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Why Brand Is Essential For Winning Clients After COVID
The ongoing coronavirus crisis has changed the business landscape, and that’s putting it lightly. Some industries have thrived, some have faltered, and consumer tastes have altered dramatically.
But with restrictions easing around the world, how can businesses reopen and seek to win customers given this new landscape? The answer lies in branding. Read on to find out why, and discover some tips on how you can achieve amazing brand communication post-COVID.
Why is branding so important right now?
Good branding is absolutely essential for building a business that stands out and becomes successful in the long run. Well-designed branding strategies and storytelling go a long way in general, but now that the business world had turned upside down, clearly communicating with customers and sending consistent brand messages have just become even more important.
The spotlight is shining on good (and bad) businesses
Since the lockdown came into place, a number of companies have come to the fore as shining examples of good, caring businesses.
Many retailers furloughed their staff as soon as possible, with some even topping up their employees’ pay themselves. Others continued to honor customer commitments, even as they were forced to wind down their operations. These businesses valued people over profits, taking decisive action when it was needed most.
You have probably seen inspired TV ads and campaigns such as…
- Cadbury’s: This doesn’t need to end
- Nike: Play for the world
- Volkswagen: Respect
- Carex: Helping hands
- 10to8: Free booking system for retail
But for every positive example of businesses working well in the time of coronavirus, there are plenty more instances of businesses that were not so decisive.
Some refused to furlough staff until absolutely necessary, while other businesses tried to classify themselves as essential retailers in a bid to stay open and operating. In one instance, the UK sports retailers, Sports Direct, even increased prices of popular products by 50% in a bid to cash-in on the crisis.
Of course, in this social media-driven world, these acts did not go unnoticed. Many customers — especially those in a younger age bracket — have vowed to boycott any business that failed to protect their staff or customers during the biggest healthcare crisis of a generation.
Branding helps businesses avoid such tricky waters. Even if your business protected your clients and employees during the lockdown, solid branding helps remind your customers of this. It’s not showboating — it’s just a silent embracing of the values that your brand possesses.
While these are B2C examples, the same applies to B2B sectors too. If anything, the networking culture of B2B sectors encourages further discussion around the issue, creating problems for businesses that failed to protect their clients or staff at a time of crisis.
A great brand will trump a great price
E-commerce sales have soared by over 74% during the lockdown. With customers forced to turn online for their shopping needs, many online businesses have enjoyed increased sales.
Not all industries have enjoyed such a spike in sales, of course, but for those businesses with an online presence and the right niche, eCommerce has been their saving grace.
But this increased competition in the online space has meant that price is no longer the competitive edge it once was. More competition means more ways in which businesses need to distinguish themselves, and this is where branding comes in.
This has leveled the playing field somewhat. Consequently, across all sectors (B2B inclusive), an emphasis on a good, positive brand will trump price in most cases.
It’s an opportunity to create deeper relationships with customers
Branding is always essential for winning customers and clients. Even before COVID hit, solid branding added value to customer-business relationships.
But post-COVID, branding adds an extra level of depth that elevates your client relationships.
By being socially-conscious, aware of the ongoing situation, and continually reassuring and prioritizing your customers, your branding is enhanced tenfold. You position your brand as one that navigates a crisis with care and tact, always putting your clients first.
Consequently, post-COVID offers an opportunity for you to enhance your branding in a new light, not in an opportunistic way, but by reinforcing existing brand principles in light of the ongoing pandemic.
How can you adjust your brand after COVID?
By now you should be convinced about the importance of branding — if you weren’t already —, so now we can lay out a strategy for you to adjust your brand after COVID, as mentioned above, you wo’t need to reinvent your brand, just do some dusting-off.
Audit your existing brand from scratch
When you’re adjusting your branding during the coronavirus crisis, it’s worth evaluating your brand from the ground up. Such an unprecedented situation requires a granular look at your branding to ensure your tone hits the mark and resonates with post-COVID consumers.
Start with the basics — this video breaks brand-building down into six steps:
- Research target audiences and competitors.
- Review your focus and business personality
- Possibly write a new slogan
- Review the aesthetics of your brand
With this framework in mind, evaluate your existing brand strategy in light of a post-COVID world. For example, if you are a fitness brand, you might find that your target audience has expanded and diversified as consumer tastes changed during COVID.
Your focus and business personality might also need to pivot following the pandemic too, at least temporarily. Change your tone of voice to adopt a more altruistic, person-centric view (rather than one that focuses on quality or price of the product, for instance, which could come across as too opportunistic during the crisis).
Not all elements will need to be adjusted, of course, but by going through your brand strategy with a fine-tooth comb, you can identify potentially problematic elements and pivot them for the crisis.
Be supportive, not sales-driven
With the world in disarray and profits for many industries faltering, it’s tempting to focus solely on driving up sales. But rather than asking how your business can profit right now, consider how you can help others.
If your product is particularly useful for key workers — meals for medical staff, for instance, or hand sanitizer for delivery workers — donate a portion to those who need it.
Or, if your product is not as functional, consider making a financial donation instead, or lend the services of your staff to a business that requires extra workers.
This altruistic attitude will augment your branding by portraying you as a business that looks outward and, as a result, will win you more customers as a result. It shows that, at a time of crisis, you focused on the bigger picture. And as the examples earlier show, customers notice this, giving your branding a vital shot in the arm.
Learn lessons from other brands
As I mentioned earlier, there is no shortage of businesses that have made catastrophic PR missteps during the coronavirus. But their mistakes are a valuable resource for your own branding strategy post-COVID.
Look at the businesses that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons during the lockdown and identify where they went wrong. Perhaps it was their disdain for medical advice, their reluctance to put employee wellbeing over profits, or simply their readiness to let customers take the brunt of the crisis.
Use their mistakes to inform your future branding strategy. While you might already prioritize customer happiness as part of your branding, post-COVID it’s also worth placing the same emphasis on that of your employees too.
Employee advocates are worth mentioning here. During coronavirus, these individuals offer a valuable means of publicly enhancing branding in a way that feels genuine and sincere. Employee advocates praising brands feel independent and trusted, providing valuable social proof at a time when scrutiny on businesses is intensifying.
This is especially useful for B2B businesses, where the niche is more closely-knit, and clients and employees are likely to have more meaningful conversations about prospective business partners — this creates good conversations around your brand.
Branding is always important for businesses, but it’s especially vital post-COVID. Consumers are wary, tensions are high, and the goalposts have shifted in terms of what clients want and prioritize from who they work with.
Take note of the points above and craft a branding strategy that values customers, considers the bigger picture, and avoids the same mistakes other brands have made before. It is this that will help you gradually but sustainably win customers in a post-COVID world.
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Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer for MicroStartups, your online destination for everything startup. She’s passionate about hard-working solopreneurs and SMEs making waves in the business world.
Visit the blog for your latest dose of startup and charity insights from top experts around the globe @getmicrostarted.
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