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Your Brand And The Coronavirus

We’re not in full-blown panic mode yet but it looks like we may be heading that way. People are stockpiling Purell. Suppliers can no longer provide healthcare workers with sorely needed face masks. Because they’ve all been sold to civilians who don’t really need them. If you’ve been neglecting your brand up to now or just taking it for granted, you could soon be regretting it. Because, when people panic, they reach for the familiar. They go to brands that they know. This is not a time when customers and clients will want to experiment by trying something new. On the other hand, if you have a strong brand strategy, and you’ve been working it diligently over at least the last 3-4 years, you’ve probably already seen a steady YOY sales increase. But now you’re about to reap another reward – trust.

Regular Brandtalk readers know that when we consider brand strategy, we describe change as the enemy of the brand. We talk about three kinds of change: planned change, incremental change and disruptive change. We usually think of disruptive change as some sort of technological breakthrough that completely transforms the game for everyone. But, you can’t deny the disruptive nature of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

I’m not saying panic is the right response. Far from it. I think we’re a long way from that point and, hopefully, we won’t ever get there. But you know people. Whatever real effects the disease is having on the economy, people will find a way to blow them out of proportion. Thus, irrational fluctuation in the stock market. Panic shopping. But life does go on and people still need to interact with brands. It’s just now they’re doing it with a vague sense of unease.

Think about it. If you were an automobile brand trying to lure a buyer, would you rather be Volvo or Volkswagen right now? Consumers still remember Volkswagen cheating on emissions testing and duping VW owners. The scandal wasn’t that long ago. Volvo, on the other hand, has nourished its reputation for safety and reliability for decades. Even if buyers put safety down towards the bottom of their list of desired features, Volvo’s reputation for steady consistency makes them feel much more trustworthy than Volkswagen.

Ask Boardwalk how to build a brand strategy
that will inspire trust in your market.

If you were a bank in these jumpy times would you rather be City National or Wells Fargo? If a new depositor is trying to choose a bank, do you think he or she would be prone to pick a bank known for extraordinary customer service or one that got caught ripping off their own customers? Because of their ruined reputation, Wells Fargo is probably already fighting a tough battle for new customers. But when those customers are already feeling jittery, it’s much less likely they’ll want to take a chance on helping Wells Fargo rebuild.

People are in risk-reduction mode. For the next year (experts say we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 for about that long, even if we’re lucky) no one is going to stray too far from their long-held buying habits. Brands have a weak connection to their market will see sales diminish. Strong brands should stay steady if not improve a little. Tarnished brands like Wells Fargo and Volkswagen will struggle to find new customers. That will continue till the public feels safe and optimistic again.

So it’s time to look at your own brand. Do you have a strong connection with your market? Will your customers or clients rely on you more? Or do they have another supplier that will bring them more safety and comfort in these uncertain times.

If your customer does not think of you as a safe port in the storm, it’s probably because you’ve been ignoring your brand. You’ve not been engaging your market in a way that spotlights your competitive advantage. You’ll have to weather out the coronavirus storm.

But you should act now to shore up your brand strategy. Meet your market on its terms. Hook your buyers on an emotional connection with your brand. Sail through the next season of panic.

BEST BRANDING READS – WEEK OF MARCH 9, 2020

Why are brands trying so hard to be weird?
This headline was bound to get me to link to it.

The Real Importance of Branding for CMOs
What I’ve been saying for years. Build that brand relationship to grow YOY top line revenue.

When Community Becomes Your Competitive Advantage
A community is a shared relationship. So is a brand.

Interconnecting Products And Ecosystems
With so much interconnectivity, there’s no telling the reach your brand might achieve. All the more reason to know what it’s saying about you.

Daky and Debenhams agree to mind the gap
A nice outcome when both parties can agree on how and when to use their similar designs.

New Logo and Packaging for K-Y
A relatively subtle change in the logo brings out a profound new meaning.

The Power of Defining What Your Company Isn’t
Agree it’s good to brand loosely in early days when you might need to pivot. But this case study just seems like post-pivot justifications, not controlled strategy.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of June 1, 2020

Empathy Emerges As The New Marketing
You don’t have to read this article. The important, true insight is in the headline.

The Power of Data Visualization in Finding Insights
Humans get more understanding from seeing pictures than from reading numbers.

Brands Without Meaning Are No Longer Essential
So true! What does your brand mean to your market?

1,200 Post-It Notes to Fix a Broken Brand Culture
Using the rose-bud-thorn game to define and shape a culture.

2020 Logo Trend Report
Don’t let your new logo fall into one of these clichés.

New Logo and Identity for Popeyes
I order Popeye’s every week just to admire their packaging. Mmm.

The Local Versus Global Marketing Debate
It’s a tie. Sort of. It depends. Still, this is the best article on this subject I’ve ever read. Or is it?