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Four Ways to Reinforce Your Brand Image During COVID-19

This article was originally published in RealLeaders on October 9, 2020.

Right now, people crave reliability and want the brands they love to remain constants in their lives. That said, the world is changing, and brands need to authentically reflect that. Here’s how brands can adapt to new circumstances while staying true to themselves.
Today’s economic marketplace is filled with change and uncertainty. Remaining flexible is vital, but that doesn’t mean you need to throw out your entire approach as a result of current events. A rebrand or sharp turn would likely confuse (and turn off) your existing customers.

Right now, people crave reliability and stability. They want the brands they know and love to remain some of the few constants in their lives. So if you’ve always taken a lighthearted approach with your brand, don’t pivot toward a solemn tone. A change like this would likely make you lose, not gain, customers.

That said, you should acknowledge how the world is different. Quarantine continues, people are working from home, and the economy has taken a big hit. Respond thoughtfully, respectfully, and authentically in a way that aligns with your existing brand. Be empathetic and sensitive to your audience and what they are experiencing. Your brand needs to adapt to new circumstances, but you don’t necessarily need to reinvent your approach from the ground up.

So what should you do? First and foremost, gauge the status of your average customer. Their needs and pain points have likely changed radically in just a few months. With everything going on, people are questioning what’s really important to them and redefining what products and brands align with their lifestyle. This is a huge shift in buyer behavior that you cannot afford to take lightly.

According to research from Accenture, 47% of people have stopped buying from a company that left them disappointed, and 63% of shoppers want to give their money to brands that resonate with their own beliefs. These statistics underline how essential it is for your company to maintain and amplify its existing brand image.

People want to see that their favorite brands publicly hold and enforce the same values as they do. That’s why integrity can make or break your brand now more than ever. Don’t just send your condolences and well-wishes; back up your statements with action. This may mean waiving late charges, providing premium features as a value add, and sending a statement regarding how your company is handling the pandemic.

Knowing this, you’re faced with a bit of a challenge. People expect you to enforce your values, but you may not be sure what to focus on. The good news is, you don’t have to have a response for everything that happens during the 24-hour news cycle. Just stick to your core principles and be ready to demonstrate your refocused priorities.

At our workplace, we’ve made a few post-pandemic shifts that support and amplify our human-focused brand. First, we’ve updated our content strategy. While we’ve maintained our voice, we’ve pivoted blogs, guidebooks, and other content to reflect current circumstances and answer community concerns. Second, we’ve become even more service-centric and empathetic with one another and with customers.

Finally, we’ve done our best to keep our core culture alive as team members work remotely during quarantine. Our Slack channel now includes some non-work threads (like #mug_of_the_day). Whenever possible and appropriate, we have themed teleconferences and regular Google Hangout happy hours. And instead of canceling our previously in-person companywide meetings, we host everyone Brady Bunch-style on a Zoom call.

These changes aren’t meant to alter our branding but augment it. Remember: Don’t rebrand, just refocus. You’ll cultivate more loyalty and business by doubling down on who you are.

It’s tough to navigate the shifting business landscape, especially right now. By falling back on your core values, you’ll find a steady foundation to stand on. Here are four ways to reinforce and maintain your brand image:

1. Think of your audience
Your audience’s day-to-day needs and priorities have shifted, so you need to approach them carefully. Launching a new product or ignoring COVID-19 altogether might come off as out of touch. Even the language you use in your emails needs to be sensitive. Think deeply about what you say, how you say it, and when you’re saying it.

2. Have integrity
Align your messaging with your actions. It’s fine to show solidarity, but don’t throw out empty platitudes or assume the public knows how you’re supporting your communities. Talk about what you’re doing to help internally and externally, such as donating to charities, temporarily employing those impacted by the coronavirus, or ensuring employee safety.

3. Avoid opportunistic behaviors
Overtly capitalizing on COVID-19 is wrong, and audiences will punish companies that try to profit from the pandemic. Don’t try to pivot your brand as a tactic to push sales. If you’re being authentic, you’ll earn business without resorting to questionable tactics.

4. Show up
Now is not the time to go radio silent or wait out the pandemic. Keep showing up on social and supporting your customers. Most of your audience is online right now, and they’re primed to hear from you. Regularly remind them that you’re still around and eager to be of service.

Just because the business landscape has changed doesn’t mean that your brand must shift, too. And if you’ve been planning a rebrand for a long time, it might be best to wait until the new year to roll it out. People want a sense of security, and sharp pivots will disrupt their already chaotic lives. Instead, leverage the brand image you’ve cultivated and deepen your customer connections. After all, loyalty is extremely valuable right now.

If you're looking for additional resources on how Sapper is finding success amidst the turbulence of COVID-19 check out our guide on How to Recession Proof Your Business.

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