Exiting the pandemic: Your brand guide to successful exit strategy
Early 2020, a Chinese city called Wuhan was spotlighted on the global stage, as the epicentre to a global pandemic forcing large parts of the world to go into lockdown. The stuff of movies became a reality, and humanity was thrown into turmoil.
The work we previously believed to be challenging took on a whole new level; with entrepreneurs either looking for ways to pivot, business owners reluctantly furloughing their staff and shutting shop (quite literally), or the already struggling NHS finding ways to cope - hot off the heels of Brexit (remember that?).
The phrase: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” comes to mind. Whilst I hesitate to use those words during a global pandemic, the challenges faced and the lessons learnt during this time really are tests to our mental and emotional resilience.
So, what have we learnt over the past few months, and what are we taking with us into the 'new normal?' (Because things certainly won’t go back to the way they used to be).
Both the rarity and gravity of this situation are difficult to process (at least for me). But it’s precisely due to this extreme rarity that we all stand united. And it’s one single thing that truly affects us all. For once, we all have something in common.
This shared understanding brings about deeper levels of empathy, which absolutely need to be reflected in your brand’s marketing.
This means acknowledging facts and the way people are feeling now. Any good marketer needs to have their ear to the ground and be in tune with what’s happening in their marketplace. There’s certainly no excuse not to be doing that now - and what better opportunity to strengthen your connection with your customers? Use this time to speak to them, and listen.
TO ASSUME IS TO MAKE AN ASS OF U AND ME
Confession: this saying was drilled into me by a former schoolteacher of mine (I can hear his voice in my head as I type this). But I’m glad his words still ring in my head to this day, because, in marketing, it is unwise to make assumptions on your audience - particularly when a global pandemic has thrown everything up in the air.
Left is right, up is down, Trump is president. (And here I was thinking 2020 was going to be an awesome year. “It just has a good ring to it!” I excitedly shared during NYE celebrations. Ah, those innocent, joyful times).
Back to the point: to assume is to make an “ass” of “u” and “me.” Don’t run the risk of second-guessing how your customers are feeling, what they’re expecting of you, or how they’re planning on engaging with you again (if, at all).
Speak to them directly. Actively outreach to connect with them, listen to what they have to say, and let them know that their voices are being heard. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll build a successful advocacy scheme off the back of this, or, an even stronger loyalty programme if you already have one.
SURVIVAL OF THE ADAPTABLE
If you haven’t already, it’s time to screw up and throw out the 2020 marketing plan that you laboured over in Q4. I know it sucks, I know it can be uncomfortable, but it’s crucial to reassess your entire business now. From your core product and operations, through to your brand messaging and marketing plans. Ask yourself (and your customers!) if it’s still relevant? If it’s appropriate? Will it land? What space do you occupy now?
The world has changed so much that it’s imperative to view your business and your marketing strategy through this fresh lens.
The past few months have been tough on everyone, that goes without saying. As a brand, you’ve developed a platform and a voice, which brings great responsibility. People are looking to you, and listening to what you have to say, so my final piece of advice when looking at your COVID-19 exit strategy is to see if there are ways that you can spread some much-needed joy right now.
For some brands, it makes sense to inject some humour (we could all do with a laugh, even if it serves a momentary distraction from our bigger problems right now… ) or, for others, it could be focusing on self-care, treating yourself, making your house a home, or reminding people of the good things still to come.
Depending on your business, you’ll be looking at different ways to package your service offering or your product suite, but the above points apply to every business right now. Of course, health & safety come first in your brand’s exit strategy, but remember to take the time to listen to your customer, demonstrate empathy, adapt if necessary, and shine a little sunshine in their lives, if you can.
Stephanie Melodia is the owner of startup marketing agency, Bloom, host of founder podcast, Time to Bloom, co-founder of entrepreneur programme, Amplenary, and scout to Ada Ventures. For creative/brand/marketing support for your early-stage business, get in touch with Stephanie directly on firstname.lastname@example.org.