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How the Best Brands Can Connect with Consumers as Behavior Shifts and New Patterns Emerge

May 8, 2020

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In our socially distant reality, an increasing number of consumers are going online to find information, entertainment, resources, comfort. Many are turning to the brands they know and love to help them cope. We hosted a webinar with brand experts sharing thoughts on how the best brands will weather the Covid-19 storm and even come out stronger. Watch below.

What are brands thinking about?

“I forecasted we wouldn’t see too much brand identity work and that companies would prioritize their digital infrastructure and experiences,” said August Heffner, Creative Director at Instrument. “So far I’ve been wrong. Brands that don’t have their physical identity on the shelf anymore, for example, are coming to us to define their digital identity in order to compete.”

“We’re seeing brands think of ways to retool the factory,” said Deb Gabor, Founder and CEO of Sol Marketing. “Some like Christian Dior changed operations to make hand sanitizer instead of perfume, while others are pivoting marketing to provide resources that help vs. sell.”

Brands are re-assessing projects that are in-flight and redefining how their values connect with their actions and messages during the pandemic, so they can deliver on what their customers really need right now.

What are brands doing?

We’re in the midst of an infodemic and people are experiencing information anxiety. In search of credible sources, 85 percent of people are turning to brands for information, education, and comfort. However, 71 percent have said that brands they see putting profits over people will lose their trust forever. (Edelman 2020).

That’s a precarious place for brands to be in. 

So we’ve seen some air similar ads and messaging along the lines of “we are all in this together,” which reveal empathy but also that brands are maybe not quite sure what to say…

Heffner’s advice is simply to put the user first. Most branding in the world is about what we (the brand) want to say and how we’re going to get people to listen to us. Try listening to your customers and use any consumer insights and audience intelligence you have to understand what drives their needs now and what will shape them in the future.

“I don’t “engage” with my family, I listen to them,” he said. 

What can best brands do to not only weather the storm but perhaps come out stronger?

We see that the reward for acting authentically now is higher, but so is the cost. 60 percent of people say they will turn to brands they can absolutely trust, but 33 percent have already convinced others to stop using brands they believe have not acted appropriately. 

“Authenticity is a two-way street,” as Jonathon Morgan, CEO at Yonder, said. “You have to understand — at an emotional level — who you’re engaging with, who matters most, and who can be your partner in advocating for your values and brand purpose online.”

Gabor agreed, saying “best brands know their best factions and design themselves around them. They show up like human beings and become part of those people.”

Heffner noted that brands are innovating quickly and trying new things to align with consumer values, needs, and shifts in behavior that are happening over the span of weeks that may have taken the whole arch of a generation were it not for the pandemic. “When a fine art gallery rolls out new content that is competing against my Netflix viewing,” he said, “that’s when you know patterns are changing.”

There’s no playbook for keeping up with consumer needs in a time like this. But there are online behavioral patterns that can guide brands through the cultural shifts — if you know what to look for.

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