Marketing 101 –”Branding” is a marketing practice in which companies create a name, reputation, symbol, design, logo, which is easily identifiable as a representation of the company or the product. But modern dynamics show that many areas come together to develop a brand. This includes customer service, advertisements, quality of product, purpose, and promotional events. More 101-stuff -Branding is essential because it helps identify a product and distinguish it from others. It helps people build the perception of what to expect from the company.
Now, enough of the 101 stuff. Let’s talk about now.
Speaking of branding in times of Covid-19, this is probably the most testing time for most brands to stay relevant. With most retail activities shut, economic conditions depressed, and people maintaining social distancing to prevent the spread of Covid-19, it is difficult to connect with new customers and maintain relationships with pre-existing customers. Brands will need a lot of creativity and tact to ensure that their brand image is maintained and adequately communicated to its customers even over this period. Let’s look at how branding might look in a post-COVID-19 world.
Purpose is key
Companies post Covid-19 may need to rethink their branding strategy from various aspects. These are good times to introspect and reacquaint oneself with the organization’s/brand’s purpose and core values. Challenges like this give brands the chance to reconsider the aspects that are truly important to companies. That introspection could cause a significant shift in company priorities and attitudes towards customers. Consumer relationships built on a sense of shared values are more resilient. This is a good enough reason for brands to define what makes them unique and then use that as the touchstone to test all strategies, tactics, and communications.
It will become essential to create consistency in brand message and brand implementation to convey that no matter what, the customer’s wellbeing and experience are paramount. Generating real and authentic experiences for customers during this crisis will create the best emotional engagement from clients or consumers. Many companies revamped their branding during the COVID pandemic with this in mind. Companies like IKEA, PepperFry, and Telefónica reacted immediately. Certain Indian brands shone as well. They showed their customer-centricity by responding to the needs of a society that was facing a new way of life with remote working, no freedom of movement, and with illness, or even death, close at hand. These brands demonstrated that they cared for the consumers’ wellbeing while continuing to offer the quality they always had.
Everyone is responsible for branding
Brands will need to become a lot more creative to re-engage consumers as was in pre- COVID times. And the effort will have to cut across functions and disciplines.
Social media will play an important role. With most people at home practicing social distancing, their activity online has only increased. Social media has become the primary means of gathering information and communication with others. With easy internet access and numerous digital platforms, brands are trying to increase their visibility and engagement with consumers through social media. With each platform having a different style of content and catering to a different type of consumer, creativity will be the key to branding and targeting specific customers on various platforms.
Product and customer services that require face-to-face interaction will change significantly in their methods of operation. Remote customer service will become the norm, and this channel will play a key role in creating the overall brand perception. The service teams of brands will have to learn to adjust to now dealing with customers online. Processes will have to evolve, and workflows designed to help customers have a smooth experience while dealing with the brand. Brands will become creative about leveraging this interaction to extract testimonials and reviews from satisfied customers and to talk up their service experience.
Marketers will come to understand that there is no ideal product any longer. Brands will focus on solutions that fit the customer’s needs and desired outcome. Brands that prove to be receptive to customers’ concerns about security, wellbeing, and assurance during this crisis will survive and find a strong foothold in the market.
Communications focus – the empathy imperative
Brand communications are becoming more empathetic, and education focused. During these times of anxiety and uncertainty, being empathetic to customer needs and fears will become a branding need. This will help build a bond of trust between the brands and consumers. Using empathy to craft an educational communications campaign would help reach their audience organically. This is the opportunity for brands to show that they genuinely care about their customers.
Making brands resilient
The current pandemic is being seen as a learning ground for brands and marketers. They know that the brands that survive will have the will to withstand anything thrown at them in the future. Marketers and brand owners focus on coming up with strategies that will help brands quickly recover from this slowdown. Innovation is rampant. Zomato is talking of home delivering liquor. Dominos is promising staples to be brought home -within the same 30 minutes, of course. Retail chains like DMart are opening mobile outlets. iD Fresh Foods have launched a series of “iD Trust Shops, essentially a freezer with cash till located in housing complexes. Residents can take what they want, and they are trusted to deposit the MRP value into the till. The brand believes in its consumer and gains trust in return. Expect to hear more about Brand Resilience.
Post COVID-19 branding and marketing will have a full plate. The next few months could bring many societal changes that will trickle down and impact branding and marketing. By being innovative and taking new approaches to market, brands will find their businesses in a stronger position to compete and win the post-pandemic phase.