What we're saying

How brand strategy is changing in the current crisis

In a short space of time, the endless use of new buzzwords like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘new normal’ have left us all switching off from brands bandying them about in their outward comms. 

A video doing the rounds last month perfectly highlighted the similarity of TV commercials in the US, with each seeming to take phrases and messaging from the same toolkit. Naturally, it was what brands thought consumers wanted to hear, but with everyone recycling the same platitudes and promises it’s no wonder that these ads began to get lost in the noise. 

Brands need to move away from recycling clichés, and instead look inwardly to align their values with something that meaningfully connects with the needs and beliefs of their audiences.

React, don’t retreat

Research from the likes of advertising research guru Peter Field, has shown that “going dark” in a time of downturn can be detrimental to the long-term success of brands. In fact, seizing the opportunity and taking advantage of cheaper SOV costs to boost their own voice can have a positive impact on long term business growth. 

Field, through an analysis of the 2008 recession, found that those who exceeded their standard advertising share of voice achieved 4.5x the annual market share growth from before the recession. 

The research clearly showed that investing in advertising and a short-term hit to profitability, could be worth the long-term profit

The next couple of months will no doubt be filled with a lack of answers and predictability and as such, brands need to look inwards. With brand purpose being an area of focus for many, the current situation requires a next step – spotlighting the meaningful value that can be offered in a time of great need.

Actionable empathy

As we navigate through the midst of the pandemic crisis, REAL empathy matters more than ever. 

In the context of the restrictions faced by all, now is the time to translate how this purpose becomes meaningful and adds value in this very different world.

Much like the video mentioned above, the brands that simply push out the same messaging as their competition will get lost among the noise, and risk customers questioning their motives. Brands need to be seen to stand up and show that they understand the altered needs of their customers by ‘doing’ – not just ‘saying.’

Where a business can be seen to adapt their offering to suit the situation in an empathetic and meaningful way, they will maintain their place in the minds of their audience.

Adaptability means breaking the norm

As businesses look both to manage the difficulties of the short term and look further ahead to a time post-Corona, there is a risk in not adapting to the situation as it currently stands. 

With next steps for lockdown still remaining unclear, and social distancing measures certain to remain until a vaccine is found, there will be no sense of normality for a while yet. They cannot just wait for the storm to pass.

Instead, businesses need to adapt to this current and ongoing situation, re-evaluating the value system of consumers and adapting how their offering can align with these. Real agility will need to be the new norm, with this needing to not only be applied to how businesses operate but also how they communicate.

Many brands will continue to repurpose old assets into blockbuster ads – but there is just as much to be said for creating communications with lowered production values. These have the benefit of presenting realness and transparency, while effectively communicating the message at their heart. After all, meaningful value and credibility are what will drive distinctiveness among audiences that are looking for answers.

 The role of the agency

Throughout this period, there has been a clear shift in how agencies are servicing clients. Like everyone, clients are looking for answers and as it stands, there is a big reliance on agencies to provide them.

We have always believed that working in partnership is key and this has been more important than ever as we navigate through this crisis. Maintaining a consistent dialogue with frequent check-ins has enabled us to offer relevant perspectives on changing public opinions and shifting media narratives while offering guidance on what these might mean for the medium term. This is where agencies can offer real value and put their clients in good stead as we all consider the next step together.

 

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