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What Does Post-COVID Branding Look Like?

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First, we aren’t in a post-COVID anything… yes, vaccines have been making their way across the country — and around the globe — but the pandemic is still very much in effect at the time of this writing. Fact is, reaching a post-COVID world may take longer than many of us would like to think. And as far as what that world may look like? Well, we may hear things about a “new-normal,” but there’s still a fair amount of conjecture there, with more than a dash of guesswork.

Right now, the world we are in is experiencing extreme variability. That which was unpredictable and precarious, pre-COVID, is still very much unpredictable and precarious, only amplified, as this global pandemic affects most everything. In other words, we can look at this time as a complete and utter “clusterflux.” We just made that up. What does it mean? It means that the current state of wild disarray may subside… or give way to newer, wilder disarray.

Don’t take that negatively. This should be very plainly said: these aren’t the dark prophecies of Nostradamus, or even the smirking snark of Debbie Downer. In fact, in facing — and acknowledging — this particularly mercurial moment in time, we can limber up for greater fluidity in our motion, our movements, our reaction time. And we should recognize that branding and operations must be closely aligned in this.

Our ability to reimagine branding as we move forward is, ultimately, reliant upon our ability to be proactive in the way we produce, provide, or manufacture. In other words, it’s not just how we say it, it’s how we do it. With that, let’s shine a little light on something, a sentiment that seemed to permeate the narrative of countless brands at the outset of the pandemic. We’re talking about phrasing along the lines of:

 

“In these uncertain times, we should/we must/we need to…”

 

This was our first “post-COVID” marketing cliché, an adage for the “new normal,” and it was landing pretty far from the mark (in addition to being so rampantly recycled to the point of parody.) Let’s break it down: “In these uncertain times…” First, there’s the odd assertion that, conversely, there have been certain times. Well, there’s one thing for certain — that is certainly not the case.

 

squiggly lines pointing in many directions

 

There has never, truly been a time of complete certainty. This isn’t some profound revelation — anybody with a child can tell you, that, in any given moment, there is always an undercurrent of chaos. (Handling a toddler is like floundering down a cliffside with a box of wet dynamite.) No, rather all of time is uncertain, we just allow ourselves to feel comfortable. And that comfort becomes complacence.

The second part of that widely repeated phrase, where we should or must or need to do something? Essentially, it’s an attempt at connecting, an effort to express compassion. But, be it genuine or not — and I do believe that, deep down, there are good intentions in some of the uses — it does also signify a fact: that the commercial you are about to see or hear is not the commercial they had originally planned for this moment.

And that’s really what it all boils down to. The plan… or lack thereof. From a branding standpoint, there always needs to be a plan — a plan for something, whatever it may be. And this plan should be based around two big things:

1. An ability to shift your mode of operation.

The first one, your mode of operation — essentially, how you do the things you do — that should always have contingencies in place for possible disruption. Whether it’s manufacturing, services, hospitality, entertainment… whatever it may be, it’s never entirely out of place for you to play a little, “What if?” (You may find that a number of scenarios could lead to a varying degree of responses… or different plans.)

2. An ability to shift your marketing strategy.

For the second one, an ability to shift your marketing strategy, that really gets to the heart of having true, branding flexibility. When you have a fluid marketing strategy, you’re allowing your brand to stay in the moment, and engage with your audience, customer or consumer proactively, rather than having to piecemeal something together, and respond reactively.

 

For this, the ability to plan around disruption, to shift your marketing strategy, and to keep your branding fluid, you need four things: Vision, Empathy, Transparency and Accessibility.

 

Vision

Don’t simply look at now, look at later. Test. Experiment. Invest. And don’t be afraid to fail… in fact, fail faster. But learn from those failings. These are just a few, fast and loose tenets of vision-focused thinking. It means understanding when things are working, why they are. It also means having the vision to see when things aren’t working and course-correction is required. Think of this as a “Brody Moment.” That was the point in Jaws, when Chief Brody — upon coming face-to-face and seeing exactly what they were dealing with — exclaimed, “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” It was Brody’s vision, quite literally, that formed this solution.

A “Brody Moment,” according to Forbes Magazine, is when “it becomes crystal clear that your current trajectory is the wrong trajectory. These moments are a call to action, whether that means acquiring a bigger boat, getting into the fast food business, aggressively pursuing digital transformation, or pivoting to a new IT implementation plan. That is the Brody Imperative: to act, to adapt, to try something new.”

They continue, “Sometimes, the Brody Moment involves a high-stakes situation and triggers a straightforward pivot (like acquiring a bigger boat to save lives), and sometimes it involves a lower-stakes situation but requires a major pivot (like overhauling a product plan).”

 

Empathy

Perhaps one of the greatest displays of understanding a brand can exhibit is empathy. People want — no, need — to feel a connection. This is readily apparent, as the past year has shown, as human touch, and live, in-person interaction has diminished or disappeared almost entirely. By recognizing this, by understanding this, and adjusting your brand voice to acknowledge just what your customers are going through, you present your brand as authentic.

And, as we all experienced first-hand, when multiple brands spoke about “these uncertain times,” a show of empathy is not a simple performance. According to Lidia Hovhan for Advertising Week:

“Before the customers associate with your business, they need to feel connected to it. The biggest trick has always been to humanize your content before reaching out to the target audience.”

“As the economy gets reopened post-COVID, everyone will be rushing to make sales, and for you to succeed, you ought to adjust your brand voice to reflect what your customers are facing. Be authentic, think like them, and show them heartfelt empathy from every angle whenever you want to market your products or services.”

“Avoid being too salesy and forceful to the audience, and try to hit on the pain points that your potential customers face and how you may offer the right solutions to them.”

 

Transparency

Share. It’s that simple. Share your plan… share your vision, your insight, your thoughts, feelings, successes, failures. It’s hard and it’s scary, but transparency can put your brand out there in a way that allows for a pure, heartfelt connection.

Share in the uncertainty, share in the commitment, share the missteps, and then share in the plans to rectify them. Perfection is not reality, any customer knows this. You just need to share in how you plan to do them right. Make transparency part of your purpose. As Tanya Joseph explains in Marketing Week, purpose is power.

“In the battle for distinction, purpose can be the game changer: expressing clearly and simply what a business aspires to be and do. But it offers more than this; purpose should be the roadmap helping an organization drive towards an ambitious and brighter future, fostering along the way a more focused, innovative and dynamic culture.”

“Finding your purpose is not a solo sport; no one can be expected to have all the answers. It is a question of asking the right questions of the right people and being committed to make the change. It isn’t easy, which is why I would strongly recommend bringing together a group of trusted, experienced people from inside and outside the organization to help not just define your purpose but ensure that it drives your business.”

 

Accessibility

As a brand, you need to show a means of accessibility, or, as it is more commonly known, being omnichannel. As we all have experienced in some way or another over much of the past year, accessibility to a brand, whether online, via mobile, text, social, or any and all other touchpoints, is crucial, as our traditional interactions had been disrupted or cut off entirely. (Not to mention the fact that there are varying degrees in the comfort levels of customers and the types of interactions they will embark on, depending upon locale, beliefs, affiliations, etc. beyond your traditional marketing profiles or archetypical associations.)

It’s always a good practice to be everywhere for your customer. An ever-present, anywhere, anytime approach not only allows for improved access, it can strengthen your bond.

As Hovhan points out, “In the post-COVID era, businesses must realign their marketing campaigns to continue pressing on customers’ demands. Brand awareness is the driving force for any business and, therefore, one should approach it at the crux.”

“The future of the business environment will depend on Omnichannel marketing, and brands must immediately switch if they aren’t already using it. This strategy enables brands to have personalized interactions with their customers.”

“Multichannel marketing has been around for many years now and works to create various channels where businesses can interact with their customers. However, Omnichannel marketing works to ensure that the dimensions of user experience are added regardless of the channel the customer uses.”

Taking a step beyond the omnichannel accessibility of your brand, beyond your traditional offerings, there lies an opportunity to stretch your branding and offering your customers greater value. Content, for instance, is much more highly sought, as many people are still isolated, secluded in their home offices, behind their laptops, just looking for any reprieve from the endless Zoom meetings or teleconferences. This includes video, periodicals, and, especially, podcasts.

“The increasing popularity of podcasts is mainly attributed to the convenience it offers both the listeners and creators. With over 800,000 active podcasts and over 30 million episodes online, you too should be part of this ever-expanding community. For starters, the current generation is tasked with many things to be done at once, hence the need for multitasking. By using podcasts, the users get to be entertained and educated, keeping up with their topics of interest as they do other things. All that’s required is their ears and not their eyes or hands.”

 

Branding Needs Reimagining

Vision, Empathy, Transparency and Accessibility.

Amongst a landscape of normalcy, these might sound like grand proclamations, far-reaching goals for only the boldest to pursue. But there is no normalcy. Not now. And, maybe not ever. Even with the fuzzy concept of a “post-COVID” world seeming more attainable as of late, there won’t be a standard approach for all of your customers.

For these things to be achieved, you need to reimagine your approach. Go back to your mode of operation and your marketing strategy. Do you have a plan in place to adapt or shift, should you need to again? Are you primed and in a place of a proactive stance, rather than reactive?

 

gold line

 

All of this is in reach, with reimagining.

At Dovetail, we see this. And we’ve lived through this. And, in the spirit of transparency, we share all of this in hopes of striking up a conversation with you. We do hope you’ll consider taking us up on that — we’re available across all touch points (we haven’t perfected our Tik-Tok dances, but that’s only a matter of time.)

Dovetail is a Brand Reimagination Agency helping clients rethink what’s possible to accelerate success in today’s ever-changing marketing landscape.

We’d like to tell you more, including showing you some Brand Studies with examples of Branding, Pre- and Post-COVID. See them here.

If you’re ready for what’s next, if you’re ready to be more fluid in how your brand moves, contact us today.

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