You’re Sitting on a Golden Brand Building Opportunity — Don’t Waste it

April 23, 2020

By Chris Vitti


This crisis is very difficult for all of us.

But when times are bad, there’s an expression I like to think about: Either it will get better, or it will pass.

At some point we’ll find a cure for this awful virus, the economy will recover, and we’ll be able to get back to many of the things we used to do.

I believe it’s important to start preparing for that moment now. According to a survey of over 200 marketers and agencies, roughly 45 percent decided to stop a campaign mid-flight due to COVID-19, while 38 percent paused all new advertising efforts until next year.

I see that as a lost opportunity. If you have the budget, now is the best time to build the brand of your business. Here’s why:

  • According to recent data, total internet usage has surged between 50 percent and 70 percent. With so many people online, it’s now easier than ever to reach a massive audience.
  • While internet traffic is skyrocketing, more and more brands are cutting ad spend. This means brands that advertise now will have much less noise to contend with.
  • With fewer brands advertising, this means lower advertising costs. This creates a buyer’s market for opportunistic brands.
  • In a challenging time like this, you don’t want your brand to be perceived as panicking. This erodes consumer confidence.
  • People want reassurance that there’s a way through this. If your brand can provide that, it will keep you top of mind and show that you genuinely care for your customers. Our data found that brands leaning into COVID-19 content have seen a 20 percent increase in positive sentiment toward their brand, and 50 percent higher engagement across this content.

Those are the benefits of brand building during a crisis. Now, executing on brand build during a crisis is another story completely. Dozens of scrapped ad campaigns can attest to that.

There’s no playbook to brand building during a time like this. However, we can take a few lessons from how advertisers approached the financial crisis of 2008, and look at some of the good work brands are already doing to respond to this crisis:

  • Create content that appeals to emotion, rather than transactional content. Emotional content establishes a human connection, and lets your customers know you’re there to support them. A good example is this T-Mobile April Fool’s Day tweet.
  • COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on our economy. For this reason, brands need to show compassion when it comes to payment. If you can afford to extend payment deadlines, it could mean the world to your customers. A good example of this is the utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). PG&E is currently suspending service disconnections for non-payment and waiving security deposits.
  • Another way to show compassion, if it’s financially possible, is to offer your products and services for free. At Knotch, we’re currently providing our Content Intelligence Platform for free so brands can measure their COVID-19 content and communications.
  • Find a way to help with relief efforts. Ford, for example, is producing 50,000 ventilators. Another example is Chipotle, which sent 100,000 free burritos to health care workers.
  • Layoffs are a painful reality caused by this crisis. But it’s possible to turn this negative into a long-term positive by either furloughing employees or making a commitment to rehire laid off workers when the economy starts to recover — as some employers are already doing.
  • The distinction between vendor and partner truly becomes clear during a time like this. Focusing on relationships (rather than selling), and catering to what your customers need right now, will determine whether your customer continues to carve out budget for you in the future.
  • If you have knowledge or expertise that could help the community during this time, it’s extremely important that you speak up. Take Fundera for example. They have been putting out a lot of content around how small business owners can navigate these challenging times. Sharing knowledge isn’t only the right thing to do — it helps you stay top of mind with your audience. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to invest in your content marketing efforts and create a narrative around how your business is helping.
  • Publicize your efforts by talking to media outlets, and by sharing information about how you’re helping on your social channels. After all, if you’re doing your part and not bringing awareness to your brand, your effort will not be visible.

Brand building during a crisis isn’t self-serving — it’s necessary. By comforting people, relieving financial burdens, protecting workers, offering freebies, contributing to the relief efforts, sharing your knowledge, and generally meeting your customers where they are, you’ll form stronger bonds that will continue well beyond this crisis.

Chris Vitti is the SVP of marketing at Knotch.

The views and opinions expressed in Marketing Maestros are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

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