The past several months have shown the world that the reality we live in can change overnight. Worldwide, healthcare systems, governments, and private sectors are still reeling from the shockwaves brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The business landscape, in particular, continues to struggle.
As strict country-wide lockdowns and self-quarantine measure alter buying behaviours, many businesses find it difficult to stay afloat. But if there’s anything worth noting, it’s that many companies have also shown incredible resilience amidst adversity.
In fact, there are numerous news headlines that express the gratitude of governments, health organizations, and task groups to the active involvement of the private sector in the long-winding battle against COVID-19.
Additionally, even with forced downtimes, many local and global brands continue to serve their customers to the best of their abilities, even small businesses that are trying to cut costs. Given that consumers want to know about how brands are responding to the crisis, staying authentic during and after the pandemic becomes an important goal if you want to thrive in a post-COVID world.
Brand Perception in the Time of COVID-19
A brand’s purpose is the reason for its existence – or so it’s been recognized for a long time now. While it may just be a buzzword for some, it’s formed the most crucial aspect of a business for many others.
Whatever your belief is regarding brand purpose, the pandemic outbreak has given it an entirely new meaning. Presenting unprecedented challenges for both businesses and consumers alike, if ever there was something that would put this concept to the test, COVID-19 is it.
The crucial test then presents businesses with a question: as consumers are paying with rapt attention, how will you respond to the ongoing crisis?
But first, it’s good to take a look at key consumer insights and sentiments from various notable sources:
- According to research by Global Web Index, only 37% of consumers want brands to continue advertising like they normally do. This is a clear indication that brands have to interact with their audience in a fundamentally different way. If a business understands their brand purpose, they can leverage it to ensure that any business activity during these trying times isn't perceived as a profiteering scheme, but as a contribution to a bigger battle.
- Based on a survey by Ace Metrix, 75% of consumers believe brands have a responsibility to help out during the outbreak and that it's important for brands to show actual action, not just words. At a time filled with so much unrest and uncertainty, consumers want specifics in regards to brands' actions. They want to be sure that the businesses they're supporting have genuine and authentic concern of everyone's welfare.
- According to a survey conducted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, 56% of consumers want to hear how brands helping out communities in response to the pandemic. They find it reassuring to hear from brands they know and trust during these trying times.
What these pieces of information tell us is that a majority of consumers want brands to prioritize brand purpose over messaging, public service over marketing, and public health over brand health. In the coming months, we can expect more brands to shift into this perspective to provide the authentic experience that consumers seek during a time of uncertainty.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve invested in traditional or digital marketing services. If your business is heading in the same direction, it pays to navigate this new landscape with the utmost care, especially when it comes to your branding.
Over the past months, many companies have received major backlash for insensitive messaging and poorly timed ads. Given the current sensitivities brought about by the pandemic, brands find themselves walking on a tightrope even if their intentions are good.
What you can do is to build your messaging around the role your products or services can fulfil without coming off as salesy. Let your audience know how you can provide relief without inciting panic. Make every brand message create a one-on-one relationship with your customers. That personal touch is exactly what they need right now.
The Importance of Brand Authenticity Post-COVID.
Particularly if you’re a B2C company, one of your most important stakeholders at the moment is a human being who craves connection and comfort, and suddenly needs an updated customer experience to navigate the new environment.
Therefore, the question at the top of your mind shouldn’t be “How can I grab market share?” or even, “How do I boost my top line to fight against the economic losses I will possibly face?”
Instead, the question you need to answer first is, “How do I support my customers right now in a human, relevant, and meaningful way?”
Even before the pandemic outbreak, research from PwC shows that 59% of global consumers surveyed felt that brands had lost touch with the customer experience by neglecting human elements.
And now, when many people are still self-isolating, people may be struggling to navigate the many friction points of the new reality and need the authenticity that a brand’s personal touch can offer them. For instance, browsing through an online store for essential items without being able to see or try out products in person can be difficult for many.
As a result, customer needs and behaviours are changing to accommodate the new normal. Brands with the coolest products, best prices, or most memorable marketing campaigns may no longer have the advantage over those that communicate with authenticity, care, and empathy. In turn, this builds brand trust and loyalty.
In times of crisis, consumers want to be seen and to be understood, and they become hypersensitive to tone and motive. Are you reaching out to genuinely help them — or just to make a profit? Does your outreach feel caring and authentic — or does it come off as self-serving?
The impact of your actions today will likely outlast the pandemic and define the loyalty people have to your products and your brand as a whole. So the messaging you put out to your audience right now should be grounded in the actual needs and experiences of your customers.
Additionally, those messages should be backed by your credibility and competence to deliver on them. If you can earn the trust of your customers this way, you’ll build a strong and stable connection today and in the future long after COVID-19 blows over.
These unprecedented times have pushed businesses, consumers and entire nations into uncharted territory. With so much uncertainty, we’re all adapting day-by-day, maybe even hour-by-hour, and that includes the marketing strategies we’ve planned out to help keep our businesses afloat.
Remember, the ability of your brand to communicate authenticity and genuine care with customers over the course of the pandemic plays a significant role in gaining their trust, loyalty, and patronage as you move forward. Even though the current situation is temporary, the impact that you do today will remain in their minds forever.
What's the importance of brand authenticity for your business during these times? Let us know in the comments section below