Crises force us to confront many things about ourselves. We see how we react in the face of stress, how we choose to treat others when our backs may be against the wall, and what we truly value. We don’t choose to go through a crisis, but we can choose to learn something about ourselves from it and use that moment to transform us for the better moving forward.
The coronavirus has created a situation where individuals and brands are facing the same crisis at the same time across the globe. And, just like with individuals, when brands are faced with a crisis it puts tremendous stress on their values and beliefs. It’s quite remarkable and it affords a brand the opportunity to truly asses the strength or weakness of their values. It begs the question, can they live up to them in times of crisis or not?
If you’ve invested in your brand or work for a company that has tried to build a strong brand, you’ve probably been involved with or exposed to what the brand’s core belief is, what its values are, what the mission and vision may be, and how it’s positioned. I’m willing to bet that most of those were developed through the lens of a different time and a more perfect-world scenario than today. But now is the time to see what your brand is really made of. Now is the time to see if your brand is ready to endure.
why is a strong brand more important than ever?
In Kantar’s Covid-19 Barometer report, their research shows that strong bands recovered nine times faster following the 2008 financial crisis (as shown in the chart below).
If we move into an era of restrained consumption the stronger the brand is the better prepared it’s going to be. According to Edelman’s Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic 65% of people across the globe say that “how well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact” on their likelihood to buy that brand in the future. That’s why it’s important to go back to the foundations of the brand and really challenge how strong those building blocks are.
How MEANINGFUL ARE YOUR BRAND VALUES?
Think about your brand values, the words you use, and the descriptive statements of what those words mean to the brand. How did they show up in your actions before? How are they showing up now? Are they just words that sound good on a piece of paper or are they actual values that are held deeply and are impacting the decisions the brand has made now? Is the leadership in your organization embodying these values? How about the rest of the staff? Values become meaningless if they can’t be demonstrated in action. We can get so caught up in romantic language that feels like it is helping position the brand for greatness, but brand values should not be aspirational, they should be grounded in reality. Maybe you’ve discovered something new about your brand, your people, and your customers that has shifted your thinking on values. In either case, reexamining your brand values is an important step to see if the foundation is healthy or if there are any cracks.
We’ve created a model to asses your values:
You can give your brand a quick litmus test by filling out the following:
If you find you are struggling to fill out how your brand demonstrated that value, or have more ideas in the column about what you could have done, there is a disconnect. So what do you do? Get rid of the waste. Move on from anything that isn’t relevant or realistic. Or maybe you need a complete overhaul. The words aren’t precious. The actions are.
The brand value demonstration statEment
To get back to what the brand values really mean in action, look for how your brand has played a meaningful role in people’s lives, even if it is at a very micro level. Then trace that back to you value. To do this, you can create a value demonstration statement by filling in scenarios in the following formula:
- By (Action), people felt (Emotion), because (Customer Reality) and that shows how we are (Value)
Let’s take Adobe as a real life example. They’re known for having a great corporate culture and being a great place to work. When you take a look at their values they really aren’t that unique:
- Genuine – We are sincere, trustworthy, and reliable.
- Exceptional – We’re highly creative and always striving to connect new ideas with business realities.
- Innovative – We’re committed to creating exceptional experiences that delight our employees and customers.
- Involved – We’re inclusive, open, and actively engaged with our customers, partners, employees, and the communities we serve.
You will probably see very similar words and phrases in many other companies values. Values don’t have to be completely unique but what makes them meaningful is how they materialize. So let’s take an action that Adobe has taken during the coronavirus and see how it demonstrated it’s values.
By offering individuals Creative Cloud free for two months during the coronavirus pandemic people felt relieved and genuinely grateful because many of those individuals were concerned with loss of income and that shows how Adobe is actively involved with our customers.
That’s just one of the many things that Adobe has been doing. There is a clear line that can be traced back to its values. And that action spans many of its values.
So what next?
People are experiencing the coronavirus pandemic differently. People’s socioeconomic status, their location, living situation, mental health and their jobs are all factoring into their experience. It’s important to understand all of those realities and also reexamine beyond the brand values into the core belief, the mission, vision, and positioning.
As for marketing and communication there are plenty of resources to help brands think about how to market it a time like this. “Show empathy”, “don’t exploit this opportunity to try and sell something”, “modify your media mix based on consumers’ new behaviors”, and plenty more pieces of advice that are all generally good rules to follow at any time, not just during a pandemic. But these should be made much easier when you’re fully bought into what the brand stands for.
It’s gut-check time for your brand. So when this is over is going back to the status quo where you want to be?
If you want a copy of these templates, are curious about other tools we have, or could use help with your brand reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.