How can Brands Come Out of this Crisis Stronger?

Illustration by Frank Sandres

The last months have seen unprecedented challenges; not only for individuals around the globe but also for many brands. With many businesses in turmoil, revenues drastically dropping and employees going into short-time work, brand-building as so often is among the activities that have to take the back seat with the dwindling resources. However, we believe there is a strong case that branding is now more important than ever. The way your brand chooses to act during the next 6–12 months can determine where your business is headed for the next decade.

Read on to understand how brands can come out of this crisis stronger.

1. Values surface especially during crises

The true character of brands often shows in the face of crisis, and that’s why good leadership is key. It’s crucial to remind yourself and your team of the core values that your brand is built upon or even reassess the meaning and values of your brand, question if they hold up in the new changing environment. One thing is certain, there will be winners and losers.

Without a doubt many businesses are confronted with unprecedented challenges and to survive in some cases difficult decisions are inevitable, especially when it comes to your employees. We’ve seen brands like Airbnb handling the situation with a sense of humility and support for their former employees by building their own job platforms and gifting laptops. An act that deserves respect and that can even strengthen the story of the brand.

But we’ve also seen brands like Adidas, Amazon and Facebook showing a public insensitivity and putting their business before the well-being of employees or customers which can severely hurt their brands in the long run. In a survey by WARC, 75% of respondents agreed that brands should not “exploit” the COVID-19 situation to promote their brand, so it’s crucial to shift the focus on how brands can help others. The public is watching and in the wake of a crisis of this scale with more sensitivity than before.

Brands must reconnect with their core values and live up to a purpose that puts the good for people before their own profit, now more than ever.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash
2. Communities connect strongly during crises

In the wake of crisis, suffering, and tragedy, we’ve seen people and communities come together in a collective spirit. We’ve seen new ties formed, communities grown, and movements formed within a matter of months. Every crisis by nature increases our reliance on and support of each other. It heightens our duty of care, compassion, and empathy.

Naturally, brands with the fiercest loyalty are all built on strong communities such as the arduent brand community around Harley Davidson. Now is a huge opportunity for upcoming brands to leverage community-building as a key driver of building a brand, and an opportunity for established brands to give back and strengthen their own communities instead of marketing their products.

We’ve seen an overwhelming amount of brands showing support for their communities through donations, by giving back in these difficult times, or by showing empathy towards their customers. Some brands have even taken a step further and are actively developing solutions to curb the pandemic.

Whichever way you choose to act over the next months. Think of your community and be human, first and foremost. A loyal community will thank you down the road.

3. Innovation thrives during crises

Human ingenuity thrives on limitations and under urgency. In every major crisis over the past centuries we’ve seen a sharp rise in innovation and creative problem-solving. While direct solutions and emerging technologies play a vital role in tackling the short-term challenges of a crisis — as outlined in our article on innovations born out of the crisis — social and cultural advancements often have an enduring, long-term impact.

Therefore it’s crucial for brands to think about solutions, not just products. Many established brands continue to define their appeal based on how they are differentiated from competitors. However, in a changing environment with a shift in customer behaviour and habits, the current opportunity rather lies in how brands can create better value for customers. Throughout this crisis, the brands that prove to innovate and be relevant to customers’ concerns about safety while showing empathy will find a real competitive advantage.

Strong brands recover faster from crises

Guess what? There’s even proof that strong brands recover faster from crises; thus making branding a crucial element to weather the current situation. One thing is for certain: this new decade will see winners and losers. Those brands that live up to their values, give back to their communities and manage to create value in a shifting environment will most certainly come out on top.

[Image Credits: BrandZ, Global, 2019]

So let’s look at the facts. The most predictable way to look into the next few years is to look to the past, specifically the last global financial crisis in 2008. Looking back we can see clear indicators of strong brands recovering not only faster but also with stronger growth in the years to follow. Strong brands outperforming average businesses on the financial markets is only one of many indicators showing how essential of a factor your brand is in current times.

We firmly believe that those brands that can be there for people when times are tough, will evolve as more meaningful and with strong loyalty when times get better. It is an incredible time of opportunity for brands and if we embrace empathy and our communal ties, we can look forward with optimism.
One thing is clear: Brands do not only weather crises they are built in crises.