In these unusual times, it is tricky to communicate how a brand is responding to the crisis and how it is relevant to consumers. It is a tight rope walk between being seen as opportunistic and being seen as a responsible brand.
Most brands across the globe are putting in their best efforts to rise to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Their survival and success depend on it. From changes to their logos and mnemonics to depict messages of COVID-19 to new products and services that are necessary now, brands have moved quickly. Indian Brands like Fevicol, Santoor and global brands like Audi, Volkswagen, and McDonald’s distanced parts of their logo to emphasise the message of social distancing. In this phase of solidarity, brands were unequivocal in their support and recognition of people both internal and external for their efforts in fighting COVID-19.
Bring people together
Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 – Trust and the Covid-19 Pandemic report for May pointed out that their respondents would like brands to bring people together. They would like to see brands use social media channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer social support to people. In these trying times, “connect people and help them stay emotionally close.”
It is a different ask or expectation from what it was before. Earlier, it was mostly around responsibility towards the planet and people. This goes a step beyond or ahead in responsible business practice. Respondents further said that they would like to be informed about how brands are supporting and protecting employees and customers. They would like to know the changes in how brands are operating and how to gain access to their products and services.
Focus message on solutions
In this scenario, it makes it important for brands to focus their messaging on how it is helping people cope with pandemic-related life challenges and changes. Transparent and open communication helps build trust. It makes the brand credible. Purpose and relevance are the key functional aspects that have taken precedence over everything.
The underlying message in all brand communication needs to be, ‘we care’ and ‘we are with you’. It also subtly communicates the brand is aligned with its consumers or customers. Such brands are likely to have better resonance and gains when things return to normalcy. Consumers acknowledge the fact that their brand is adaptable and innovative.
However, the danger of over the top messaging is being seen as opportunistic and hollow. Consumers are likely to reject brands for its chase of the latest trends for business gains. That is not innovation. It is neither behaving like a responsible brand. There is a thin line that differentiates opportunism, innovation and responsible behaviour.
Consumers feel more empowered today and are also more vocal. If brands don’t demonstrate authenticity, they are not going to be in consumers’ consideration set. And messaging alone cannot demonstrate authenticity. It must percolate from strategy to sales. If not, a brand runs the risk of classification as a ‘Lip-service brand’.
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