As the world begins to uneasily re-open, all signs point toward a future that looks different from our past—and while the talk track is focused on a “new normal”, life in the Covid-19 context looks to be anything but. According to the American Psychological Association, psychologists define resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress”. Brand builders and guardians know all too well that while a brand isn’t a human being—it shares some characteristics with humanity. Brands, like people, form relationships with consumers and other stakeholders built off trust, reputation and recommendation.
Business valuation fluctuates not only on the ability of the business to turn a profit but also from the reputation the business builds over time. In the Covid-19 context, our research has informed us that people are looking to brands not only to demonstrate leadership during this tumultuous time, but to also help, assist and serve. Ninety percent of the consumers that we interviewed told us brands “must do everything to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers,” while 65 percent have affirmed that the way a brand acts during the pandemic will have a significant impact on their likelihood to buy that brand in the future.
In short, if a consumer’s resilience depends on their ability to adapt to the new world that’s emerging—the expectation is that brands will adapt along with their new wants/needs/values.
Brand Resilience: Meeting Emerging Disruptive Behaviors Head On
Some sectors and companies will emerge more resilient than others from this transformative event. While consumers may be hesitant to travel, fly, shop retail, or hop into a rideshare—they are streaming entertainment, playing video games and video conferencing in droves. Some behaviors may never look the same as they once did. Impulse shopping, for example, is being replaced with less frequent and more targeted trips, dining out is going to be a completely new experience and a cash-strapped consumer who may have viewed a new fall wardrobe as essential pre-pandemic may now view it as a luxury in the new “normal.” Transformational times have ways of creating all kinds of new behaviors that the most resilient brands will get ahead of before it’s too late.
Resilient Attributes: A Time to Reset + Reimagine
Based on our experience and quantifiable research on Trust along with our sixty-plus years of working with brands, we have identified a set of attributes that demonstrate Brand Resilience, which help brands anticipate and respond to foreseen and unforeseen challenges and to survive (and even thrive) in moments of uncertainty.
We believe that brands that exhibit these traits have the potential not only to recover but also reimagine their brand in a way that is even more relevant to the lives of their consumers. The idea of using this time to reset priorities and reimagine what the brand could be in a future-forward mindset may seem counterintuitive—many brands are fighting for survival. But if a brand has established a foundation of trust with its stakeholders—resilience can be built upon it:
The Five Attributes of Brand Resilience
Assesses risk both from the combined perspectives of protection, management and opportunity. Understands which risks the brand needs to prepare for, which it needs to mitigate, and which can help the brand grow and thrive through uncertain and prosperous times alike.
Built To Serve
Approaches what it does as providing a useful and needed service to its multiple stakeholders and focuses on a value exchange which benefits both the business as well as the people the brand serves.
Operates from a core set of values informed by the brand’s guiding north star which aligns with business goals societal impact, and the brand’s broader purpose.
Demonstrates an acute ability to cultivate meaningful relationships with its stakeholders while possessing the ability to connect with them across multiple media, using tone appropriate communications and engagement.
Able to respond, pivot, evolve and transform based on changing conditions caused by severe disruption. Being adaptable requires flexibility in how the brand responds, acts and anticipates the needs of its audiences.
Building Brand Resilience for The Next Normal
We’ve already begun working with some of our client partners to discuss how they can cultivate brand resiliency both in how the brand is built (what the world sees) and how it operates behind the scenes. The role of marketers and communicators is to act as the front line of the resilient brand as they are closely connected to what the stakeholder (whether that be a brand’s employee, consumer or investor) experiences... We view the media as critical to telling a brand’s story of resilience—as complex as it can be to break through a saturated news cycle that is struggling to keep up with the dynamic nature of these world-changing events. For marketers who may have taken a pause on activity, this is the time to reset. For communicators who have been reacting to crisis—this is a moment to recalibrate. For both—this a moment to integrate efforts for maximum impact. As we work with our client partners on strategies and tactics that build brand resilience in real-time and for the long haul, we seek answers to questions such as:
- What should I be thinking about while my marketing is on pause or being re-shaped?
- How will consumer behavior change in my sector what do I need to be ready as I go back to marketing?
- How do we need to modify our current marketing and communications?
- How can I think about addressing my near-term needs while planning for an unknown longer-term reality?
Resilience may be the most critical quality for people to possess as we venture into the next normal. It’s the same for brands—what they do now in anticipation for future scenarios will dictate things like relevance, loyalty, trust and the general success of a brand’s business.
David Armano is Global Strategy Director, Brand and Allison Cirullo is Managing Director, U.S. Brand.
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