Back to blog

Finding Purpose in Crisis: How to Position Your Brand During a Pandemic

Your brand. Remember, the one you spent years building, defining, and refining? You’ve finally narrowed in on that key demographic, and you know your customer base like you do your own family; You take pride in providing specific solutions for their pain points.  

Then COVID-19 appeared. As the pandemic creeps closer, and as countries, cities, and small towns brace themselves for the virus’s impact, you realize that your products, solutions, and campaigns are suddenly irrelevant. Your brand strategy wasn’t created for times of panic.  

Your clients aren’t worrying about the same things anymore, and you know your brand strategy will, at least for the time being, need to be changed and fast. But you’re not sure how to address the pandemic. So, to help you through these trying times, we’re here to offer you some insight on why you should tweak your brand strategy, and how you can do it without starting over.   

How Exactly Does Coronavirus Affect Your Brand?  

Let’s start with another question:  

How do you maintain your brand values, and reach your clients, during this time of crisis? You know that you had a solid brand strategy in place, and a loyal cliental to match, so where are they now?  

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are both immediate and intangible. No one knows for sure how this virus will reshape the way we approach everyday things like working, shopping, and interacting with each other. However, a recent article from Forbes points out that we’ve already started to see a shift in consumer attitude. Forbes’ contributor Rebecca Vogels describes how the pandemic has already pushed consumers to “leave the age of hyper-individualization and move into a period in which community and community-thinking are valued commodities.”  

Businesses are no longer responsible for addressing individual needs but must consider the needs of the entire community. In order to maintain your company’s presence, you must find a way to articulate how your unique services can benefit society in a time of crisis.  

*If you’re a brick and mortar business that’s struggling to find ways to run your business from afar, you can check out some of our tips on how to work from home, here!  

Creating Relevance Using Your Core Values 

Both large and small companies must learn to incorporate new vocabulary and concepts into their everyday brand strategy and identity. Terms and tags like “social distancing,” “stay home,” “quarantine,” and even “WFH,” or work from home, appear in newspapers, on the internet, and are apart of commercials, e-mails, and ads. You might’ve noticed that “self-care” and “wellness” are frequently used, too, and it’s likely that you’ve said or heard these terms today. No one can ignore how the world has changed, and many companies understand that they must change, too.  

According to Adage“A new survey from Advertiser Perceptions shows that one-third of advertisers have canceled at least one campaign before it started in response to the pandemic. Meantime, 45 percent of respondents pulled a campaign already in progress, while 49 percent delayed a campaign until later in the year.” The concept of social distancing brings many new realities, like restaurant closures, working from home, and toilet paper hoarding, to the forefront of our consciousness.  

Since customers value and look up to their favourite brands to provide some comfort during times of uncertainty, brands must adapt on the fly to continue to gain consumer support.  

Vogels recommends that companies examine their mission and core values and then use the “RID-method” to organize new, impactful campaigns (RID stands for Relevant, Impactful, and Doable). If your campaign satisfies all components, you’ve come up with a brand strategy that is relevant to consumers and unique to your company.  

  1. Relevant: pick a topic, or area, that is relevant to your brand and customers.  
  2. Impactful: make sure that your brand strategy can make measurable change. You want to give potential customers a solution that will solve their pain points.   
  3. Doable: figure out what you can do. Is your business capable of delivering this promise, or solving this problem, immediately? And how quickly can your team make that initiative happen? You’ll need to make sure you allocate enough resources within the given the time frame.    

Let’s See It in Action  

One striking example of an effective, and relevant, brand strategy change is Ford Motor Company.  

As a car manufacturer, Ford’s spring-time commercials are created to entice customers to visit their dealerships. Ford offers North Americans affordable, functional, and reliable vehicles, and you’re probably used to seeing their ads on TV and during sports programming. However, Ford totally revised its spring ad campaign to launch a new series of ads: these ads aren’t designed to get you to a dealership, they’re designed to remind Ford’s customers, and the community, that they can get financial assistance with the Ford Credit system.  

The commercials do more than just offer financial relief to Ford customers. These ads reference Ford’s willingness to lend a hand during times of National crisis. In World War II, Ford stopped making cars and began manufacturing tanks, planes, and other equipment needed to supply allied forces, and their credit program has been available for clients during natural disasters, too. Ford’s commercials leave viewers with a sense of national resilience and a message of comfort during a time of uncertainty.  The regular tagline, “Built Ford Proud,” is replaced with “Built to Lend a Hand,” which maintains the essence of Ford’s pride but also addresses immediate concerns tied to financial security as well as North American identity and community.   

Finally, Ford manages to engage with concepts like social distancing by shifting the focus from dealerships and families to invoke the “together apart” mentality of crisis aid.The simple text and images don’t rely on actors to portray the message, but provides a website url to a) let viewers know that they can seek help anytime and b) forgoes any visual representations of a dealership to communicate that they can provide help from a distance. They don’t reference individual needs of families who require the safety and flexibility of an SUV but address the financial worries that have resulted from the pandemic. Even someone who doesn’t own a Ford can appreciate and applaud this gesture.  

Of course, you won’t need to make a commercial to change your brand strategy. Something as simple as a graphic, or e-mail, will allow you to get your message to your audience. Consider this photo ad, which shows customers how to make a Whopper at home, created by Burger King. It’s simple but it reaches the audience in a unique and fun way. It addresses the COVID-19 quarantine restrictions and manages to reflect Burger King’s core values, too.   

Adjusting for the Long-term  

Let’s face it. The past few months have forced us all, locally and globally, to adjust. We’re learning how to work from home, how to better service clients needs, and maybe even how to order groceries online. But, as we navigate these new norms, it’s important to maintain your brand’s identity and values. COVID-19 will force us to adapt our business strategies, but that doesn’t mean we need to change our entire brand! Your clients are still your clients, but they will have new concerns that neither they, nor you, could have foreseen. Social distance doesn’t mean you have to disappear: our team of experts will show you how you can deliver value to your community by adapting your brand strategy. Connect with us today—we want to help you tell your story.