Amidst the pandemic-induced challenges of getting your products on shelves and services in homes, branding may have taken a backseat for your marketing team during the past year. After all, when times are tough, consumers lean into their go-to brands—the ones that never let them down—so why fix the one thing right now that seems like it’s not broken?
Because branding, and what your brand stands for, are more important than ever for both B2C and B2B marketers. With COVID-19-related lockdowns and quarantines boosting e-commerce sales by 40% in 2020, online competition today is out-of-this-world fierce, online pricing is no longer a competitive edge it once was, and more marketers must look beyond price to distinguish themselves.
Furthermore, as restrictions stemming from our global health crisis begin to ease, consumers won’t continue to rely as much on their “comfort zone” brands. They’ll start seeking new and fresh products and services that reflect a newfound sense of being and willingness to experiment, and marketers will need to appeal to that emerging point of view to win new customers.
Here are five tips that can help your brand not only stand out from the competition during these uncertain times, but win the hearts and minds of consumers as they begin to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Adapt to the times and new needs of your consumers
It might sound like Marketing 101, but brands absolutely must evolve to meet the dynamic needs of their consumers. And. when it comes to flexibility, marketers can learn a lot from FabFitFun— a Los Angeles–based subscription service that offers enticing packages of lifestyle products, from fuzzy slippers and makeup to planters and duffle bags. At the outbreak of COVID-19, FabFitFun adapted its traditional signature boxes to support frontline healthcare workers. The specially curated mix of essentials and nonessentials was tailored for healthcare staff to help them relax and boost their spirits. (The Frontline Worker boxes sold out in hours.)
The company also added a Shelter in Place package containing a water bottle, cozy pillow and throw, and other choice offerings to fit the needs of their audience at the time. What’s more, FabFitFun TV—which usually lives behind a paywall and features home workouts, cooking videos, meditation guides, and more—was opened up to everyone, everywhere, for free.
It’s important to note that this is a point-in-time example. Today, the times have changed, even a few months later, and marketers must continually adapt to the times and needs of consumers.
2. Turn to your purpose statement for inspiration
As tough as the past year has been on retailers, some refused to accept defeat. Instead, they turned their focus to places where help was needed most, and began making new goods or offering new services to meet unique and urgent needs brought on by the pandemic. Retailers who were the most successful at defying defeat have a powerful purpose or mission statement that guides their business decisions. Retailer H&M’s mission statement, for example, reads: “invest in people, communities and innovative ideas to drive long-lasting positive change and improve living conditions.” The company brought its statement to life by flipping its supply chain and production facility from apparel to personal protective equipment for hospitals and healthcare workers around the world. It also turned over its social media channels to the World Health Organization to help spread the word on care and safety during the global pandemic.
What’s more, while H&M had to close its retail doors like other U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers during pandemic lockdowns, it made over $2 million in in-kind donations of product to the Children’s Defense Fund, GLAM4GOOD, LA LGBTQ Center, and the Nashville Rescue Mission. H&M also partnered with GIVZ, donating $10 for every $60 of revenue it received on Hm.com to charities that support frontline healthcare workers.
As H&M exemplifies, resilience in branding—and business continuity—is often linked to a powerful purpose statement. If your brand understands its North Star, it can easily pivot to not only address the needs of its community but also stay relevant with its customers.
3. Create a consistent brand experience & content
Brand experiences are defined by the images, graphics, and codes that are stored in our brains; those deeply stored associations develop into individual experiences with brands. Often, these associations are strong and reside deep in our subconscious, but consistency is key. The caretaking of brand equities and its visual and verbal languages is even more important as we steward our brands through tumultuous times. Consistency gives consumers comfort, reassurance of quality, and a sense of ease and peace in times of uncertainty.
Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. It may sound like a broken record when all we want is new, fresh ideas. Caring for a brand and its equities is one of the most esteemed tasks of an agency and marketing leader because it requires patience, appreciation, and a lot of TLC. Understanding when to evolve with the times, and the degree of change your audiences are willing to accept, is a delicate balance. At times, we find that past equities stand the test of time and make a comeback even after being absent for a decade or more. And, most importantly, taking care and nurturing brand equities to convey what you want to communicate can be a valuable and powerful tool in the marketing toolbox.
When it comes to branding and experience, Patagonia has risen to the top. Not only does the brand consistently execute its experience at every touchpoint, but the products developed, social responsibility and causes supported, and content created are integral parts of the brand. Given their stated purpose—“Patagonia is in business to save our home planet”—it’s clear the company has delivered… and strengthened its brand and its point of view, thriving over the past 18 months. Patagonia even gave employees a day off on September 20, so they could strike alongside youth activists.
Sometimes brands require help with finding consistency; often, it’s due to one-off project-based work becoming the norm or lack of clear, well-defined guidelines to manage the brand. Taking a look at the suite of products to ensure the portfolio is organized for maximum brand and executional impact may be required to find gaps that need to be repaired.
4. Build trust and confidence in an unstable time
In times of uncertainty, we all seek safety and security, and brands that are trusted and tested to do “tough jobs” have earned front-and-center loyalty in recent times. Consumers turn to these brands to lead the way, provide a path that feels a little steadier, and reassure us that there is a better tomorrow. The makers of Lysol, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), shifted their thinking to do just that.
Eric Pearlman, Director, Global Business Solutions, Americas, at RB, described how the Lysol brand became something of a hero over the past 12+ months: “When you put a loved one in a care facility, you want to re-create a home-like experience. When consumers see a brand like Lysol that they grew up with, it represents trust and science. Families feel more comfortable about putting loved ones in long-term care or children in daycare, because they use products that make people feel more comfortable.”
This shift in thinking led RB to form strategic alliances with corporations such as Delta and Amazon, in addition to well-known hospitality brands, that are centered around keeping places clean and safe during these unprecedented times. Pearlman advises that the initiative is a long-term commitment and not “just a branding play.”
However, all marketers need to add value to their customers to entrench loyalty. That value—for example, tapping into shared values or understanding unmet needs—can be deeply rooted in the brand’s DNA. Brands that can build that connection to establish trust, in an authentic manner, will succeed.
5. Create deeper, more intense relationships
Today’s consumer requires commitment, education, and two-way communication with their preferred brands. They want honest actions, original statements, and meaningful contributions to society and to individual “tribes.” For brands to achieve these milestones, having a robust social media presence is a critical first step. The next may be to invite your audience to crowd-source new product ideas, name products, or generate social media content—all actions that can make your social media channels come alive and enable your brand to develop deep, even intense, relationships with your target markets.
To illustrate, Lay’s “Do us a Flavor” initiative leveraged crowdsourcing to develop new potato chip flavors, not only in the U.S., but around the world. The social media campaign, with related hashtags and promotions—even videos of fan tweets—is a textbook case of a massively successful relationship-marketing move to enhance connections with consumers.
For brand marketers, content marketing and social media are must-haves in your marketing mix. Brands are in search of ways to come to life authentically through Facebook/Instagram education and tips, TikTok videos, House Party room chats, and Pinterest posts. Creating the content strategy, as well as the e-commerce packaging direction to deliver your brand story and its supporting cast of content, is imperative in building strong relationships with your tribe.
Do you need to pivot?
All brands need to pivot from time to time to stay relevant—is the time now for your brand to take another look?
Branding Evaluation may be required—in a 2-hour session, we can help evaluate your brand, and provide a recommendation for thriving in the coming year.
Audit for the Win—it may be time for an outside partner to conduct an audit of your competitive set and understand where you have a right-to-win in 2021. Are you positioned to grow? Capitalize on new audiences?
Consumer Needs Assessment—with a short survey tool, we can understand shifts in your audience’s needs and how you might address them with product, packaging, or marketing ideas.
Positioning Refresh—if it is time for a refresh, either visually or verbally, or both, we have a process that will take your brand to the next level.
Design for Gen Z—this behemoth generation is about to take charge, so why aren’t brands being designed for this generation yet? CBX conducted a global study with its sister agencies in Lonsdale, Paris, & Cowan, Shanghai, to better understand this evolving group and glean insights to reset design strategy. How can we help you reach this important audience?