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Becoming The Light In A Period Of Darkness: Branding During The Pandemic

Aren Wong
August 14, 2020

2020 started off promisingly -- new year, new decade! We’re sure more than a handful of brands already had plans for campaigns related to the idiomatic expression: “hindsight is 20/20.” A bit ironic, considering most of these plans were probably pushed back or even scrapped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the span of a few months, the world as we knew it shifted on its axis. Now that more than half of the year has passed, people are slowly adjusting to what experts have dubbed as the “new normal.” Brands are now faced with new challenges. How should they communicate with their audience during this crisis? Should they even invest in communications and marketing despite potentially limited funds?

Last July 29, GetCraft held its Monthly Marketers Meetup online to discuss how brands can adjust their branding and communications strategies this 2020.

We were joined by: Gladys Rondina-Basinillo, CEO and Founder of Intersections Communications; Norman Agatep, President and Managing Director of Grupo Agatep; and Athenna Ordoña, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Head for Multisys Technologies.

Here are their insights on how to approach branding during the pandemic.

Actions speak louder than words

For Gladys Rondina-Basinillo, brands must be able to reimagine their business in order to properly respond to the crisis at hand. The truth is that we will never go back to how things were. Your brand aspirations may not have changed, but your approach towards meeting these goals should accommodate the changes experienced by your customers.

Gladys Rondina-Basinillio breaks down what it means to reimagine a brand.

Contribute in any way you can to the community. “If your product cannot directly help with the crisis, then channel resources to those who can,” says Norman Agatep.

Ordoña agrees with this approach. She reminds brands to lead with compassion and bayanihan and to avoid nonessential messaging.

Engage in efforts that can solve existing problems or at least make life a bit easier for people. Customers will take note of what you do and they will likely appreciate your brand more for your efforts.

People come first

Norman Agatep emphasizes the need for brands to prioritize people amidst this crisis.

As Rondina-Basinillo succinctly says: It’s all about the customer. People all over the world are going through difficult times and your brand just isn’t anywhere near the top of their priority list.

This isn’t an excuse for inaction, though! Instead, think of it as an opportunity to embody your brand values. People may not be visiting your physical stores but they should be able to see you on social media.

This is why it’s important for your brand to not go dark.

Rather, you need to maintain a line of communication with your customers and reassure them as much as you possibly can. Even in these times, a single positive interaction with your brand can make a world of difference for your audience.

The wellbeing of people should come first during this crisis -- this applies not just to potential customers but to your employees as well.

Your organization’s manpower will be essential in keeping your brand afloat during these trying times. Remember that your workforce is human as well, and you need to look after their physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.

If your business is resuming operations, provide employees with the assistance they need to work efficiently. This can be protective gear and transportation options for those headed back to the office or an additional internet/electricity budget for those working from home.

As Agatep says, “compassion before commerce” should be your brand’s approach to this pandemic.

Educate and entertain

Brands can play a more important role than they think during this time. With people being advised to stay at home, many are looking for new ways to fight off boredom.

“Be the business people need you to be,” Agatep advises. “This is a critical period for brands. You need to continue building a relationship with your audience, even if you aren’t their top priority at the moment.”

Take this as an opportunity to educate and entertain your audience. However, be sure to keep your messaging in tune with what your audience is experiencing as well.

Athenna Ordoña identifies the four key elements of messaging for brands.

This is something to learn from the beginning of the ECQ in Metro Manila when many influencers took to social media to express opinions that lacked empathy and only enraged their audience and got them “cancelled.”

In fact, brands associated with influencers should remain vigilant over how these people are behaving online. When asked about how brands should handle influencers who are involved in a social media crisis in this pandemic, Agatep had some firm advise:

“You’ve got to work with people who believe in what you believe and who will represent you ably. Once it is determined that influencers are no longer capable of representing you ably in ways that are true to who your brand is and are true to the values of what your brand represents then you cannot allow them to represent you."

Becoming the light in a period of darkness

As a brand, you are in the position to positively affect the lives of many people during these difficult times. The positive conversations and emotions you bring to people can mean a lot, even if you aren't directly able to solve all the problems they are facing in this pandemic. This means that now is a crucial time for you to act. Do what you can to help give people hope. Keep in mind: what you do today will affect how people perceive you once the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

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