The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world, in more ways that we can think of. It has also changed the customer behavior and the way they look at brands. Customers no longer are enticed by brands that have the most celebrated stars as their brand ambassadors, or those offering the maximum freebies. Instead, they value honesty and transparency, more than ever before.
With months of staying at home due to lockdown, spending extended periods of time on the Internet and living through anxiety due to job uncertainty and other issues etc., customer consciousness has increased manifold. The customers now value brands that have a clear purpose- brands that are not only here to sell, but have a clear rationale of the impact they want to create.
The year 2020 has given rise to the socially minded consumers, across age groups. These consumers have high expectations from brands. Consumers believe that it cannot merely about the products or service that a company offers. They value brands that act responsibly, are honest about their business’ successes and failures, and are open to answer the tough questions related to societal, economic and environmental progress.
These developments have given rise to a marketing strategy that is in line with the brand’s purpose. Increasing number of brands will focus on rehashing their marketing strategy to move away from pure-play product selling, to brand purpose-led marketing.
Purpose is essential
Purpose is one of the most important ingredients for a brand as it is beyond making profits. It is the reason the brand exists. In these unprecedented times, it has taken center stage. Brands, irrespective of whether they are established companies or startups, should have a well-defined purpose if they want to resonate better with their audience. It is a known fact that authentic and well-communicated purpose can contribute to the success of a brand.
For the Millennial and Gen Z, brand purpose is the main reason for them choosing a brand over others. Also, brand loyalty is expected to be a function of how the customers connect to the brand’s purpose. According to a survey by Deloitte, 88% of millennial are likely to stay at a purpose-driven company for five years if they’re satisfied with that company’s mission.
It goes without saying that placing purpose at the heart of a business can go a long way to build brand credibility.
Purpose is the secret sauce in Covid-19
Covid-19 has redefined the brand focus and purpose. Companies have moved away from differentiating their products and philosophies, and are joining hands to help the government, Covid warriors and the citizens in this war against Covid. A large number of brands are realigning their external strategies, keeping in mind the public interest. For example, if a brand decides to go against the government orders and open its stores for its customers in such critical times, it is most likely expected to face backlash and be seen as a self-centered brand that does not care about the health and well-being of its customers and employees.
In the Covid-19 era/post Covid world, customers are expected to keep a close watch on brands and their commitment, especially around the health and safety of their customers and the world at large. According to Edelman’s latest “Trust Barometer,” consumers are looking at brands to contribute to the fight against coronavirus. 70% respondents said that they expect brands to adapt their operations, policies, and HR strategies to protect their employees.
It is the brands that are sensitive, stay true to their promises that will be favored in the post Covid world. In the new normal, as customer consumption patterns will change, an increasing number of customers will prefer to stick with brands that had a well-defined purpose during the Covid times.
Here are some of the ideas that can help drive a successful purpose-driven marketing
Extending a helping hand
In these times, it is important for brands to get into action mode and make a difference on ground. There are numerous brands that have gone out of their way to help the governments with the fight against Corona virus. There are automakers that started manufacturing PPE kits. There are big industrial houses that set up hospitals for the government overnight. There are a number of young startups that have done their bit by working to help migrants and get meals to the poor. Such actions need to be talked about and should take precedence over the brand setting a new office or launching a new product vertical. It is the stories around customer impact that the brand creates that will drive engagement and ensure customer stickiness.
Rehash messaging across communication
In order to make the right impact, brands should rehash their messaging across communication to make it sound more empathetic and less sales driven. Brands should act as a support, a guide and a well-wisher for its customers in these times of crisis. Content should be around information that would be helpful for customers in fighting Corona virus or helping customers their basic supplies without stepping out of the house.
Treat your customers as humans
In these times, it is important for brands to treat their customers as ‘humans’. The objective should move from ‘how to get the customer to buy my products’ to ‘what do people need in these times and how can the brand help’. Also, the communication strategy should be aligned to the brand’s purpose. For example, IKEA whose purpose is ‘Making Every Day Brighter’ posted content around different aspects of life at home, as this is what their customers were looking for.
Brands should gauge the customer interest and decide on frequency and channel of communication. With customers being online all the time, brands may be tempted to post frequently. However, it is not advisable to do so. Instead, brands need to be more filtered and less frequent in their communication. Also, brands should give priority to social channels and digital communication. The platforms that are preferred by the customers should be preferred.
The best channels and well-planned frequency will give consumers the relevant information, and lay down the foundation for transparent communication channel between brand and its customers.
Go out of your way to support partners and customers
Brands need to support their partners and customers more than ever today. In the B2B space, it is advisable that companies are considerate and empathetic in matters related to payments. For example, it is recommended that brands in telecom sector working with retailers waive off their monthly fees for the lockdown period, as there was no retail activity for close to 3 months. Brands should talk about how they are committed to the larger goal of the growth of the economy and the industry. Such messaging will drive a lot of positive buzz for the brand across media.
Brands need to showcase their employees as their ‘real heroes’ in these unprecedented times. They need to extend all possible support to their employees in these times. How brands treat their employees during such crisis speaks volumes about their values. It is not only about external display of brand’s purpose, but also about how the brand’s culture connects to the purpose and values it swears by.
Even when the pandemic is over, people will remember how brands treated their employees. This will in turn impact brand’s credibility as an employer.
To conclude, the new normal is about the believing in a core value. Tying your marketing strategy to this core value will make it more likely to succeed during and post Covid times. Brands will need to think of new purpose-based marketing ideas to support so they keep growing and keep the interests of their customers alive. It will not only be about a one-time communication, but a conscious decision. Brands need to connect to a purpose- whether around society, environment, health or any other issue, and do impactful work to showcase its commitment. The key for brands is to be helpful, relevant, informative and compassionate. Purpose-driven marketing can help brands build authentic and long-term connections with their customers.
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