While being stuck at home more than usual, you probably noticed that TV ads slowly migrated over from “buy me, buy me, buy me” to “we’re in this together!” This was not so much because brands gradually pulled back their advertising, but more likely because they simply didn’t have a plan in place, didn’t have any ads ready, and hadn’t yet seen how their business would be affected by the Coronavirus.
Whatever the reason, that slow transition into COVID-19 branding strategy should also be applied to its exit back to normal advertising and PR campaigns.
Just as countries, states, and local communities are mapping out plans for a slow re-emergence to our “new” new-normal, so too should brands.
What does that look like?
Look at how your industry is handling it – just because some sectors are able to hit the ground running again, it doesn’t mean that your industry can. Check social media, ask your customers, and poll employees to see if you’re safe to re-start your social media campaign or ramp up your PPC spending.
Tap the branding brakes until things fully recover – many leaders are concerned that we may see a COVID-19 rebound, once we open back up. Just like them, you should not open the floodgates right away. Go slowly. The last thing you want is to be known as the brand that valued profits over people.
Invest in future-proofing your brand – no one saw the Coronavirus coming a year ago, but it may likely return next year. Even before you’re ready to kickstart your branding campaign again, start mapping out what potential crises you could face in the future. For example, the cruise industry needs to invest even more in making their ships safe and clean if they hope to calm the fears of potential passengers.
Explain any changes you have made – don’t just dive straight back into promoting your products or services. Start by highlighting key changes you have made to ensure customers can do business with you again. For example, if you’re a local restaurant, have you installed hand sanitization stations at the door and spaced out dining tables? Promote that, rather than your daily specials.
Understand your new audience – your target audience has likely changed. By that, I don’t mean you have a new audience, but that your existing audience may have new ideals or different spending habits. That branding campaign you had mapped out in January may no longer fit your target audience.
What were the positives you learned? – operating your business during the Coronavirus epidemic may well have brought new business practices or products that you had never before considered. Did you see an uptick in business because your retail store offered temporary curbside pickup? Keep it going. Promote it. See if something that was a big success during COVID-19 is something that should be an ongoing talking point in your branding efforts.
The above is the best I can do in terms of objective advice. As with all aspects of reputation repair and brand management, it’s impossible to provide a one-size-fits-all list of best practices. So, if nothing else, I hope this post gets you thinking about YOUR brand’s marketing strategy for safely exiting the Coronavirus pandemic.