When the world tilts on its axis, it’s the brands that know what they
stand for that will have the right message for hard times.

You must have a strong brand. Marketing 101, right?

Not just right. If recent times have shown marketers anything, it’s that knowing what your brand stands for has never been more important – when nothing is as it was and the future is harder to read than ever.

Lately, it feels like crises have overlapped – each one more awful than the last. First drought, then fire, then flood. Now plague. The global pandemic that has engulfed our lives is the latest in a string of cataclysms. But a few months into the blanket coverage, COVID-19 is starting to wear out its welcome in our social feeds, broadcasts and marketing comms.

It’s not that the crisis is over. It’s that the urgency is. Brands that raced to offer unspecified comfort and support, while important at the time, now need to think deeply about this new phase – this ‘middle’ – where the worst is not yet over but the best is still a long way off.

The answers aren’t easy. And they are not the same for everyone. But they do start from the same place: knowing, absolutely, your real brand values.

Be the brand customers can hold onto

As the pandemic took hold, everyone’s solid ground shifted. Nothing felt certain anymore. Then governments mobilised, community groups germinated and businesses began working more digitally – and the phrase ‘We’re in this together’ echoed through our lives.

It was the right message for the moment.

But as the pandemic continues globally, and new challenges present themselves, brands that want to keep their customers engaged need to do more than merely fly a banner of support.

The brands that will do this best will be the ones that know themselves… inside out. That have stayed true to their core values – because those values are authentic, credible and meaningful, no matter what the social or economic weather.

A recent Aldi ad, for example, shows how a brand can frame its pitch effectively around current events, because Aldi knows at heart what its core offering is – low prices and no-frills service. And its customers can believe it too.

The tone of voice is playful, deadpan and, with a gentle skewering of news media, on point without being insensitive. In a world where everything is changing, Aldi shows customers that it’s right where they left it.

You can only pivot from a fixed point

Embracing your core values isn’t about ignoring the world around you. In fact, it helps you adapt your message, product and support to the moment. When you know who you are, you can create a message that’s not just about you – but is about what your customers need you to be.

A recent TVC from Ford in the US, ‘Built to Lend a Hand’, shows how a strong set of brand values, reinforced over time, can help a company respond with the right narrative for the moment. Even more importantly, Ford doesn’t just say it’ll lend a hand, it proves it, with a practical offer of support.

Similarly, we worked with NAB over the last few months on a series of rapid-response coronavirus podcasts guiding Australian businesses through the pandemic’s impacts. Because NAB has invested deeply over the years in its brand values as a bank committed to its business customers, and as Australia’s largest business bank, the messaging came from a place of brand strength and truth.

Brands that stand for nothing, or everything, that don’t know who they are or don’t believe what they tell themselves they are, will struggle to land any message with customers and prospects.

Conversely, brands that have invested in their core values – and can demonstrate those values in meaningful ways – will have the best opportunity to thrive in the months and years ahead.

Can you honestly say that for your brand?

Elizabeth Bentley

© Six Black Pens 2019