When the world changes, brands need to change with it.

How Coronavirus Will Change Branding

While no one likes to predict the future, one of the most helpful things to think about these days is the future – as in, one day, this whole crisis called Covid-19 will be behind us. In its wake will be left a society that will in many ways be fundamentally altered. The way we shop, the way we buy, the way we interact, the way we engage … all are big question marks for the future.

Branding isn’t immune (no unfortunate pun intended) from the impacts of Covid-19. Here, we’ll explore three ways it’s primed to change in the post-pandemic era.

Brand Purpose Will Become Even More Critical

The interesting thing about Covid-19 is that it’s hit the core of many businesses – their actual product. Buying decisions are on pause, whole segments of the economy are frozen, and our salespeople risk looking as if they lack empathy or understanding with one untimely solicitation.

To put it simply: Empathy and inspiration are in demand. Product generally isn’t.

In this environment, brands are increasingly forced to stand for something bigger than the next sale. We expect this trend to not just be a new normal for now, but also be a new normal for the future. Corporate social responsibility – already a growing trend – will become even more important as brands help in the recovery efforts. The up-and-coming millennial generation demands their companies be mission-driven. Employees will be seeking out employers that inspire them.

All of this means post-pandemic brands will need to define their brand purpose – their governing mission, their rallying cry, the thing they are fighting for and against every single day – in order to stand for something bigger than their product, something that inspires customers and employees alike.

Implication: If brands want to have emotional relevance and resonance post-pandemic, they will need to clearly define and activate their brand purpose – and dedicate ample internal and external communications weight to this message.

The Customer Journey Will Transform

The customer journey – the experience our brand delivers from awareness, to consideration, to purchase, to advocacy – has always been a core component in a brand marketer’s playbook. But what happens when physical touchpoints and interactions have been wiped away by Covid-19 for the foreseeable future? What about when the consideration phase of the journey becomes noticeably longer, or is even more price-centric than before? What if advocacy only occurs for the brands that exhibit moments of empathy and a strong moral compass?

While every brand’s customer journey is different, their challenges during and after Covid-19 will be the same – vast shifts in customer considerations, touchpoints and values. If brands want to build an emotional connection, they need to completely rebuild their customer journey from the ground up, strategically assessing the mindset and behaviors of their audience, and ensuring that messaging and touchpoints are aligned with this new normal.

Implication: It’s not enough to just “react” – brands need to use this moment to back up and use market research to consider what’s changing about the considerations and buying behaviors of their audience. Then, they need to ensure that their brand is delivering the right message at the right moment in the journey.

Brands Will Be Built Differently

The majority of companies are either cutting costs or being prudent with discretionary spending. In the midst of a long-term recession, that trend will only continue. The implication? Less big, expensive brand advertising campaigns intended to shift perception, and more digitally-centered, results-driven performance marketing.

At PHL Branding, we believe (with complete bias) that real branding – creating a fundamental clarity for who a company is and what it stands for – will always be integral to any business strategy. But for the vast majority of companies, that brand is no longer going to be built by multimillion-dollar awareness campaigns.

We expect a trend towards creating “branded demand” – the fusion of demand generation campaigns and brand-building strategies – to blossom and then grow. This means brand marketers will need to have the ability to take a core message and value proposition and bake it into lead generation messaging, marketing automation campaigns and sales pitches. Not only is that an expansion of a brand marketer’s skill set, but it also means the brand marketing team will increasingly be on the hook for business results, and needs to bring branding, sales and digital knowledge to the table.

Implication: Brand teams will need to evolve their purview from awareness generation to branded demand. They will need to have a seat at the demand generation table to ensure the brand experience is delivered in lead generation campaigns and subsequent follow-up activities. And enough employees – including sales – have to be inspired by the brand so that they use it anywhere and everywhere.

A seismic change as big as Covid-19 can often feel like it will go on forever. But, rest assured – it will end – and it’s up to each of us to look to that future and make sure we’re prepared for the new reality that’s ahead of us.

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