Branding in the pandemic. Let’s face it, the way we manage our brands now can significantly influence our future success or failure.

To say that this territory is uncharted is akin to using a tissue as a facemask. It’s just not strong enough. There are no sure-fire, time-tested, yup-this-is-gonna-work approaches for the situation in which we find ourselves. However, it’s not as if we’re completely stranded in the wilderness without tools to use, signs to follow, or travel companions to keep us company.

We have resources. We know where we want to go. We are not alone.

Three Absolutes

In other words, we’ve got this. Here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you think about how your organization should go about branding in the pandemic. Consider them three absolutes, three requirements that every decision and every action must fulfill:

Empathy. We are all in this together. From your employees, your customers, your prospects, and everyone else who has even the slightest ability to influence your organization’s continued success or its ultimate demise. They matter.

We have resources. We know where we want to go. We are not alone.

Create a checklist if you must, but stop to consider the situation, state of mind, and that of everyone who is important to you every single time you make a move. Ideally, try to determine whether you can help them and how. At the very least, pause to consider what impact your action or inaction may have on them.

For example, if your employees are not used to working remotely and are having withdrawal from their social interaction, find creative ways to bring them together. At least one organization we know has a Zoom channel dedicated just to hanging out. Or, knowing that your customers may be at home with children, offer to do business with them at odd hours, such as after the little ones’ bedtimes.

Sincerity. As you consider your constituents’ situations and look for appropriate ways to help them, make certain your approaches are authentic and not exclusively self-serving. Do not look at their needs as an opportunity to sell, but rather, one to help, even if selling is part of it.

Questions to consider include, “Would I make this same offer in normal business climates?” Or, “Does this action offer legitimate relief to what they are experiencing?” And, “Is this approach relevant to what we do?”

For example, a recent email from a national oil change brand stated, “During these hard times, we want to help you out as much as we can. Take 25% off your purchase.” Granted, it’s a steep discount, but as presented, it’s still a sale. Instead, perhaps they could have offered a rationale, such as keeping their great team of professionals working. Or, instead of offering a discount, they could have promised to direct that same 25% to a Covid-19 relief charity.

NOTE: We are having a great LinkedIn discussion about this topic. Take a look and join the conversation.

Leading with empathy, sincerity, and authenticity going forward will not just make us better citizens of the world when the world needs all the help it can get. It also plots us on a course towards a stronger, sustainable future once we return to whatever new normal awaits us.

Authenticity. Finally, what should be considered the Prime Directive of all branding is authenticity. Strong brands know who they are, why they exist, and what makes them different from all the other choices people have. From there, they commit those decisions to consistency and focus.

At no time is this rule more important than in times of trouble. Said another way, “Stay in your lane.” Focus on what you can do and leave what you can’t to others. We all have an interest in helping out. However, we should always play to our strengths and encourage others to play theirs.

For example, the Cleveland Whiskey company formed a partnership with the Cleveland Clinic to produce hand sanitizer. Other distilleries and vineyards quickly followed suit. Levi’s has begun producing masks. General Motors, Fiat, Ford, and Tesla have turned assembly lines into ventilator factories.

And a Don’t

One thing not to do, especially at a time when people need encouragement and hope, is to go negative, to use fear as a motivator. This is decidedly not the way to go about branding in the pandemic. Case in point (identifiers removed):

A New Normal Awaits

Leading with empathy, sincerity, and authenticity going forward will not just make us better citizens of the world when the world needs all the help it can get. It also plots us on a course towards a stronger, sustainable future once we return to whatever new normal awaits us.

In the meantime, stay positive, stay grounded, and stay well.