As we move into this new reality of remote working, live streaming, virtual tours, etc, we will be MORE connected than ever. But, it is important to understand how the definition of what a connected brand means, and why it matters even more in the minds of consumers. As brands navigate this new era of disruption and uncertainty, understanding how to be a culturally and emotionally connected brand through the consumer experience is a key to emerging stronger. Responses to the disruption don’t need to be bold moves, rather a series of small moves, anything from tonal changes to digital shifts, can be equally effective. By creating culturally connected moments and reacting genuinely to their consumers, brands can generate deeper consumer loyalty, emotional commitment and positive brand perceptions.
Over the course of my career, I have felt there is an infinite power lies in communication. Brand communicators, public relation professionals, and corporate communication practitioners are actively combating contemporary issues seeking solutions more than ever. However, most companies cut communication, marketing and brand management initiatives during a crisis, which is actually a huge mistake.
It is thought that “Adversity is a great time to build a business”. Brands must continue to consistently build & invest in their product lines and employees in times of uncertainty. For instance, in April 2009 during the global recession, a “disgusting” YouTube video posted by Domino’s employees quickly became viral. The event was emblematic of the growing number of customer complaints Domino’s faced on social media. Two days after the video was surfaced, the CEO of Domino’s posted an apology video and outlined the company’s actions while Domino’s doubled down on its brand efforts. They used this as an opportunity to launch a social marketing campaign redefining its brand around transparency. Domino’s also responded by improving the recipe and investing in technology, helping drive digital sales. By expanding its digital capabilities, Domino’s repositioned itself as an innovative technology brand. Despite a small drop in brand equity and facing a recession, Domino’s regained brand strength in the following years by investing hugely in its brand.
Brands that seize the opportunity to innovate and invest in Research & Development during a crisis are more likely to emerge stronger. In 2009, Amazon invested in research and product innovation by launching Kindle, a low-cost alternative to tablets. The low price of the Kindle made it accessible to all and reinforced Amazon’s positioning as the worlds largest and most affordable online retailer, leading to the rapid boost in both Kindle and Amazon’s brand equity.
In recent times, there is a growing phenomenon that questions the importance of brand communications. Brand communication is usually considered to be a two-way role but in another sense, it is a form of art that creates life in the otherwise monotony. Be it product penetration, brand extension, market expansion, or crisis management, well-crafted communication serves as a big opportunity for brands to earn a stronger position through more meaning.
Organizations enabling proficiency in dealing with global crisis-like situations become beacons in times of uncertainty. They capitalize the opportunity to enhance their image by providing assistance to consumers in genuine and authentic ways. For weeks following the 9/11, some Starbucks stores took the initiative to stay open 24/7, providing food and coffee to rescue workers and serving as triage centers for the injured. In 2002, a year after 9/11, Starbucks was seen as a more purposeful and customer-centric brand.
Unlike other epidemics and pandemics in the past, the Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic spans from the personal to the public domain and has plunged the global economy into a crisis-like situation, never witnessed before. The economic impact of the pandemic has been largely catastrophic owing to adverse fall in trade, reduced customer activity and stress on supply chains. However, as the years progresses consumers will continue to look to brands to not only deliver on their brand promise, but to be empathic to society, recognize employees and contribute to local communities by setting the example.
Apart from all the negatives, COVID-19 significantly takes us back to an older world of community building, with a bigger emphasis on authentic sharing and participatory social media unlike the world portraying perfection and idealism.
Authored by Malika Kulshrestha, Associate PR & Communications.