How Global Brands Are Responding To COVID-19

November 24, 2020

This year has forced companies to re-evaluate how they operate and completely shift their marketing strategies in line with the ever changing external influences that are affecting every industry.

Brands had to adapt their messaging so that it was relevant to the wider world, while carefully considering how they wanted to connect with consumers. With strict lockdown measures in place, people were spending more time online, whether on a Zoom quiz, following an online workout, watching Netflix, working from home or scrolling through social media. Almost the entirety of our lives became digital. The positive of this from a branding perspective was that brands knew exactly where to find and how to interact with their audience. 

How did brands stay top of mind in Covid-19?

In times of such uncertainty, (throwback to March) the most important thing for any brand was to remain visible and continue to produce content while also taking into account the changing landscape of the world. The question was: how do you keep your messaging on-brand, acknowledge the global pandemic but also avoid generic and cliché marketing campaigns? One of the most successful ways that brands did this was through giving back to the consumer or those who had been affected by Covid-19.

During the Coronavirus crisis, SEO tool Ahrefs offered their ‘Blogging for Business’ course, which normally costs $800, for free. A number of marketers across the industry will have taken advantage of this offer and learnt how to use the tool. In the future when it comes to buying a membership for an SEO tool, these marketers are much more likely to opt for Ahrefs than a competitor because they are familiar with the programme and have developed a sense of trust with it. So while initially Ahrefs will have lost out on revenue from providing their service for free, this marketing move will reap the benefits overtime thanks to a host of new loyal customers signing up to the membership. This exemplifies how establishing a good  branding strategy during Covid-19 will lead to results in the long-term.

The main message of Covid-19 was that we are all united and getting through this unprecedented and unusual time together, but brands needed to communicate this in a creative yet genuine way.  A crisis of this kind provides an opportunity for brands to showcase their philanthropic efforts and in doing so garner respect from their consumers. This is not a new phenomenon however, and brands have been using crisis to develop relationships with their customers for years. For example, during the Second World War, despite being greatly affected by the bombings, Marks and Spencer did a number of things to help communities, including; producing ration clothing, running soup kitchens and taking care of soldiers. People remembered the generosity that Marks and Spencer showed during times of struggle and became loyal to the brand, that consequently saw huge growth in the years succeeding the war. Therefore, showing genuine kindness and care during a crisis can lead to years of loyalty and support.

Which brands nailed their messaging during Covid-19?

Here we’ll take a look at the businesses  who successfully altered their messaging and raised brand awareness during Covid-19.

Nike

Back in March at the start of lockdown, Nike made its subscription to the Nike Training club app free. The app offers workouts, training programs and expert tips. The brand also capitalised on the fact that people were spending more time online and so created more content on their Nike apps,  podcast and social channels. With gyms closed and people stuck indoors, Nike recognised that people were looking to remain fit in the current climate so continued to create content and offer free subscriptions to appeal to loyal and new customers alike. The brand also established the marketing campaign ‘Play for the World’ that showcased how top athletes were staying in shape throughout the pandemic. The tagline read: ‘if you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance. Play inside, play for the world.’ Nike effectively captured the spirit that we are all united amidst the uncertainty of the pandemic, without appearing generic or insincere.

DoubleTree

Despite being a part of one of the worst hit industries during the pandemic, DoubleTree hotels decided to give back to their customers by revealing the recipe to their famous chocolate chip cookies that are given to guests upon their arrival. The hotel chain shared a video of the recipe that amassed 250,000 views with fans sharing the results on their social pages. The story was also picked up by print and online media outlets. For DoubleTree this was a great branding move because not only did it generate interest online but also positioned them as a brand that cared and gave back during times of such uncertainty.

Heinz 

Along with their partner Magic Breakfast, in Europe, Heinz committed to providing 12 million free breakfasts for the many schoolchildren who needed them the most during the lockdown. This ensured that children who would usually benefit from their school breakfast club programmes still received one cooked meal a day, five days a week for 8 weeks.  Heinz adapted their messaging in line with the pandemic and demonstrated their philanthropic values. 

How can your brand do the same? 

In order for a brand to respond appropriately and successfully to a crisis, it is important that its content marketing strategy is adjusted in line with the current climate to avoid coming across as tone deaf or insensitive.

As a brand, you should think about how you can truly be there for your customers through such an uncertain time by understanding the conversation around the topic: what is your competitor’s response, how are your customers responding to your competitors and how are your customers responding to the crisis itself? Using a social listening tool is a great way to get to grips with what your consumers are saying about your brand and addressing their needs.

This sends the message to consumers that the brand cares about them and is considerate enough to make life easier during a difficult time.  Following the implementation of a new branding strategy, you can then use a social listening tool to analyse the response from your consumer to see if your strategy has been successful. Decipher what it is that your brand can do to spread happiness during a truly difficult time and how you can offer solutions to your customers.

During times of struggle, big name brands like Nike, DoubleTree and Heinz  showed that they cared about their consumer and, whilst initially their efforts may have resulted in a loss of revenue, consumers will remember their kindness and develop a loyalty to the brand that will lead to sales once the economy has stabilised.

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