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Branding During a Pandemic | What You Need to Know

Branding During a Pandemic | What You Need to Know

It’s hard to imagine that just a few short months ago, many of us were excitedly looking forward to the year 2020. It was the dawn of a new decade, a time of new beginnings, the return of the roaring ’20s. 

Then something happened that no one expected. There began to be whispers of something called COVID-19, a strange new disease with no known cure. 

Surely this was being blown out of proportion. There was no way it would completely change our lives, right?

Unfortunately, it did.

We found ourselves in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. Businesses were closing, people were afraid to leave their homes, and while things are slowly improving, it’s hard to imagine the world will ever fully return to the way it was. 

So how does all this affect branding and what steps can you take to keep up with these changing times? We often think of branding as the logos, designs, and the overarching themes of our businesses. 

While this is the case, you also need to think about preserving your brand’s image as we all continue to adapt and search for a new normal in our society. 

At this point then, you need to find out what your customers are thinking, how they are feeling, and (most importantly) what they are expecting/needing from your brand.

According to a recent study, consumers desire three main things from their favorite brands during this pandemic:

  • Clean/Safe Environments
  • Care for Their Customers
  • Loyalty To Their Employees

How business owners choose to tackle these three challenges could have lasting effects on their brand’s image for years to come. Let’s dive in and see how you can properly navigate this new landscape. 

Creating a Clean/Safe Environment

This will certainly differ depending on what type of business you have, but making sure you are abiding by the guidelines laid out by the CDC is one of the most important things any business owner can do right now. 

While some companies have been doing business from home, others have not had that luxury. As restrictions are beginning to lift across the country, allowing businesses to reopen, it can be difficult to know exactly what precautions to take.

In this current environment, fear has become a major pain point for consumers, spanning many different industries. And just like with any other pain point, it is our job as business owners and marketers to show our customers that we can overcome them.

Thankfully, there are some simple but essential steps you can take to create a clean environment that will make your customers feel safer.

For the CDC’s complete COVID-19 response, click here.

Promote Good Hygiene

It seems like most people should understand the importance of washing their hands and covering their mouths when they sneeze. Nevertheless, you should do whatever you can to encourage good hygiene in your place of business. 

  • Provide adequate supplies such as hand sanitizer, soap, and facemasks
  • Train your team on the importance of good hygiene
  • Post informational signs throughout your establishment on proper hygienic practices

Sanitize Often

While good personal hygiene is a powerful tool for combating this virus, it is far from a perfect solution. As a result, you must take extra precautions to create a truly sanitary environment.

  • Sanitize frequently touched surfaces (workstations, cash registers, etc.) Daily
  • Sanitize shared objects (payment terminals, countertops, etc.) Between Uses

Also, be sure your cleaning products are recommended by the ETA for combatting COVID-19 and that your employees are properly trained to use them.

Encourage Social Distancing

The idea of social distancing has almost become a joke to some people, dominating today’s meme culture, but the importance of proper social distancing can not be understated. 

As a business owner, it can feel like a daunting task to keep everyone six feet apart at all times, but there are some fairly simple things you can do to make this easier. 

  • Use tape to create visual barriers for customers on the floor
  • Eliminate the use of self-service areas (drink stations/salad bars)
  • Use physical barriers for areas where close proximity is unavoidable (cash registers)
  • Utilize touchless payment options (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay)

Caring for Your Customers

One of the best things you can do for your brand during these times is to show customers that you care. Whether you give way free content or discounts, showing that you are loyal to your customer base will help people see your brand in a positive way. 

As Shama Hyder (CEO of Zen Media) states in a recent article, “This is not a time for cowardice or fear-based thinking. This is a time for gratitude and playing the long game.”

She goes on to mention some companies, who are using this pandemic as an opportunity to give back. For example, Loom and Adobe are making their paid services available for free to teachers and students, who are now working from home. And John Emerald Distillery in Opelika, AL began using its facilities to produce hand sanitizer (which they gave away for free) to combat a recent shortage.

If these examples don’t apply to you, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • “What are my customers struggling with right now?”
  • “What’s one thing I can do to help?”

Looking Out for Your Employees

The sudden changes brought about by this pandemic have been hard on everyone, customers and employees alike. How you treat your workers during this period could have a lasting impact on the image of your brand (positive or negative). 

Therefore, it’s important to respect your employees so people will remember your company as one that looks out for its own.

Flexibility 

Put yourself in your employee’s shoes. Do they have kids? Are they struggling to find daycare options? Are some of them older and thus more susceptible to the disease?

It’s important to be as flexible as possible when scheduling parents who suddenly find themselves with kids at home. It’s also a great idea to make accommodations for those who may be more at risk in certain environments (i.e. close contact with customers). 

Paid Sick Leave

Some companies like Amazon have been accused of having inadequate policies for paid sick leave. 

According to a recent article from The Atlantic, an anonymous employee from Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) began having flu-like symptoms. He was told by his doctor that while he couldn’t get tested for COVID-19 (due to test rationing), he should stay home until 48 hours after his symptoms were gone.

Despite this, the Whole Foods “regional HR office told him he did not qualify for the company’s two weeks of quarantine pay, because he did not have a positive COVID-19 test or a county quarantine order.” 

Needless to say, this has not reflected well on the company at all. Employees are now concerned about what would happen if one of them were to contract the virus while being unable to get proper testing. 

Layoffs

Of course, it’s best to avoid laying off employees if at all possible, but if you find that it is absolutely necessary, make a clear public statement about the situation. 

As stated in the study by Morning Consult, “While [it’s] naturally best to avoid layoffs where possible to stem negative backlash, careful handling of communications around such a momentous decision and solutions for those displaced are a must.”

Summary

The year 2020 may not be what any of us expected, but it is still a time of new beginnings. 

As people begin to ease back into the world, they will hopefully find it to be a more caring and compassionate place. But they will not soon forget the companies who made them feel safe and cared for during these trying times. 

By creating clean safe environments and showing that you care for your customers and employees, you are setting your brand apart. While the road ahead may not be easy, play the long game. Generate customer loyalty through understanding and kindness, and you’ll go a long way. 

If you have any questions about branding, marketing, and advertising for your business, we at Baker Street are here for you.

Author:
Trey Gafford