COVID-19 is reshaping how brands engage with consumers. If you want to build brand resiliency across your ecosystem during this crisis, it’s time rethink your communication strategy.
As you look to reshape your brand communications, consider the importance of your brand’s actions during this time. While consumers may have always been aware of how brands behave, today they’re 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 brand 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; and
- 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:
- Express continuity. By now, you’ve seen hundreds of these messages — from your bank, your gym, 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 the same level of service and support they’ve always received, both now and post-pandemic.
- 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’re responding and assuring consumers that your brand is positioned to weather the storm will help allay consumer fears about supply.
- 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 humble, empathetic manner will highlight 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 communicating 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 consumers is key to driving engagement.
It’s also important to recognize that spending isn’t declining; it’s 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 (D-to-C) communication channels. D-to-C brands are focused on speaking one-to-one with consumers — an effective strategy for engagement.
Can you use their approach to connect with consumers in a personalized way (rather than through general, proclaimed messaging)? Leveraging a D-to-C 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, e-commerce has grown by leaps and 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 highlight the ease of finding your brands (discoverability), as well as 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 be 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 reflect 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 and clickthrough 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 that 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.
Consumers are paying close attention to how brands are reacting to the pandemic. According to a Forrester study, 52 percent of U.S. 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 customers’ 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 purchases.
Moreover, build your communication strategy so that it’s community focused, it expresses empathy towards the current situation, and it delivers your messaging through consumers’ preferred digital channels.