Growing with change – how brands choose to navigate with the new normal

Growing with change - how brands choose to navigate with the new normal

New Normal

Words by :

Harshala Gupte

June 18, 2020

6 Minute Read

Firstly, are we asking the right questions?

Amidst the global financial crisis of 2009, Ian Davis wrote something that rings true to this day —

“For some organizations now, near-term survival is the only agenda item. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, ‘What will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years.”

And yet, questions raised by brands are

  • When will the situation go back to normal?
  • How long do we wait to kick up the marketing again?
  • Is a digital upgrade necessary?

Evolution is the only constant

Many businesses fail to understand how vital a strategic brand evolution is and stay stuck in the past. Besides creating a strong brand identity, business brands need to be re-evaluated in the hyper-tech and accelerated markets to see how relevant is the brand still. Business needs to consistently communicate your brand story. But over the years, a few things happen that can cause your to no longer to seem relevant to your purpose and/or mission. In many cases, your business has grown, your consumers have evolved, the industry has changed, or you’ve introduced new services or products.

Learning from past disruptions

People, communities and brands eased into the initial few weeks of COVID-19 as a forced time-out, like the reality had been paused and would shortly resume. The marketplace faced a devastating sweep in the face on an unprecedented change. But, the smartest brands have known better than to lay low or cater to the world that would be the same as it was before. These brands have not anticipated going back to the past but to move forward with the change. 

With long — standing experience and expertise in and a close watch on the novelties of the situation, we believe that there are steps that will help brands to embrace the new normal.

1. Lead with a purpose

The term, ‘brand purpose’ has is usually criticized to talk of overhyped claims of universal effectiveness. But a globally-transformative shift to “business-as-unusual” brought about by the coronavirus crisis has created a deluge of value-led brand messaging like never before.

From fast-food chains to dating apps, every brand under the sun is finding opportunities to drive positive change and use their brand’s platform to support those that are in fact on the frontlines—whether that’s clients, partners, or consumers. 

Say, Gap and Inc.— along with local shops and online startups — are making and donating face masks, gowns and shields to hospitals. Airbnb offered to pay hosts who volunteer their listings for healthcare professionals, relief workers and first responders all over the world.  Not every brand needs to play the hero; let the health workers take care of that. Instead, businesses should think pragmatically about how their brand values and purpose can authentically support the COVID-19 fightback, no matter how big or small the deed.

2. Attune to change in customer behaviour

A brand is a person’s ‘gut feeling’ about the service, product or organization. It’s a gut feeling because people are emotional intuitive beings.

Marty Neumeier

That gut feeling for a lot of us has been altered after the radical change in our lifestyles.  Consumers are responding to the crisis in a variety of ways. Some feel anxious and worried, fueling panic-buying of staples and hygiene products. But mostly, consumer priorities have become centred on the concerns of finances and health. They are more conscious than ever.

Fear is running high as individuals contemplate what this crisis means for them, psychological and physical safety is desired. 

As a result, The same brands, by the same customers, are being reviewed through a new lens.  We are living differently, purchasing differently and in many ways, thinking differently. To re-assess the consumers’ emotions, motives, triggers and insecurities is the only way to ‘know’ their gut feeling and re-align your brand successfully.

3. Tapping into the potential of digital

The streets outside starkly emptied, retail spaces closed, offices and boardrooms bare save for those few essential services striving to support key functions- the consumers for most of the brands are within the closed walls of their homes. When, interactions with brands, migrated largely to digital reality, do you think that those without a digital presence can survive?

However, digital transformation is a process and it’s not easy for any brand. Before getting started, there are two important factors for your digital transformation strategy:

  • Reimagine the customer journey: It takes data-driven strategy and digital expertise to restructure customer experiences through new technology. Companies need to have digital competency and knowledge to build a structure that is flexible enough to adapt to future technologies.
  • Customer engagement with technology: It’s important to plan how you will use technology to engage with your customers. Companies can establish an omnichannel system to connect all communication channels or incorporate AI innovations to understand how customers are engaging with your brand.

4. Gravitating to the local

‘Vocal for Local’ was quick to become a favoured sentiment amongst the masses right after the term was ushered in the public domain. More than the patriotism, it is rather the self-dependence and security attached to the message that assures customers. 

One of the main differentiators between buying local and online is the fact that you are buying known personalities, not faceless conglomerates or online services underpinned by algorithms. Buying locally provides that personal touch, with brands with localised strategies passionate about going the extra mile to help you find what you need rather than what a standardised global wants to sell to you.

5. Sustaining growth through innovation

In this strange and anxious time, we are seeing many examples of companies that are focused on delivering value to their communities. Facebook, for example, announced a $100 million program to support small businesses in 30 countries last week. Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts, among many other digital services, are being offered for free. 

Whatever the industry, this is the time to take a stand, contribute to the common good and position yourself by being present. Brands all over the world, and in all kinds of industries, are presently working out what they can do to help — from getting fresh food to vulnerable populations to sharing their software at no cost. Now is the time to make yourself known as part of a community by thinking outside the box.

Illustration — Sayli Gokhle

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