How to Position Your Brand For Success in Challenging Times

April 8, 2020

by David Ralls


As businesses and brands continue to adapt to a new normal amidst such unprecedented times, it’s more critical than ever that leaders remain nimble, educated and well-equipped to guide their employees and partners through the storm with clarity, transparency and a thoughtful resolve.


If you happen to be one of those leaders, you’ll likely subscribe to the notion that no good decision has ever been made reactively out of fear. As entire industries have been forced to face the difficult reality of fast-changing consumer habits, growing government safety measures and new health guidance from our medical community, it remains more essential than ever to operate from a place of knowledge and pragmatism to steer the course effectively.


With the evolving disruption to life as we know it—and government mandates and policies changing rapidly—new questions and concerns arise by the minute. Just a couple weeks ago, businesses were only beginning to sort out the logistics of what was happening, making decisions to brace for the next few days, let alone the next few months or longer.


In contrast to all of the challenging impacts COVID-19 presents, we’re also witnessing a renewed sense of purpose, and of community, with brands of all sizes. With a renewed spirit of creativity, understanding and resourcefulness, businesses in all industries are rising to the occasion, pivoting to meet our new reality head-on with vigor and determination to not only do the right thing for their bottom line but for the community as a whole—and that we’re all in this together. Our collective call-to-action has never been greater.


Your audience, and how you engage them, is more valuable than ever before. While overt sales-driven efforts have softened to reflect the times, sincere communication and showcasing your brand’s value in new and creative ways is now paramount. Your number one priority right now is maintaining that brand-consumer connection while strengthening long-term advocacy. Generating critical awareness, qualified leads and ultimately new revenue for your business won’t come without hard work. However, know that your audience will respond best to an authentic sense of purpose and will weather any storm in support of you if done thoughtfully.


As the sting of turbulent times stabilizes, companies will begin to reevaluate their immediate initial reactions. Where just weeks ago “going dark” on existing marketing channels was seen as the most prudent course of action amid such fluid uncertainty, now the conversation is about pivoting toward what’s possible given ever-developing realities.


As very recent consumer data confirms the need for continued investment in marketing, halting efforts dramatically right now could only increase barriers for long-term growth. This is the time to be creative and push forward. Though opportunities vary by industries impacted, we are seeing an energetic focus on:


  • Digital advertising
  • Thoughtful, community-focused content and messaging
  • Organic and paid social media
  • Connected TV
  • Traditional broadcast
  • Consistent and timely email marketing
  • Intentional and relevant blog content and SEO


Set The Tone For Your Customers


Communication—both internal and external—is indispensable. Deferring efforts, and not pivoting, runs the risk of coming across tone-deaf and impulsive. Now more than ever, people want to feel a sense of security and to be led with sincerity and confidence.


Hopefully, by now, most businesses have transitioned into logistics mode. You should now have a foundation of mounting data to allow for an effective assessment of where you need to go next. This is the perfect time to be communicating with your customers and audiences on all channels about what is happening right now, framing a roadmap of what’s to come. We have moved beyond the acknowledgment phase and into a more proactive and value-driven space in which to grow from. Let your audience know and understand what they can expect from you and your brand. Lean into our collective vulnerabilities in a forward-thinking spirit of “we’re all in this together.” Your customers should have the opportunity to build upon their unique relationship with you, so connect with them.


Embrace An Attitude of Service


This is an optimal time to encourage and embrace a spirit of shared social responsibility, community and service. This may also mean finding new opportunities to realign current business or consumer policies to better accommodate your customers and their experiences interacting with your brand. This is the time to refocus on serving your customers as opposed to simply selling to them. Shift the question from “What can my customers do for me?” to “How can I help my customers thrive?” Understanding what your customers ultimately require during this time is easier said than done, however, it’s in your best interest to never stop learning and observing.


To execute this will require a comprehensive reexamination of your overall content strategy, exploring new ways to not only reach your customers but new ways to connect and resonate with them once you do. This top-to-bottom gut check includes social media campaigns, blog strategy, digital advertising, SEO efforts, communications and more. The fatigue of current events is genuine and creates an opportunity to balance the necessary information with value-driven content that is authentic and optimistic. How can your business be the light that everyone needs?


Create Smart Digital Solutions


Fast-changing industry demands have caused us to reevaluate everything we do. This includes leveraging technology and creative digital solutions for both ourselves and our clients. Going virtual is currently the norm—but can we do more with that experience? We must adapt and evolve the way we communicate and engage with each other to best minimize the loss of face-to-face interaction both internally and externally. Beyond advertising, how can you bring your brand and services into the homes of your customers with compelling content? Limitations, when assessed strategically, can spark creativity, resourcefulness and new growth opportunities. From podcasts, interactive virtual experiences, scheduled live broadcasts on social media, thought-leadership insights, bold email campaigns and so much more, this is the time to think outside the box.


One of the most important consumer touchpoints is your website. Review and update your website to include real-time information that’s relevant to your business and your customers. Yes, people want to understand the steps you’ve taken in light of COVID-19, however, they also want to know about what’s happening next—what value your brand can continue to provide them in the weeks and months ahead.


Be Nimble But Thorough


While articulating a true sense of authenticity—of human connection and sense of service—is your first priority, attention to detail has never been more important. This is not the time for mistakes or an easement on quality assurance, and this is not the time to be tactical at the expense of long-term strategy and vision. Though none of us can truly know what the “recovery” will ultimately look like, we do know that there will be one, and that we will get through this. However, some businesses will resurface better and faster than others. Stepping back to understand how the realities of right now connect with the realities of recovery, and where we each need to go, is the roadmap to follow. In countless ways, the world of tomorrow might look vastly different than the world of just a few weeks ago.


Being honest about where you need to go next is the first step. Having the courage and drive to get there is what follows.