Putting values before value

15th April 2020

Right now, businesses all over the world are adapting to survive the impact of coronavirus. The global outbreak brings with it uncharted territory for us all. I’ve heard people talk about a recession but, having traded through two of those in the past, this feels very different. I’ve had communications suggesting it’s business as usual; again, it feels like it isn’t. And I’ve had a noticeable increase in the number of emails asking me to buy scented candles from that well-known lady of London; needless to say, in a time where toilet roll is scarce to come by, candles are way down on my shopping list.

On the other hand, I’ve seen some great examples of brands performing well, too – especially in the professional services sector. 

So, as we stare down the barrel of a pandemic, how should your brand be responding?

Adapt what you were doing. As a minimum, acknowledge the world we’re living in is different and adapt the tone in your communication output where possible. Depending on your strategy, there may be a case for sweeping changes based on the fact that your audience is probably going to spend the next few weeks at least in isolation. Will they want more from you, or less? Do they have time to absorb long-content rather than short? Do you need to mix things up more because you’re hitting your audience more than usual while they’re less busy? Is the platform you normally use still relevant? Your goal is to be relatable and, if possible, a positive part of their otherwise repetitive day. 

Be creative. I don’t mean award-winning clever. I mean, look at ways that the current situation and the world we’re going to be living in for the short-term future presents ways to shake up your model. Are there things you can temporarily change? Undoubtedly the way you interact with others will change, but is there a positive way to alter the way people access your information too and lower the drawbridge? Can you change your pricing model to take account of the current situation – in a way that doesn’t impact on long-term revenue, of course? A great example of this creative thinking is Audible Stories by Amazon: Audible could have chosen to send out marketing to promote the price of their subscription, but instead made children’s audiobooks free for the duration of this pandemic. 

Rely on your values. Perhaps the best advice I can give now is to do what you’re good at and rely on your values. Those words you most likely chose when everything was great should be relied upon now it is not. If they’re a true set of values, then they will drive internal thinking through this crisis, and will also help you connect externally with your customers and guide your communications. By focusing on profit or publicity at the wrong time, I think brands put themselves at risk of being seen as opportunistic. A thought supported by a special edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer last week, which stated that nearly two-thirds of their respondents said how brands react to the pandemic will have a “huge impact” on their likelihood to buy their products.