During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, branding that truly and transparently tells the real story and encompasses all stakeholders is essential for a business to build trust that supports growth.
In times of uncertainty, one thing people tend to do in their quest to understand the new—and the next—normal is reflect on and question the way businesses are run and what brands truly represent. While constant change had long been the only certain in our working lives, we had become familiar with its boundaries. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it threw many of us off course. Now, we are pushing to figure out what the world will look like when we go out of lock-down and back from high social distancing. Which brands will survive? What new business models are going to be the next hit? Which industries will thrive?
The pandemic has brought out many positive qualities in people, and increased their expectations of similar values in brands. Hard selling is not appreciated in times that require compassion and caring in our personal lives. Instead, people expect brands to provide help and support and put revenue and profit aside. There are a lot of examples of brands who have decided to take the road of what many people view as the correct response to a crisis. From global giants ServiceNow and PayPal who pledge no layoffs in 2020 to HOKA who asks their network to get in touch and share how they are doing. H&M Group is one among many who has supplied protective equipment for hospitals and donated to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.
These types of connections to what many believe is what matters most in life enable brands to become personal, easy to relate to, and likable. For a customer, this level of understanding of a brand removes uncertainty and allows trust to grow. At the same time, people know businesses must bring in revenue to survive and show support towards brands that are open and genuine about their struggles and efforts.
Companies who had an authentic and comprehensive brand strategy before the pandemic have already proven that their products or services are worth any extra cost of operating according to their values. Patagonia, as an example, pledges to live by their values—build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to protect nature, and not bound by convention. They vow to support the earth from extinction by using their available means; their business, investments, and voice.
This type of branding attracts a certain group of customers and Patagonia must live up to these expectations every day to not ruin their reputation and lose business. With this clearly expressed position, their target audience can relate to Patagonia as if they knew the company as a person that they liked and trusted. It also attracts a specific group of employees who can carry the business on the chosen path. Combined with a solid business idea and a large enough target audience, it is an upward spiral for growth.
If you decide to start, change, or step up your branding, it is more important than ever to safeguard that your brand represents the value of your offering, your leaders and employees live the corporate culture, and communication is clear, open, and in alignment with the brand promise. This comprehensive branding matters because of people’s search for understanding which companies align with their own values and therefore are businesses they want to buy from or join. It is a factor of why investors choose to support a business.
Authentic and comprehensive branding:
Authentic and comprehensive branding is key through the pandemic and to grow afterward regardless if your business is of a small, medium, or large size. Your brand will mean something to people whether you develop it or not because if people know of your brand, they will have an understanding and opinion of it. Therefore, helping people know what your brand represents and promises is key to form trust and reliability. With this, it is a lot easier to grow revenue, employ the best, and gain the support you need. And, while different parts of the world may have different cultural norms and generations various ways of doing things, authenticity goes a long way in most societies.