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What effect has COVID-19 had on branding?

Well 2020 certainly threw the rule book in the air, didn’t it? At the time of writing this it feels like the most surreal spring and summer ever experienced. With holidays cancelled, families quarantined, and shops about to apply a compulsory mask guidance/rule – 2020 will leave its mark on the history books and blogs for some time.

But what effect has it had on the world of brand? Clearly, it’s affected almost every part of life in far reaching parts of the world, so it must have affected branding, right? Well, yes it has and, in some ways, it’s changed brands and what they mean to people, but for others, it was actually just business as usual… allow us to explain.



Covid-19 has been a very reactive time, but that’s normal for brands

For most brands, there has been the need to shift the message and avoid any faux pas that might get them in the press and viral on social media for all the wrong reasons. It’s a very emotional time and anyone who’s shared their thoughts about lockdowns or viruses on social media will testify to that!

Brands have had to rethink fast and they’ve had to consider new topics like social distancing, hygiene, and the lack of social gatherings in their content and messaging. Covid-19 changed our way of life so it changed the message that responsible brands needed to put out.

But was it that drastic? Well, apart from brands like VW and McDonalds separating their logos for a short period, it wasn’t really that drastic. Brands are used to changing their output to match the trending topics and new narratives. It’s the staple diet of successful brands.



Affected it currently, but not forever

Of course, Covid-19 affected brands. From TV ads to YouTube videos, social media posts and billboards, brands matched the government messaging and tried to find and appeal to the feeling of the nation, world, and their customers. “In this together” was a Government slogan that some brands like Nike reinvented and used with incredible prowess and tone.
Nike tweeted, “Now more than ever, we are one team. #playinside #playfortheworld” back in March while tech giants Apple, Amazon, and Google pledged cash and support for those who needed it.

Did it change them forever? No, we don’t think so. The successful brands whether big or small have always been good at matching the tone and changing their content. Their core values and beliefs will have been matched to the moment more than they were changed by it.



The mass ‘pivot’ wasn’t major for everyone

“PIVOT!!!” was being shouted by nearly every online guru or business coach and many of the big brands faced huge change, especially in the food and beverage industry and of course events and tourism.

But although the upheaval was tough, it wasn’t major in the context of the wider picture for those brands we’re so used to seeing. Starbucks and Costa found a new love for Drive-thru, restaurants got onboard with UberEats and Deliveroo, and Amazon became the biggest toilet roll store in the world.

Not really a pivot, more a seasonal change.

There were no doubt many businesses born in lockdowns around the globe and those who bowed out, too. But it’ll return to some level of normality when we all get out the other side of this.



Many marketed more, which is also great news

The rush online when lockdowns came into play played perfectly into the hands of the online world. Ecommerce is now an essential not a luxury for many and having an online offering or service brought forward many ideas and projects sooner than planned.

Lots of businesses marketed more than normal, with more eyes on social media because fewer people were working and homes around the world were locked up, the online marketing needed a real push and that showed in many brands.



Some needed to respond, some avoided talking about it

There are always going to be winners and losers in times like these and in turn there are always going to be those more affected than others. Customer facing companies really needed to re-evaluate their message and signage, paid ads, and social media posts needed careful attention during a time that changed their customer interaction for the foreseeable future.

Brands saw this as an opportunity to build stronger links with their customers by showing that they cared and that they were in it with them.

The travel and tourism sector was hit hard by new lockdown restrictions. So, in the absence of travel, their marketing turned to inspiration rather than pledges to book villas and hotel rooms.

Airbnb offered images of stunning settings for free downloads in a bid to stay connected by cheering up their followers, for example.

Others remained quiet, and much like the slow response by Facebook to the BLM movement, this didn’t go unnoticed.



The socially distanced photos will one day be a distant memory

This won’t be a long-lasting effect for brands on the whole. In an interesting piece by Bynder, “… the majority of those surveyed (57%) take a more moderate approach, believing that COVID‑19 will have a lasting impact on branding and marketing, but it won’t be transformative.” – Bynder.com.

As the restrictions are lifted and the world goes back to work, school, and Burger King – the brand messaging will change.

It needs to though and so it will, just like it always has. A good brand knows that staying current and not ignoring what’s going on in the world is the place to be, even if (at times) it can be a tough ledge to walk.

Need help staying current and on top of your brand’s current affairs? Contact us now. We’re constantly reviewing and re-working the message for our clients… maybe it’s time we did it for you?

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