Developing a good relationship with customers is an essential step in the brand management process.
In a secure economic environment, brand management strategies focus on the two categories of brand elements:
- Tangible elements – the product itself, its appearance, packaging, price, etc.
- Intangible elements – experiences offered, customer relationship with the brand, brand values and value offered by customers, level of trust in the brand, authority, etc.
The situation becomes more complicated when the economic framework becomes volatile and no longer offers the guarantee of a predictable economic process.
We are, of course, talking about socio-economic crises, caused by various factors, the best example being the pandemic with the new COVID-19 coronavirus.
In such situations, brands should focus their attention primarily on intangible brand elements.
The socio-economic crises are bringing with them a dramatic drop in the level of trust people show towards brands.
It’s only natural.
As we already talked about in the last article published on the re7consulting blog, in times of crisis people start to reassess their priorities and tend to redirect all their energy towards meeting the needs at the basic levels found in Maslow’s Pyramid.
The trust people place in a brand is a mix of empathic (based on positive experiences with the brand) and pragmatic (the usefulness of products, relative to needs).
We have seen, however, that re-evaluating people’s priorities in times of crisis marginalizes the emotional factor in people’s relationship with brands, so pragmatism comes to dominate buying decisions.
As a result, businesses with a portfolio of products or services that supply needs at the higher levels find themselves, in an extremely short time, isolated from the attention of customers and potential customers, now preoccupied, as I said, with securing basic needs.
What’s left for brands to do? Should they simply pull the shutters and wait for the crisis to pass so that people will pay attention to them again?
Brands that can’t meet the basic needs of their customers can offer something perhaps more important than just a product.
They can offer emotional support.
I can become the flame that burns in the darkness.
I can provide value.
What kind of value can I provide? Here they come, we have located 7 strategic directions to follow in the brand management process, all with the objective of providing value to people and thus getting visibility, appreciation, trust, recognition and even sales from people.
Before, however, moving on to the 7 strategic directions, let’s see, first…
How do we define value?
Value is the ownership of that which is good, important, of significance, of value, which deserves someone’s attention.
Each of us has our own hierarchy of values, built up over time and influenced by various factors, such as:
- Family and friends
- Opinion leaders
- Political framework
- Socio-economic framework
- Religious framework
- Future plans and projections
(the list does not represent a ranking of these factors in order of importance)
Each of these factors influences our value system, as well as how we assign different levels of values to the actors that impact our social lives.
Each influencing factor puts less or more pressure, as the case may be, on the main indicator that triggers our decision-making process: need
- VALUE IS MEASURED IN THE ABILITY TO MEET A NEED
- NEED IS THE BUTTON THAT DECLARES A DECISION.
In principle, something or someone is considered more valuable the more effectively it meets a need we have.
The needs represented in Maslow’s Pyramid are of three types:
- Both required and optional
Well, if the needs at the bottom level of Maslow’s pyramid (physiological needs) are considered of intrinsic necessity, the other needs may prove to be optional in certain circumstances.
It should also be pointed out that the other two levels of needs (needs for security and needs for love and belonging), although likely to be optional in a favourable environment, become absolutely necessary to supply in times of crisis.
This is because, in times of uncertainty, the survival instinct begins to consciously manifest itself, triggered by fear, mostly anxiety (projected fear of an uncertain future).
Not for nothing, in this delicate period, people have begun to reassess the priorities in their lives.
Today, most people are rewriting their list of values and closing themselves into their shells, limiting themselves to basic needs and considering valuable only those sources that give them stability, peace of mind, certainty and trust.
In other words, those sources that supply their needs for security, love and belonging.
That’s precisely why, in the recent period marked by the outbreak of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, people’s attention has only polarized around certain brands.
How do you do brand management in times of crisis?
Want to be a valuable brand?
How do you provide value?
Fulfill a need.
Theoretically it’s simple.
In practice, however, you have to put in considerable effort.
Happily, solutions to the crisis do exist, so below I will show you:
7 brand management strategies in times of crisis
All 7 brand management strategies you will find below are based on a constant and effective brand communication process.
These are not necessarily meant to generate sales for you in the short term, because your offer is not a solution that meets people’s basic needs, as is the case for businesses in the FMCG, Pharma or Communication sectors.
In return, they will help you rebuild and strengthen people’s trust in your brand by delivering value.
Of course, once people’s trust in your brand has been regained, sales will follow.
One last thing you need to understand, before moving on to the 7 strategic directions, is that:
Your business has problems because people have problems.
Rightly, the solutions to solving the problems you face are related to the needs of the people.
Omul is the foundation that supports the entire business environment.
When man falters, business falters.
So, the 7 strategic brand management directions that can build, strengthen and develop people’s trust in your brand in times of crisis are:
- Brand Humanization
- The Humor
Now, to better understand the effectiveness of these 7 strategic brand management directions, you should know that, in addition to Maslow’s Needs Pyramid mentioned above, psychologists Richard Ryan and Edward Deci also propose a psychological model reflecting human needs, structured on 3 levels:
- The need for connection
- The need for capability
- The need for independence
Supposing that, given that you are in a delicate situation, your business does not offer products or services located in the lower area of Maslow’s Pyramid, as is the case for businesses in the FMCG, Pharma or Communication sectors, I believe that this model is more effective in justifying the importance of the 7 strategic brand management directions proposed.
Let’s break each one down, starting with:
You’ve probably heard of brand humanization before, but now it has become imperative to focus attention in this direction.
In other words:
- Set a mission, values to follow and a clear vision
- Communicate naturally
- Be sincere
- Increase your social media presence
- Be transparent and show that behind your brand are people with needs and aspirations in common with those you are addressing
The need you fill by following this strategic brand management direction: the need to connect
During socio-economic crises, people face material and emotional problems.
They lose (or are in danger of losing) their jobs, homes, savings, health, etc.
People are simply ripped out of their comfort zone and emotional stability disappears, which induces a strong sense of anxiety.
This anxiety is most often defined by a negative view of the future, also known as pessimism.
That’s why now is the time for your brand to inspire people with optimism, to become the light at the end of the tunnel.
The need you fill by following this strategic direction: the need for capability
Unlike optimism, which is a feeling with a long beat in the human emotional complex, humor provokes a spontaneous reaction, manifesting itself as an escape from a state of anxiety, as a genuine injection of good humor.
You see that humour has the ability to change a person’s mood for short periods of time, but it also has the great quality of triggering optimism.
The needs that you are filling by following this strategic direction: the need for connection, through the desire to share elements of humor with others, and the need for capability, when humor causes the feeling of anxiety to be replaced by optimism.
Anxiety and nostalgia go hand in hand.
In unstable socio-economic times it is natural for people to seek well-being and comfort in memories of times marked by financial and emotional stability.
Nostalgia has a therapeutic effect on people because it brings emotional benefits in the present and future by evoking the past.
In fact, in the sphere of personal development, and predominantly in the sphere of NLP, evoking the past is actually the emotional retreat of a present moment.
Think about how you can remind people that you have been there for them in the good times, but also that you will be there for them in the bad times.
The needs you fill by following this strategic brand management direction: the need for connection and the need for capability.
Create for people a framework designed to give them a high degree of autonomy and self-determination, enabling them to represent their interests openly, responsibly and autonomously, a framework that gives them a sense that their actions are self-determined.
Thus, people will strengthen their self-confidence, especially in areas such as controlling their own lives and asserting their rights.
The needs you are filling by following this strategic direction: the need for connection, the need for capability and the need for independence.
If your business has local exposure, or you locate a structure within it that directly benefits the community, this strategy can pay off for you.
You can focus your attention in the following directions:
- Impact on the local economy
- Product provenance
- Brand history, etc.
The needs you fill by following this strategic brand management direction: the need for connection(identify: it’s one of mine), the need for capability(look we can do it ourselves) and the need for independence (knowing you can do the job at home without outside help).
Promotion and discounting are the main pragmatic forms of supporting people’s needs during a socio-economic crisis.
After all, one of the fundamental causes of anxiety is the lack of money and/or the projection of a future defined by the lack of money.
But wait, how far do you get with promotions and discounts. You need to maintain your image as a quality brand that wants to actively and sincerely support your customers’ needs.
Otherwise, if you go overboard with promotions and discounts, or if you try to trick customers with fake discounts, you will end up being perceived as a low-value brand that lacks credibility.
The need you fill by following this strategic direction: the need for capability (by providing easier access to your products, people’s self-confidence grows, and your brand enjoys recognition and trust).
So, these are the 7 strategic directions you can take in your brand management strategy during this time of crisis.
Finally, I want you to keep in mind that, although your sales may have dropped a lot in the last few weeks, you can look at this crisis situation as an opportunity for your brand, a chance to show people that you care about them, that you understand their problems, that you want them well and that you are ready to jump to their aid whenever they need it.
You just know that the good you offer in times of need will always come back to you.
We strongly believe in this process, so if you need some advice in the digital marketing area, we are here for you, ready to support you.
How do you approach a branding strategy in times of crisis?
Every company needs to be aware that a crisis can occur at any stage of development.Whether a new business is building its brand from scratch or an established business is refining or revising its brand, when a crisis occurs, a branding strategy adapted to the situation is needed.
With a strong brand strategy and marketing tools, a growing brand can continue to evolve and emerge from a crisis even stronger than it was before.
So let’s see how marketing strategies can correctly and effectively defend brand values and how branding strategy should be approached in times of crisis.
1. The brand must continue to reflect the company’s values
Remember, a company’s brand must reflect exactly what the company stands for. It’s not a one-time action, because the same is true in the midst of a crisis. The company image and brand must remain constant during a crisis. Pay attention to how responses are communicated about the most important brand values. Careful monitoring of all marketing activities and adjusting how the marketing plan is carried out will lay the foundation for survival during any crisis.
2. Exaggeration can create another crisis
Understand the crisis, don’t overreact and artificially create another crisis. one. Find out what you’re dealing with – is it a manageable threat or is it a momentary stalemate? It’s good to be transparent about the crisis and the response your brand is offering.
Address your audience and customers directly, with honesty and sincerity. The most successfulbranding strategies contain elements of approaching customers, communicating honestly and directly, without exaggeration or omission.
3. The customer is at the heart of your communication strategy
Respect your customer and always put them at the centre of your communication strategy. Don’t forget that your customers’ needs and point of view should always be taken into account and never overlooked. Such branding strategies promote empathy, which is essential when going through a crisis.
4. Give customers the right mood
The right branding strategy in crisis situations offers customers solutions, not problems. Try not to associate crisis and price increases with your brand. Look at any crisis as a challenge you can face, and come out of it stronger. Customers need to feel that your brand sends the right message, with a positive mood.
5. A brand built around a crisis will not stand the test of time
Think about how your brand must continue to exist after the current crisis is over. If you mark too much the influence of a crisis on your brand, it will not stand the test of time and will become irrelevant once the crisis is over.
6. You must resist the temptation to become invisible
Don’t stop the evolution of the brand. During a serious crisis, you may be tempted to put all your advertising, marketing and brand investments on hold and become invisible. But this kind of choice is wrong. Not only must the approach to crisis contained in brand strategies be transparent and tonally honest, it must also be visible to the public.
7. Errors are easier to forgive
People make mistakes, and brands are not error-free. You have to admit you can make mistakes, admit them when they occur. Believe in the integrity of your brand. Be direct in your actions. Don’t omit reality. Over time, frustration builds up among customers and reactions escalate. That means the next crisis will be worse – perhaps fatal. It’s good to fix mistakes as quickly as possible when they occur.
8. The crisis is not a normal situation (so don’t pretend it is)
Don’t resignedly accept the situation. When a crisis hits, the marketing team formulating the brand strategy needs to evaluate what messages it sends and how it communicates in the new situation, which we don’t know how long it will last. Don’t act as if things are business as usual – the crisis is here and it will last. You need to demonstrate empathy with the current situation and make smart decisions.
9. Consistency and communication are key to success
Be proactive, not reactive, in these situations. Provide a consistent branding strategy and make sure your team is on the same page about how you approach the situation. Be honest with your team. The crisis affects the whole team, so there really is no one answer. Consistency and communication are key. Provide your employees with answers in an honest and respectful manner.
10. A new brand can be built on your company’s core values
If your customers are asking what is brand, give them the right answer and help them make the right choice for them. To successfully mitigate a branding crisis, mobilize your workforce, provide full transparency and respond immediately. If you need to reinvent your brand, don’t hesitate. Build your new brand on your core brand values and show that you are ready for real change.
11. Every crisis can be a catalyst for positive change
When supporting a brand at any stage of a company’s growth, it’s important to provide consistent and accurate messaging. During a crisis, a company’s core values should be the foundation of any communication to maintain public trust. Every crisis has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change; the key is to respect your own values and communicate honestly.
We know it’s hard and you don’t have to go through this crisis alone. If you need help, contact us!