April 6, 2020
Basic Brand Survival During Crisis
These are strange times indeed. The COVID-19 crisis marks one of the only times in history that the entire world has truly been in the same crippling predicament at the same time.As opposed to wars, attacks or even other pandemics where geography has kept the average person out of the mix—today, we are truly in this together.
At the moment, the current challenge for anyone who has not been personally stricken by the coronavirus, is learning how to retain any sense of normalcy amid the uncertainty. This includes socializing, travel, schooling and of course, business.
As it happens, business is what provides the livelihoods for so many of us, our friends, family and fellow humans across the globe. But how do you keep going, and sustain or build business, when such uncertainty is all around us? It’s quite the tight-wire, and leaning too heavy in any direction could lead to a fall. But you still need to go out there and take the first, second and third step, in the hopes of reaching the other side. It’s critical.
Breathe and survey the damage
Keeping a level head and resisting the impulse to make knee-jerk decisions is key. Take a lucid look at your products/services along with your target audience. Are you poised to be affected as dramatically as you think you are?
Rather than immediately slashing prices, or worse, personnel, assess your yearlong goals and current runway to make informed decisions. Plan for several spaced-out humps to get over with scheduled reviews (“if-this-then-that”) along the way. In times of uncertainty, we need to plan and adapt.
Plug the holes, fill the gaps
Crises can put you against a wall and prompt you to reflect on your business model and make striking decisions not typically on your radar. How “essential” is your product? If it really does fill a need, communication, in all its forms, will be your primary tool to get through this.
Let your audience know that you’re still here, locked and loaded, ready to deliver that necessary product that they’re counting on. In a crisis, business-as-usual does not apply, and you may need to look at providing price breaks, elevated customer service, or flexible scheduling to accommodate affected customers.
In the unfortunate case your offerings are not viewed as “essential,” recalibrating and pivoting may be in order. Deeply scrutinize your market and its immediate needs. If your offerings don’t fit, can you address them in another way?
The clearest example of this strategy dates back to WWII, when auto manufacturers stopped making cars and started making tanks. That’s a drastic example, but for you it may look like providing free consultations, adjusting your supply chain, or creating a custom, crisis-specific product in response.
Be authentic (but for real this time)
In times of worry and need, sincerity carries the most weight in communication. It represents an opportunity to drop facades and provide transparency. As a brand in times of crisis, “marketing speak” is not only ill advised, but also significantly dangerous for your brand’s perception.
Humans relate to other humans, and a warts-and-all honesty can go far in bolstering trust. Clearly, you cannot push the pause button on your business until things blow over. For your business, it’s not a case of profiting but surviving, and for your audience, it’s a case of moving forward and living. Engage in that dialog, and underscore that you’re there for each other in a connected relationship.
The way you respond during a crisis, both internally and externally, sets the tone for your brand as a whole. It will remind you why you’re in business and how your brand’s existence matters. It’s natural to think in terms of endgame and seeking the light at the end of the tunnel, but mustering confidence and planning a measured approach goes a long way in weathering the storm.