Your brand needs a regular health check too.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown the world crucial interconnections that most of us, as organizations and individuals, have given little thought to.
But now, health is a topic whose layers of meaning and the range of context where it makes very serious sense can no longer be overlooked. Just as a person’s health is a huge factor in determining how well they weather a health crisis, so a brand’s behavior and health can greatly affect its chances of surviving, and even thriving, in a crisis.
It makes perfect sense: Brands are all about people. Healthy people help brands thrive. Healthy brands offer great value to people that directly or indirectly influence the quality of their health. (Imagine a brand that offers a confused service and wreaks havoc with people’s expectations and gives them a figurative or literal headache, versus another that efficiently delivers on its clearly communicated promise . . . )
Now is a perfect time for a brand health check. We’ve come up with a health checklist and tips in order to provide you all that you need to ensure your brand is alive and kicking.
Identity: Who Are You, Really?
The decisions you make help determine the growth and success of your organization. You need to make the best decisions for your organization, but to do that requires self-knowledge. How well do you know and understand your brand? To answer that, answer these questions:
- What’s your story?
- What’s your vision?
- What’s your mission and purpose?
- What are your values and beliefs?
Knowing the answers to these questions by heart gives you clarity and allows you to make decisions that are true to your brand:
- The right customers to speak to
- The right market position to stake a claim in
- The right tools and approach to use to communicate your brand message
- The right tone to use
- The right content to create
- The right people to work with to continue your story
In this case, clarity equals consistency. No missteps and false notes. Well, maybe barring a few because no one’s perfect. But you know that, and your in-depth brand knowledge will help you respond accordingly. (See next section.)
The Value of Being Responsive Instead of Reactive
Strive for responsive; avoid the latter like the plague. Use any challenging moments and periods your organization finds itself as an opportunity to master the art of responding rather than reacting. You may just find those moments growing fewer and far between.
The ability to properly and gracefully respond to anything from an awkward situation to a global health crisis is among the marks of a strong brand, and getting there takes hard work and careful steering.
These 3 steps are vital before you can respond: listen, reflect, rethink.
When you listen, you are able to get all the pertinent facts about the situation at hand—facts that will be useful in resolving issues or conflict. You also increase your chance to gain insight into the situation and see how it’s affecting people, processes, and so on. When you listen, you are able to empathize and communicate better.
Process everything you heard, because after properly doing so, you will realize that not everything that was said warrants a response from you—at least not an official response. And for those that do warrant a response, consider the following before you do so:
- How will your response affect your long-term and short-term organization goals?
- How will it affect your partners and stakeholders, your employees and customers, your industry for that matter?
That extra thought you invest in your response may just pay off big-time in the long run.
When a situation backs you into a corner, behave like a seasoned pro, not a cornered animal. Always watch for valuable lessons that can be learned from uncertain, unpleasant, or threatening situations—even as you wring every ounce of useful information from experts and experience to make sure you brand sustains the least damage, or avoid it altogether. When you can reframe a situation, you can adapt. When you can adapt, great ideas won’t need to be scrapped just because they’re no longer perfect for a changed situation.
Now you can respond . . .
The resonance, the influence, the value of your response when you do decide to respond will hinge in huge part on how well you know your brand.
Additionally, having gone through the 3 steps before responding, you now have enough information and insight to guide you in determining and planning future proactive actions as follows:
- Rethinking strategies
- Modifying and fine-tuning processes
- Launching initiatives
- Designing additional support
- Creating new avenues for new conversations
Note, that responding may not always entail that it’s your organization that’s involved in a given situation. Another organization in your industry may be involved instead, and after you have listened, reflected, and reframed the situation, you may determine that you need to respond—that is, use your organization’s knowledge, skills, tools, infrastructure, or connections to support your industry and your community according to your brand’s values.
The Thought That Goes into Your Brand Joining a Conversation
Difficult times get all manners of conversations going. That right away brings up the question of which conversation you should join. Because as a brand, you need to be engaged, right? You can’t just stay silent. Or can you? Should you?
The answers will become clear after you have answered a few other questions first.
Does your brand have a compelling reason to say something?
Timing, climate, or message makes every situation unique. A quick response can appear reactionary in certain circumstances, while a very slow one may make you seem out of touch. Not saying anything can get you accused of avoiding the situation, while jumping into a conversation can give the impression that you’re, well, jumping on the bandwagon.
Think this through. If you have something to say, talk—at the right time, using the right words for the given context. These days it can take just a single word to be taken out of context or misunderstood.
Who are you talking to?
Emotions can run pretty high when people are threatened from different directions, so what you say may not inspire the response you were expecting. Make your intentions clear and be empathetic. Regardless of who you’re trying to communicate with at any given time (customers, employees, prospective customers, etc.), when people sense that you understand and share their experiences, sentiments, etc., they’ll be more likely to pay more attention to your message (and maybe get your intended meaning behind a slight miss in word choice).
Is your brand providing value?
Use this time to give people something useful in the present situation. For example, if you join a conversation around the challenges of remote work, you may offer tips on how to effectively separate housework from professional work, or document an ongoing experiment to find the best ways to work effectively from home.
Does your brand belong in this conversation?
As far as we’re concerned, you should stand out only for the right reasons. Don’t attract attention to your brand by forcing it into a trend or story that offers little to no foothold for you to take the conversation anywhere productive. Limit your content to situations that affect your customers or where your brand can help. For example, if a huge fire has broken out in an area close to the warehouse that stores your products, then you can release an advisory regarding the scheduled deliveries.
Is this conversation consistent with your brand values?
Everything you say and do should be traceable to your values. That’s how you add meaning to a conversation. Everything your brand does has to be influenced by its values and beliefs; and when you make this part of any conversation, people should be able to sense the right connection. Choose the conversations that let you show your values through your efforts to help others.
Empathy, Sensitivity, Positivity, and Responsibility: Marketing During a Crisis
✔ Adjust your marketing moves.
Your instinctive move will be to realign your campaign with the present situation. But before that happens, take a step back and carefully inventory what’s running, what’s in the pipeline, and what’s about to launch. From here, you can make clearheaded decisions regarding these moves: pause, prioritize, pivot.
Hit the brakes on major, strategic campaigns that won’t make the expected impact in the present situation. Rather than risk them being drowned out by what people are currently more interested in, wait for when things have quieted down and you can have the background you need for these campaigns to get people to stop and pay attention.
Equally important, hit Pause on content that will be inappropriate in the current situation.
On the other hand, move appropriately engaging and timely content and messaging up in your calendar. For example, a campaign that communicates the importance of knowing your customer’s unique needs may resonate in a time of a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of your forthcoming campaigns and content may be inappropriate but easy to pivot to say something right for the situation. For example, a campaign that emphasizes how your tiny pastry and coffee shop is a great place for catching up with old friends can be pivoted to communicate the comfort of a home-made pastry delivered to one’s door, and to one’s friends and loved ones.
✔ Check your language and imagery (and even your punctuation).
Specific aspects of a crisis can turn perfectly great content into something awkward. Review everything that’s launching or about to be posted/released for any imagery or bit of language that can warp your message. For example, a picture of a packed concert in your ad when social distancing is the present norm is not a great idea. Neither, most likely, is an exuberant (or alarming) exclamation point in your tagline or CTA.
✔ Communicate realistic positivity.
People need a healthy dose of positivity, especially in a time of crisis. Before rolling out positive content, however, be sure that it’s consistent with—even better, amplifies—your brand identity (vision, mission, purpose, and values). One way to do that is by putting a face to the message—your organization’s face. Leverage social media to share how your own people are staying positive.
✔ Avoid exploiting the situation.
Careful assessment of language and imagery is a good place to start to tick this box off. Then it’s a matter of sticking to the facts. Be a source of helpful, vital information, particularly about what your organization is doing to help alleviate the effects of the crisis, how you have modified your services, and so on. Be clear about anything you say, and make sure all communication is conveyed in the appropriate tone (e.g., confident, empathetic, humble, hopeful, reassuring).
✔ Emphasize how your brand can help.
People will want to know what you can do to help them navigate through a crisis. So tell them.
Communicate your benefits, and additional ones. Remind people of what your product/service can do for them: disinfect surfaces, keep food and ingredients sealed, augment data storage, augment kitchen storage space, and so on.
Complement/compound those benefits with helpful content. Keep sharing related tips and how-to’s so people get more value from your products.
If your product or service doesn’t directly help people during a crisis, then communicate how it can indirectly help. For example, if your products help people to get organized, you may highlight how that benefit can extend to other members in their household through a shared activity that promotes quality, even fun, time together. People will always benefit from a good product or service.
Everyone is anxious about every step they take into a post-pandemic future. And that can keep organizations from thinking clearly to make the best decisions for the future of their brand.
That’s why it’s even more urgent at this time to have a clear understanding of your brand, to be in touch at all times with your own story and your own values. Because you need something authentic to offer in order to achieve authentic growth and success.
At Purple Cow, we know the value of having something honest and deep-rooted to stand on in order to stand out. Let us work with you on making your brand worth knowing.
Contact Purple Cow today for standout solutions in response to the challenge to thrive in a post-pandemic market.