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Should your brand be social distancing from its media?

These are unprecedented times. Anyone else sick of hearing that? It’s true though, right? These really are challenging times for us all and if you’re in business or running an organisation then it’s time to revaluate everything to make sure you successfully navigate the rocky seas ahead.

This crisis isn’t over, but we’re all getting ‘used’ to this socially-distanced world and almost – dare we say – we’re becoming more numb to the stats on social media and the news.

One large challenge for many of the big brands though has been how to handle the marketing and messaging during lockdown and for the near future. For some, it’s not gone that well and for some, there have been some big wins.

How do you play it? As always… with your brand at the centre of everything you do.



Branding: the DNA of your marketing

Here at Be Smart, before we begin to work on anything for a client, we go deep into their core values and beliefs and reasons for existing.

  • Why do you matter?
  • Why would anyone care?
  • Who are your audience and how will you communicate to them with your brand?

This is important. It’s essential to any brand and many of the large brands will have done this and re-done this over and over again. Every single touchpoint will be ‘on brand’ and in line with their core message and what they stand for.

During these unusual times we’re watching the big brands (and the small ones) grapple with the new normal and see how they apply their marketing to the ever-changing real world.

With social distancing, home schooling, furlough, loans, credit, and then the re-opening of the world, the trends on social media and the headline are all about one thing. Breaking through that noise needs to be carefully done.

We’ve seen some strong marketing messages from supermarkets. Morrison’s are benefiting from the “New renaissance of supermarket food” and marketing from Tesco has been focusing around the “Weekly shop”, something that we associate their brand (and others) with.

For supermarkets it’s relatively simple. We need them now more than ever and certainly at the beginning of lockdown were happy to buy from almost anywhere. In many instances the brand mattered little. But what they say and do now will matter… it’ll matter a lot. Most of them have done pretty well, even if none of their customers were that desperate to get an email from their CEO every week and there have been huge frustrations about getting deliveries and collections booked. The brands who quickly respond to new guidelines and put customer safety first will be seen in a more positive light.



Virgin forgot their brand values

One area that has been much harder hit is the travel industry. Unlike the supermarkets, they can’t do much trade, and they also can’t really do much about that for now.

Ryanair have had a lot of flak online for not cancelling flights until the last moment, delaying refunds, and upsetting customers. But that’s Ryanair… no one associates them with quality customer care, do they?

One aviation top gun that we do associate with care and quality though is Virgin. Part of Virgin’s core values are people:

“Our values are what keep our people, our products and our partners on the path to change business for good.”

So, when Billionaire Richard Branson requested government bailouts, it didn’t seem to align with their brand values. Neither did asking their staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave! Those are both terrible messages for their brand and do nothing for their PR or trust in the brand on the other side of all this.

What does your brand stand for? Embed those value in your moves during Covid-19 lockdown, the unlocking process, and beyond. Brands who have shown their human and caring side will come out well.



VW and McDonalds separated their logos

One area of brand that many focus their attention on is the logo. Although a brand isn’t just a logo, it’s a huge part of a company’s visual identity. Aside from the rather expensive re-brand of Cadbury recently, there have been some changes to global brands to align their message with social distancing.

Both McDonalds and Volkswagen ‘separated’ their logos to show support for social distancing. They took apart their iconic symbols to reinforce the message that we should all ‘stay alert’ and distance for the time being.

Whilst this is a powerful message, we’re not sure that a family restaurant that is all about bringing people together should really be talking about ‘distancing’ and we don’t really think changing the logo is helpful.

Just us?

For some brands, it might just be better to say nothing at all?



Are you forgetting the purpose? Do you have one?

Whatever you do, remember your brand purpose.

What do you stand for? If you stand for your people, don’t lay them off without pay amidst a big furlough roll out. If you’re The National Trust then be careful spreading the word about “keeping the UK’s heritage and open spaces accessible” when, during lockdown, even the local parks are closed to the public!

It’s not always easy, but if you start at your brand purpose it’s far easier.

You don’t have a brand purpose? We really need to talk.

Both now and after lockdown is over, having a strong brand purpose and a set of values that you stand for makes marketing and branding decisions so much easier – and more fun!

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