As Coronavirus Hits Your Business, Focus on Your Brand
Updated: Mar 21, 2020
The novel coronavirus is aptly named. Not just because of the unique way it quickly spreads. It’s also novel in the way that it is causing the world to come to a screeching halt. And while companies experience a major slowdown in their businesses, they are also rightfully looking at their spending.
One of the first big-ticket items being halted is marketing. In fact, by some estimates, the coronavirus will put a $3 billion dent in the global advertising industry. This makes sense, especially for B2B companies that rely heavily on trade shows, sponsors of sporting events or for consumer-focused brands that sell non-essential items or luxury products. Now is not an easy time.
But while your company’s equity might be taking a hit during this economic downturn, crisis communications expert and BriteBirch Collective member, Martin Alintuck explains, “there is a major risk in also ignoring your brand’s equity. Since the advent of social media, brands have learned the hard way that the sooner and more authentically you can respond to a crisis the sooner your revenues will return to normal levels once everything settles down. Silence, in this day and age, is not golden!”
So while your first priority during this period should be the health and wellbeing of your staff, customers and partners, the second priority should be the health of your brand. You don’t need to spend your whole marketing budget, but you do need to consider that your audience is locked in their homes, absorbing the pixels of their multiple devices and that the void created by your brand’s absence is likely being filled by a competitor.
According to business consultant, and BriteBirch Collective member, John Hwang, proper maintenance and continued development of your brand equity can ultimately lead to a quicker recovery to operations once the world starts getting back to normal.
"In the investing world, after an exogenous shock to the system runs its course, the companies that recover their values the quickest are the ones that are fundamentally sound. Just as importantly, however, these companies need some measure of brand equity that attributes quality fundamentals to them to help speed up that normalization," explains John.
But for every company that is doing this right, there are those that are doing it wrong. To help you, we’ve compiled recommendations from BriteBirch Collective members around the world, whose combined knowledge can help you strengthen your brand during these trying times.
“Let’s get something straight,” says Zamira Tasneem, from India and Canada. “We’re not suggesting brands try to take advantage of the current situation. We’re promoting the value of practising emotional intelligence as a brand and having empathy for the community at large. Doing this authentically and without any expectations is key. Credible brands are persuasive, not underhanded. Mark Cuban demonstrated this by reimbursing employees for purchases that support small businesses. This doesn’t help him or his companies. This helps his community.”
Give what you can
Sonya Rhee, in the U.S., points out that “LinkedIn is opening up 16 of its learning courses for free. Zoom is making their video conferencing software available to schools in hard-hit countries. These companies could be taking advantage of the fact that people are being forced to stay at home. Instead, they are leveraging their platforms to help their community and in doing so, building brand equity that will pay dividends when things get back to normal.”
Leverage your resources
“Luxury perfume makers, LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton and Givenchy, understands now is not the time to hock luxury bags,” explains Abhiroop Sen from Dubai. “They are using unused facilities to manufacture hand sanitizer and providing it free to healthcare workers. As you send your employees home or wind down your own business, think about how you can put your resources to good use instead.”
Collect and share knowledge
In a previous blog post, we talked about the need to close the loop regarding how you assess the impact of coronavirus on your business in order to learn and plan for the future. But these learnings are not just helpful for your business. “Why not compile and share key insights, tips and information that would be valuable to your employees, partners, customers and even your end-users?” Asks Jason Kinnear, in Toronto. “If your brand doesn’t have anything relevant to give, at least give your perspective, your support and your ear. Show your audience that the brand is listening and caring.”
Don’t just pay it lip service
In times of crisis, it is expected that many businesses will look for ways to mitigate the damage,” says Jamie Read from Toronto. “Such is the case for major companies in Canada and the U.S. who have taken to simply slashing the fees they’ve added on top of their services. For example, AT&T has eliminated the broadband data caps that have become normal in the industry. But while this is done with good intentions, it has started backfiring on social media, as many customers are seeing that they were never really relevant in the first place. Authenticity is the most important brand behaviour in times like these.”
According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, seventy-eight percent of people around the world expect businesses to act to protect their communities during this time. Helping society goes a long way to counter the fear and anxiety that we’re all feeling and that is being perpetuated by the media. Also, it’s just the right thing to do.
What brands and businesses should realize though, is that it is also the right thing to do for your business. By building your brand’s equity in such trying times, you are building a protective cushion that will go a long way to helping you rebound your business when the world starts returning to normal.
Check out our infographic and share with those that may find it helpful.
The BriteBirch Collective is a global network of creative consultants that together operate like an integrated agency. If you are in need of guidance on your company's brand or business in these trying times, contact us for a free consultation today.