had an impact on every sector and industry, resulting in far-reaching ramifications to our economy and to our culture.

All crises present companies with opportunities to gain the trust and respect of stakeholders, consumers and employees. If managed properly, crises can help firms emerge as industry leaders. Given that crises can also have the potential to hurt a brand’s reputation, it’s critical that marketers drive the company’s response and recovery plan.

Consumer expectation

In these testing times of increased anxiety and uncertainty, consumers are looking to trusted brands to provide them with safety and security. They want to be assured that the brands they choose are transparent, trustworthy and in control of their supply chains. They expect brands to deliver real value, act responsibly and do right by the community, including their employees (though there’s becoming an increasing acceptance that jobs will be lost).

Brands who are able to deliver purpose, meet consumer’s evolving needs in an ethical way will see their value grow.

Brand Action Examples
We’ve compiled a number of real-world efforts from different brands. See early brand responses and responses by geographic region.

Marketing and CX Agility

Carefully reassess existing preplanned messages for the new cultural context

Yesterday’s compelling communication may be today’s misstep. Ensure messaging is mindful of the current climate. Consumers expect brands to be involved and engaged; they believe it’s key for brands to show actual action and help out during the pandemic, along with acknowledging the implications and displaying
true empathy.

Prior to the sharp rise in COVID spread, Gartner research showed 62% of respondents were already overwhelmed, annoyed or frustrated by information overload. Now, while more singularly focused on the pandemic, consumers are being forced to sort through misinformation and contradicting perspectives via
social media, various news channels, and within our own government branches.

Therefore, brands should convey only 100% factual, proven information (wash your hands, practice social distancing) without including any speculation or promises (“we’ll be back by summer!”). The most successful brands will find an intersection between their purpose, and the needs of consumers in this current climate. And the closer brands tie their messaging and actions to their purpose, the more likely it is to resonate long term.


Build scenarios to prepare for uncertain situations

During a crisis, top priority is to understand what is going on and to consider several possible scenarios. While no brand can consider every likely situation, it is important to not discount the “worst-case” scenario. Scenario planning enables marketing leaders to understand the evolving nature of a threat and to stay ahead of the curve by planning proactive communication and messaging.

  • How would 20% unemployment in the U.S. impact your business?
  • What if 90% of all sales are online for the next year?
  • Even as restrictions are lifted, how long will it be before consumers feel normal again in crowded spaces?
  • When will consumer confidence again be sufficient to support sales goals?
  • What if we suffer a second round of COVID-19 next fall/winter?
  • What are the things consumers most need to hear from my company now?


Optimize real-time listening to stay aligned with customers

Customer context is changing rapidly, so it’s important to detect changes in customer needs and sentiments. Use social listening tools such as Netbase to understand how the audience is reacting to the crisis to help shape your response in both traditional and social media. Understanding what is being said can be the key to containing a negative situation or understanding consumer sentiment and expectation to establish connection.


View post-COVID brand campaigns as building blocks

In a pre-COVID world, brand campaigns were often viewed as two- to three-year efforts (and hopefully longer). Now with daily change, it’s a challenge to predict two months out, let alone three years. As a result, brands should view brand efforts as an opportunity to strengthen a position or deliver a brand promise, but be prepared to evolve it – and develop a concrete plan to do so.

And like 9/11, brands have one opportunity to make a statement in this unprecedented time. Those who successfully deliver a message that resonates will benefit from the positive sentiment they generate in both the near and long term.


Arm employees with relevant and proactive communication

Equip employees for potential increases in customer questions and support. Brands need to take special care to disseminate credible information and to help employees sift out false information that is frequently circulated during a crisis. Employees are also a channel: if enabled with talking points in digestible content, such as a video message or open letter from the CEO, they can extend the reach of the information and credibility with audiences.


Employ customer centric decisions and actions

Business as usual won’t work. Consider evolving customer journey scenarios to maintain focus on customer-centricity in a
time of great change. Marketers need to be vigilant for unanticipated opportunities to add value and establish long term relationship with consumers.

This crisis shall pass, and when the dust settles, customers will remember the brands that made an effort to build rapport and trust with consumers, rose to the occasion and added real value. After all, true character is revealed in the time of crisis. As brand ambassadors, marketers need to ensure that their brands are seen to serve the consumer interest and that their companies demonstrate socially responsible behavior even in a crisis.


“All messaging needs to change. I don’t want to buy a toothbrush from you, I want to learn how to look after my teeth when there is no dentists available, I don’t want to buy a car, I want I know how to keep my car running, I don’t want to get a CD from a bank, I want to know how to do everything I can to save money, I don’t want to know your grocery chain has a great new brand purpose, I want to know if you are open and how I now need to shop”

– Edward Cotton, Creative Strategist

Quick Guide to Creative Messaging

Acknowledge situation, express sympathy & provide support
•    Immediately express solidarity and support
•    Donate money, supplies, services to relief effort
•    Prioritize long-term brand building over short-term capitalization

Provide reassurance & set clear expectations
•    Communicate realistic product/delivery availability expectations
•    Lead with messages on preparedness
•    Establish and communicate hygiene standards

Lead with brand action and listen for opportunities
•    Intensify social listening
•    Establish elevated customer service protocols including virtual tools
•    Identify new or reposition existing products & services