How the Pandemic Is Changing the Brand Building Landscape…and What Your Business Can Do
It’s obvious these days that when it comes to marketing, “business as usual” doesn’t hold much weight in light of the ongoing effects of the pandemic. As a society, we’re all still adjusting to changes in how we consume—whether that be products and services in the traditional sense or how we relate to an increase in content, particularly digital. For businesses, this means understanding and embracing “a new normal” in order to build trust, gain recognition, enlist meaningful engagement…and come out stronger on the other side.
Here are some key steps brands can take today to ensure success moving forward.
1. Assess customer expectations. What do they want and need?
Given the proliferation of on-demand services, which became even more omnipresent during times of remote work and lockdowns (think Netflix, Uber Eats, Instacart, Amazon), consumers of all types got used to the idea of getting what they want, when they want it. For brands to not only survive but flourish in this new reality, it’s imperative to understand customer expectations and hone in on what will drive your target customer toward what YOU have to offer.
According to Forbes, companies that “excel in consumer journeys have a more distinct competitive advantage.” It cites a recent Salesforce CMO Survey, which concludes that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, a jump from 80% in 2018. The bottom line: Companies would do well to align branding efforts with customer needs.
Beyond merely knowing your individual customer, successful marketing today requires brands to go one step further. The role of “microtargeting” has become an important aspect to branding; that is, analyzing what the main drivers are for the types of customers you hope to attract and tailoring your branding message to resonate.
As noted in Harvard Business Review’s “10 Truths About Marketing After the Pandemic,” five main consumer cohorts are identified, categorized by what each segment prioritizes. The results:
- Affordability (32%)
- Health (25%)
- Planet (16%)
- Society (15%)
- Experience (12%)
Finally, as Q3 closes, look at what has worked—and what hasn’t—in order to move your brand forward for a strong close to the year.
2. Cultivate an authentic brand identity and market from that vantage point.
Brand identity goes beyond a logo and a font style. It is the very essence of how your company is perceived, so pay attention to your brand’s purpose and values. As Hubspot points out, “a brand identity is made up of what your brand says, what your values are, how you communicate your product, and what you want people to feel when they interact with it.” In effect, it is your company’s “personality.”
In these times of heightened social awareness as a result of the pandemic, people have an increased desire to donate to social causes they care about and to do business with companies they feel “get them” or share common ground. Your messaging and branding efforts should highlight to customers the social benefit of doing business with your brand.
In keeping with that sentiment, prioritizing authenticity and empathy, and reinforcing that with customers, can go a long way. During the course of the pandemic, customers have gotten used to empathy from brands and it has become part of the expectation they bring to the relationship. Further, as Forbes points out, “the pandemic put a premium on truth.” That said, be authentic and provide reliable information—whether about products or services or general information you are putting forth.
3. Pay attention to data security.
There may be nothing more important to today’s customer than feeling their data and personal information will be safe when they’re doing business with you. As shared recently by IMSA Search Global Partners, “Consumers are more concerned about personal privacy with 85% saying they prioritize personal data more than they did one year ago, and 91% of respondents saying they would be more likely to purchase from a brand online if they feel that brand is trustworthy and has transparent data practices, per Smartly Social Media Trends Global Report, July 2021.”
With these statistics in mind, prioritizing data security and communicating that to your customer base is a sure way to win over loyal fans.
4. Be innovative and agile, and stay on top of trends.
The pandemic has proven the importance of innovation and agility in the face of unforeseen circumstances (labor, materials, schools, work from home, etc.), with digital content and connections gaining increased importance to keep brands relevant. Trends turn on a dime, and you’re sometimes only as relevant as the last interaction you have had with clients (an extension of the “what have you done for me lately” mentality).
Marketing agility has been an outgrowth of this need to anticipate and meet current demand, whatever that may be. Be prepared to think fast and act even faster, and that means making a solid plan that allows for curveballs!
5. Promote a sense of community.
Relationship building is as important as ever, but what the pandemic has taught us is that when we can’t be together in person, digital connections are the next best thing. While in-person meetings may never completely go away, virtual “togetherness” online is here for the long haul. Building an online community, whether through informational webinars, social media, video calls or virtual events, to name a few, allows brands to continue to engage with customers and to have customers find common ground among themselves, fostering a sense of belonging. Strong relationships, regardless of the format, will always be the glue that builds brands.
As the pandemic ebbs and flows, businesses will need to remain steadfast in their ultimate mission: Prioritizing customers and building a brand that speaks to them, regardless of the challenges at hand.