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As we all continue through the uncertain times of a pandemic, you may be rethinking your marketing and advertising efforts. You don’t want to be that brand who is completely tone deaf, however, you want to show your customers and clients that you are there for them. How do you achieve this? We’re glad you asked...

The simple answer is to be there. Be there with your advertising and marketing efforts. Studies and history shows us that the wrong thing to do is to go dark and disappear. Let’s dive deeper into how to brand during a pandemic: 

Research and Studies Over the Years 

In 1991, we saw oil prices increasing that really put a hurt on the economy. Some brands decided to cut advertising and saw sales decrease by almost 25 percent, while brands that included or even increased ad spending saw a sales increase by 40-60 percent.

We also continued to see this as a trend during the 2009 recession. Brands that invested in advertising and marketing were able to connect with their customers and build long-lasting relationships. Today, as we are all facing COVID-19, we are yet again seeing the same trend. A recent COVID-19 study showed that only 8 percent of customers expect brands to stop advertising. Consumers today do not expect to see your marketing efforts come to a halt. In fact, they are looking to brands to be there for them and to be invested in the community. They are looking for authenticity. 

Be There for People, But Add Value 

Right now more than ever, customers are looking to have a personal connection with their favorite brands. There’s an opportunity to deepen the relationship between a customer and a brand beyond a transaction. It is crucial that you communicate to your customers how your business is responding to what’s going on in the community. Talk to them frequently. Invite them into the conversation about how you’re doing and what you’re doing. You can’t over-communicate. It’s about intentionally building trust. Your branding and messaging should focus on adding real value and service to consumers. 

Delta Airlines is a great example of this. Their response to the pandemic was timely, direct and clear to employees and customers. First, they sent out an email to Delta customers explaining what their COVID-19 plan was. They then followed that up with a micro-site for customers to check for recent updates like safety steps, rebooking policies and messages from the CEO. By communicating these messages early on and tweaking your branding as things progress, you build the foundation for trust over the long-term. 

What If Your Business Hasn't Really Been Impacted? 

First of all, congratulations. While most brands have been impacted by the pandemic, there are those who have not or, if they have, it’s been fortunately to a lesser degree. Regardless, don’t ignore the realities around you. You should respond by acknowledging your customer’s current reality and doing what you can to continue to make them feel secure about doing business with you. Use the opportunity to build trust...and interestingly, that conversation starts with your employees.

A statistic from Kantar shows that 78 percent of customers expect companies to worry about their employees’ health. This is why it is so crucial to be transparent in your branding with all the measurements and steps you are taking to protect your staff. When you take good care of your employees, word gets out. If you don’t, the damage and backlash could be major. Consumers trust businesses who take care of their employee family, as that sentiment extends to them. 

If your business isn’t feeling the impact of the pandemic as much as companies in the heat of it, you will still need to make some adjustments. Don’t be afraid to translate these adjustments to your customers directly. Here are some examples of what you can be communicating during this time: 

  • What you are doing to positively impact and support the community. 
  • Remind your customers you are here and ready to provide value to them. 
  • Position yourself as an industry leader that other businesses can look up to.
  • Step up your customer service game to meet the evolving needs and concerns of your customers.  

Explore More Digital Options 

Since everyone is spending more time than ever online, more brands are integrating online advertising through social media, video and brand advocacy. Right now, online usage is higher than it’s ever been as people are quarantined and looking to stay connected however they can. You should too. 

Not only do brands need to pivot to digital marketing, but also need to pivot their content. Right now, people are searching for content that is educational and entertaining. A great example of this is the company Firepot Nomadic Teas. They have a tea bar in Nashville, but since it has been closed they had to find a new way to connect with customers. The solution? Firepot launched a video series called “Make it at Home” showing consumers how easy it is to make loose leaf teas or a few of their signature drinks right at home. In addition to this, they promoted free shipping on all orders after the videos went up. The result was a significant spike in online sales during the peak of the quarantine. 

Another business in the healthcare industry implemented a system of online conversations, video screenings and chat bots with patients. The result was that customers were able to self-isolate during the pandemic and still get their health concerns treated. The physician was able to respond and lean in to a changing business model and implement online tools that helped their business continue to serve patients. Instead of lamenting lost business and changing consumer habits, press forward to find solutions that fit. 

Keep It Real 

Your messaging won’t work unless it’s authentic. Be sincere. In the end, actions speak louder than words and your customers will remember what steps you took or didn’t take. 69 percent of customers say they will not choose brands that are putting profit before the pandemic… that is a HUGE amount of business that could be potentially going to a competitor. The old cliche that “people won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is more true now than it’s ever been. 

As you look at your marketing budget for the future, it is vital to find innovative methodology that will build trust with your customers in the long-run and create pathways for them to continue to do business with you in the short term.  

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