What Should Your Brand Be Doing Right Now?

Apr 15, 2020Branding

Author : Jeannie Vondjidis-Miller, Brand Practice Leader, Partner at Ascendis

One thing I think we can all agree upon; a pandemic has a way of refocusing our thoughts. If you weren’t asking yourself some hard questions before, you probably are now… an existential threat has a way of doing that.

This is the middle of week 5 in the Time of Coronavirus. Before that, my husband and I were adjusting nicely to our new life: empty nest, no dog, travel, spontaneous dinners, dance classes. Today, we are in the countryside, far from the action, surrounded by a (new) puppy, a (new) kitten and three twenty-somethings. I am not complaining, but that just wasn’t part of the plan. And that’s the point. The suddenness of it all. The first two weeks was the height of memes, mobilizing into action, new apps, zoom parties. In Week 3 there was a dramatic change; noticeably fewer phone calls, check-ins and all of us beginning to look even more inward (sharing playlists, recipes, old photos). As I face Week 6 I realize no matter what the return to the “new normal” might look like, we will be stuck in some state of discomfort for months to come.

I work with clients to help them design their brand stories and central narrative. This is impossible to do without thinking about the future.

So, what is your brand supposed to do when everything is upside down? I, for one, am re-examining my relationship to almost everything, especially my home where I used to spend only half my time (and half of that was asleep). Thanks to social media, I now know how to bake bread, create a daily itinerary, create a productive work space, and workout from home. Intentionally or unintentionally, brands have given us permission to close the gap between how we see ourselves and who we really are. Ok, so now I am little more self-reliant. But, here is the truth. I am not really enjoying relaxing where I work and working where I relax. I don’t think it’s good practice. Nothing is where or how it’s supposed to be.

Fact: no one really knows what the world will look like and how we will all change. That level of understanding will only happen when this is all behind us. But since I am in the business of strategy, I have to look ahead, and here are some of the bets I am making about our (near) future selves. First, we will become more intentional and more specific in our choices. We will want fewer but better things and experiences. Second, we will watch and listen more closely than ever before to what brands say and do.

So how does this translate into action for a brand?

Spend time thinking about where your business, customer and culture connect. When business slows, cultural change tends to speed up. Everything that was at a tipping point before this crisis – technology, organizational structures, identities, and roles will accelerate. Pick up the signals.

If you do not truly understand your brand value, this is a good time to figure it out. Define what your brand is really about and align it with actions that will benefit your customers in an on-brand way. Everything you do is a sign.

Design your brand incorporating a customer experience mindset. Listen to your customers constantly and Identify every interaction that has the potential to change a customers’ feelings towards your brand. Every part of your customers’ journey is consequential and every channel has its idiosyncrasies. All the interconnected interactions make up the brand story. Deliver your promise where it counts.

Figure out how to fulfill more needs online instead of offline. The internet is becoming even more embedded in critical and essential infrastructure. In time, we will look back and realize that this is the the time that everything started going online. It is time to hit the gas on e-commerce.

If you are a brand playing in the realm of prestige, consider re-examining whether the old playbook will still work as consumers rise from self-esteem to self-actualization, down to safety needs. The paradigm is changing as the desire for comfort, safety, stability and nostalgia grows.

Make sure your brand has a point of view. Without it, you will struggle to create content that advances the conversation with your customers and create experiences they care about.

At Ascendis, we work with companies and brands from all sectors of the Canadian economy helping them design their brand strategy.

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