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Brand Marketing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Brand Marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic represents the biggest challenge many marketers have faced in their professional lives. Since March, consumer habits have profoundly changed, with customers staying home, hunkering down, and obeying social distancing directives.

Throughout these unprecedented times, businesses must adapt their messaging to match the prevailing mood. Now is not the time for the hard sell. Nor messaging unsympathetic to the current landscape. Instead, customers will appreciate businesses who take current events into account, and match their product offering/messaging to reflect the new normal.

Brand Marketing During COVID-19 – Tone is Key

That being said, it is a time of great opportunity for brands. There are never going to be “winners” in a pandemic but business owners can emerge on a stronger footing if they strike the right tone. This will involve developing or enhancing several different facets of their entrepreneurial skill set, ranging from crisis management skills, to empathy and a willingness to embrace this rapidly shifting landscape.

While it’s not a comprehensive list, and businesses are encouraged to think of ways their own brand can uniquely meet these challenges, here are four key tips to help develop the messaging that will help your brand navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Time for Empathy is Now

Since the beginning of this pandemic, public health officials have been keen to stress the fact that we’re all in this together. This collective responsibility extends to business owners. Any messaging you put forth during this time should be empathetic to the fact many are struggling through challenging times. How can your brand portray a sympathetic tone at this time without losing your brand values in the process? However you choose to proceed, ensure all staff are aware of this subtle shift and understand their own role in delivery.

Transparency in Messaging

As British Columbia moves through the various phases of our provincial Restart Plan customers are also expecting transparency from businesses. They want to know what you’re doing to keep them safe. They want to know what you’re doing to keep team members safe. Give these measures prominence in your messaging. Not only will it show you’re taking this seriously, it also highlights customers can trust they’re safe when they do business with you. Display these signs prominently at your workplace.

Make a Difference

We’ve been extremely encouraged to see small businesses stepping up and helping their communities through the pandemic. For some breweries, it’s meant switching production from alcohol to hand sanitizer. For others, it’s meant producing personal protective equipment for their community. Now is a time to help out where possible. Weave this good work into your messaging. Highlight the positive steps you are taking in your community. Consider partnering with a local charity, or donating proceeds of a certain product line to a good cause. During times like these, it’s OK to publicize your philanthropic efforts.

Be Nimble

Typically, we’d advise the benefits of creating a long-term content calendar that’s carefully planned out over a calendar year. COVID-19 has put paid to those efforts, requiring marketers to construct the airplane while simultaneously trying to fly it. Revisit the work already carried out on your content plan and analyze any planned campaigns through the lens of COVID-19. Does your content come across as tone deaf? Could any of your planned collateral be viewed as exploiting a public health crisis?

Lean on your audience during this time and do some recon work to see what kind of content they’re engaging with. Alongside those efforts, don’t be afraid to take a peek at what some of your competitors are doing and how they are promoting themselves.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to brand marketing during COVID-19. You must carefully weigh your brand’s usual tone, the current landscape in your area, and your target audience before making decisions on your branding strategy. A good place to start is with Small Business BC’s free webinar on Marketing During Crisis: How to Strike the Right Balance.

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At Small Business BC, we’re committed to helping business owners reopen in a safe and successful way. Our Back to Business campaign features specific advice and guidance in the following areas:

  • Operational Health & Safety
  • Restart Strategy
  • Marketing & Communications

Alternatively, visit our BC Business COVID-19 Support Service and connect with our Business Advisors to get answers to your specific questions on reopening.

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