How to Fight Brand Fatigue as We Head Into Wave 2

How to Fight Brand Fatigue as We Head Into Wave 2

Some headlines need little explanation.  Unfortunately, this one requires no mention of “pandemic,” or “COVID,” or the new surge that was predicted and is presently occurring across the U.S.  Nor, does it need to rehash how tired marketers are, both personally and professionally, in dealing with “pandemic fatigue.” Marketing professionals are facing another epidemic; “brand fatigue.”  Many are tired of working from home, an endless loop of Zoom calls, and constantly trying to think of new, better ways their brands can succeed in this new environment.  Yes, it’s exhausting! But this is when brands have to stand up to meet the challenge.  When their loyal consumers rely on them most.  Where trust and dependability matter more than ever before. So, how can you avoid brand fatigue in the next few months and step up to the new challenges that will ultimately impact your planning?  Here is a checklist to add to your Zoom brainstorming session that will hopefully spark some renewed energy and enthusiasm: Product/Service Innovation – If there’s ever a time to think “outside the box,” it’s now. During Wave 1, we saw restaurants and retailers rise to the challenge with “touch-free,  curbside services.”  Established brands like Peloton implemented free trials of their on-line classes to raise brand awareness and create new customer opportunities.  Worked pretty well for them as their stock is up nearly five times since the beginning of the year and the demand for product is outweighing supply. How can your product or service innovate the way it’s delivered or accessed?  We’ve seen countless healthcare organizations update their tele-medicine services to provide virtual appointments and phone counseling to patients in all categories as one example. Review Brand Operations – From hours of operation to how your brand promise is delivered upon, marketers have to put themselves in the consumers seat and think through every detail of access, service delivery, and (virtual) customer experience. Consumers are more likely to cancel their appointments and put off purchasing during the pandemic and marketers have to find new ways to engage and convert them.  A new customer journey mapping exercise reflecting current times might be a highly worthwhile exercise. Online Communications – Your website and other online communications are vital now and into the foreseeable future. From a brand standpoint, it’s critical to assess how your site was used during Wave 1 and the improvements you’ll want or need make in the next surge. Now’s the time to audit your content strategy and develop a response plan to address new situations that will arise in your organization during Wave 2.  Check speed, loading time, mobile responsiveness and other technical elements of your site to ensure a positive user experience. Messaging and Advertising – Wave 1 focused on key phrases such as “we’re all in this together” and “we’re here for you.” As we enter Wave 2, brands will need to be more competitive in order to generate much needed revenue, while maintaining the empathy and unity of earlier messaging – no easy task.  New creative work should be reflective of our culture; social distancing, mask wearing, small group gatherings, and diversity. Progressive Insurance has always done an amazing job of going with the “Flo.”  Their advertising is entertaining, warm, and is always culturally relevant. Television viewership during the pandemic has been way up and research has indicated that consumers like seeing (good) commercials.  According to studies, consumers cite a sense of comfort and entertainment from commercials; providing some relief from otherwise bleak and overwhelming news. Social Media Channels – Similar to your website, having a proactive plan in place for your social media channels will serve you and your followers well during Wave 2. Anticipate what could have done better in Wave 1 and make those adjustments now. Be prepared to address important questions such as: How will you respond to customer questions or complaints about COVID or service delivery?  What tips for safety and well-being will you offer?  Where should consumers turn in for more information?  As before, put your customer hat on and fully anticipate the kinds of content that would be most helpful and insightful to them. Crisis Communications – For as much good your organization will do during Wave 2, there are pretty good odds that something will also go array. If you don’t already have a crisis plan in place, get on it.  If you have one,  revisit it and make sure it’s up to date and accurate with regards to the current crisis and other potential scenarios. Internal Communications – The most important audience to communicate with during this pandemic is your employees. From topics related to safety procedures in place for their protection, to new services and ideas that you’re offering customers, it’s imperative your stakeholders know first and know what to expect. The employee mindset is fragile right now.  People want to know whether your organization will survive the storm and, frankly, if they’ll have a job.  While you can’t overpromise, you can certainly assure them that you’re doing all you can to be successful and proactive during the ongoing crisis.  All your brand planning will create positive perceptions among employees that your organization is staying and thinking current. Corporate Social Responsibility – Customers have an affinity and loyalty for companies that give back. Especially during times of crises.  During Wave 1, we witnessed many examples of brands coming together for the greater good and taking care of our most vulnerable citizens.  A social responsibility plan typically pays big dividends in the form of sales, employee retention, and long-term customer loyalty. CRM – Surprisingly, studies showed that, during Wave 1, consumers were more open to receiving direct personalized communications such as emails, texts, and direct mail. In fact, these were the top-rated channels for reaching consumers.  During Wave 2, work closely within your CRM system to get personal and direct with your customers and help them schedule their services and convert to purchases.  This is especially important in healthcare, where patients...
Can Your Brand Ever Return to “Normal?”

Can Your Brand Ever Return to “Normal?”

We are almost six months into this pandemic, and many marketers are reading, writing, and answering loads of questions about the return to brand “normalcy.”  Personally, I haven’t heard the same response given to that question in the many webinars, zoom presentations, and podcasts in which I’ve either participated or tuned in. Most thought leaders agree, however, that there is a four-phased approach to “re-opening” brands. The four phases include Response, Recovery, Restoration, and Revitalize.  A quick recap of each: Phase 1 Response – Brands focused on safety, gratitude, and reassurance. “We are all in this together” was heard around the world.  And for healthcare organizations, it was all about the “heroes.” Phase 2 Recovery – Again, new safety protocols were ‘front and center’ and brands were actively changing operations to meet the needs of a very scared public. From home delivery to curbside pick-up, every organization had to rethink their product and service delivery.  In healthcare, existing services such as telehealth and online communications took on new interest and meaning. Phase 3 Restoration – This is the phase most brand planners believe we are in now. There’s a major push toward “back to business” and revenue generation to make up for lost sales and income.  Healthcare organizations are very vocal about encouraging consumers and patients to get the care they need and not to put off important procedures. Phase 4 Revitalization – No matter where you think we are on the “re-opening” plan, I’m sure you’d agree we are nowhere near this phase. We’ll know it when we see a return to long-term positioning strategies and the “why.”  Right now, we’re still in the who, what, when, where, and how strategies. According to Klein & Partners (Wave 3) ongoing tracking study conducted throughout the pandemic, most consumers would agree that we are in Phase 3.  In their opinion, we are in the middle of the curve and still a few months out for activities to “return to normal.”  In fact, according to many respondents, they believe some social behaviors will never return to normal. The online study also suggests that, for hospitals and other health organizations, their actions (in Phase 1 and 2) have created new, positive feelings towards their brands (20%, Wave 3).  One area in which hospitals and health systems are not scoring well, according to the study, is leveraging their online presence (social media and website).  Approximately 10%, or less in the case of social media, visit these sites and only 3% find them most useful.  Where are people turning?  The CDC website and other government sources.  Really, a lost opportunity! My thought is that most healthcare organizations are using these highly valuable tools. They are used to reinforce the same safety protocols that are offered in every retail, restaurant, and other service establishment – and not providing new, relevant content!  As a result, consumers are tuning out and turning elsewhere. As we enter Phase 4 Revitalization, brands will need to take more than COVID into account.  Other thunder in the perfect storm centers around other cultural issues such as marches, protests, riots, politics, race relations – to name a few!  Brands have to reflect these issues to be timely, relevant and meaningful. So, back to the question at hand:  Can your brand ever return to “normal?”  Keep this in mind;  great brands always adapt to the current culture and are highly relevant in people’s lives.  They are never stagnant and constantly evolve.  And they never “return” to anything; they always create something new. That said, your brand should not attempt to return to where it was.  That was then, this is now.  Instead, it needs to reshape and reconnect with your customer base in exciting ways that meet them where they are now – emotionally, physically, and economically.  So don’t worry about going back, only focus on going forward in innovative, fresh ways.  As Whoopi Goldberg (among others) is quoted as saying, “normal is only a setting on a washing machine.”  It’s time to create a new cycle that gives your brand strategy a clean and fresh start. Click here to learn more about Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy and how to keep your brand...
8 Important Shifts That Can Keep Your Brand Relevant and Meaningful in Uncertain Times

8 Important Shifts That Can Keep Your Brand Relevant and Meaningful in Uncertain Times

Brands continue to play an important role in people’s lives, and studies show that during a crisis – like now – they offer reassurance and a sense of comfort. From car manufacturers to restaurants, healthcare systems to hotels, brands are shifting their messaging to offer readiness, reassurance, safety, and even new ideas on delivering their products and services.  It’s amazing how quickly they’ve been able to turnaround their messaging and production strategies!  Already, there are best practices being established and amplified throughout the branding and advertising industries. The following are strategies you can act on quickly to keep your brand relevant and meaningful during these stressful, game-changing times: 1. Communicate in an empathetic tone Start by acknowledging that your audience is experiencing losses and lifestyle changes in ways never felt before. Great brands have relationships with their consumers, and now is the time to communicate from the heart. 2. Production values can be simple There isn’t the time or the luxury of resources to pour into new brand executions.  The idea is to connect quickly with your customers and let them know you’re there for them in whatever ways are most meaningful.   There have been excellent new commercials featuring infographics, re-purposed video content, and simple interview formats. 3. Corporate/social responsibility is every brand’s responsibility If there’s ever a good time to be a great corporate citizen, it’s now. Informing people of how your brand is supporting social distancing, its employees, and safety regulations is paramount to being relevant.  Creatively, it can also be unique; McDonald’s, Coke, and others are among those finding interesting ways to convey social responsibilities. 4. A special “shout out” to your employees For essential businesses, especially in healthcare, a little recognition goes a long way!  There are real heroes out there, working tirelessly and risking their lives, and they should be acknowledged. 5. Shift engagement to today’s channels It’s rare that consumers are (almost) always at home and resorting to more traditional media vehicles and channels. News ratings are exploding (of course) and readership of social media – even email – is up as well.  There are many details to provide in terms of how your organization and brand is responding to the current situation and there’s a good chance they’re being read. 6. Educate your audience around operations that keep them safe Safety is near and dear to everyone. Whether you’re setting up testing sites outside your hospital or providing contact-less interactions in drive-thru’s and grocery stores, it’s imperative to communicate the operational changes your products and services are making to keep your customer’s as safe as possible.  Tele-health has never been more popular and will create a new normal when this storm clears. 7. Embrace remote collaboration and virtual “events” Your brand can still engage its customer’s – you just have to do it on their turf, not yours. It’s amazing how many great, creative ways there are to interact with consumers using videos, apps, and constant updates to your website. 8. Your website has never been more important With “extra” time and the need for up-to-date information on your brand – especially among service organizations – your web traffic must be exploding. Make sure it’s up-to-date, accurate, and you’re letting your customers know how you’re dealing with this crisis.   When challenged, marketing leaders and brand innovators rise above with creative solutions. This current situation just faces us to think differently, talk empathetically, and connect in new ways.  Keep innovating and be safe! Click here to learn more about Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy and how to keep your brand...
Important Lessons for Marketers – and their Agencies – During this Time of Crisis

Important Lessons for Marketers – and their Agencies – During this Time of Crisis

While social distancing is the new normal, there are some important lessons marketers, and their agencies, can learn from other crises in the not so distant past. Different times require different actions. 1. You have to make course corrections on your media spend and messaging. This is not the time to bombard consumers with messages totally unrelated to the topic at hand and top of mind; they’re not in the mood to listen. Organizations and brands that merely “stay the course,” not making any adjustments,  are pouring dollars down the drain.  One might argue that “my funny commercial” or “new brand video” is just what the doctor ordered, but studies of past social crises indicate that people just can’t get enough news and information about CV-19 right now.  They don’t want to be “enlightened” by other messages while their energies are fixed on the problem. 2. You should stay in the market, but in relevant and appropriate ways. Studies also show that during recessions, and social/economic disasters, advertisers should not go completely dark.  Loss of awareness and market momentum requires as much as five times the normal spend to make up for lost ground when footing becomes more solid.  So, it’s important to stay out there, but in relevant ways.  Virtual “situation rooms” with your full team are essential to talk through and take corrective measures with your messaging and channeling, especially in social media.  How your brand is responding to CV-19 and  how it’s engaging your marketplace is mission critical.  3. Now is not the time to introduce a new brand or campaign. Can’t tell you how many LinkedIn and other social media posts have focused on bringing something “new” to the market.  You might have had the big launch planned for months, even a year, but now is not the time to press the button.  All that hard work will be lost in the noise and confusion surrounding the CV-19 virus.  Besides, internal communications are key to a new launch, and with so many people working from home, best to wait it out and pick the right time.  When the dust settles, you’ll be glad you did. 4. Now is not the time to force a client meeting or action. I know this sounds obvious, but agency people are persuasive types.  That’s why we are in the business.  I’ve scanned many LinkedIn posts from those on the client side who seem to be hugely annoyed at their agency right now for repeatedly calling and requesting a (virtual) meeting to “keep the ball moving.”  What I’m reading that appears to be sitting well with clients:  letting  them know you’re here for them and if they need anything, you’re operational and able to help them through this crisis personally and professionally. 5. It’s also not the time to send solicitous emails.  Like you, I’ve probably received over a hundred emails these last few days from companies selling their services.  Not in reference to the virus, not as a solution to my current business needs, and not in any way/shape/form related to what’s happening in the world.  From music searches to “new” direct mail lists, this is not the time to sell me something – I’m not buying!  Oh, and I do appreciate your “sincere” well wishes for me and my family during these troubling times, as indicated in your email.  Do I know you? HOW YOU ACT NOW WILL DETERMINE HOW I’LL ACT IN THE FUTURE. 6. Agency folks: It’s not business as usual.  Your clients are struggling and being torn in many different directions to weather this storm.  If you have great relationships with them, be empathetic and let them know you’re there for them (#4).  Put your skills to use in relevant ways and think about how you can provide a true value add.  Think creatively, not in terms of big ideas and ads,  but in new ideas and business solutions  that will benefit your clients during the storm. You’ll see – when their world calms down, they’ll remember who was there for them. 7. Client folks: We know you’re not ignoring us. You’re probably working from home, too, with many distractions and new fires that require your attention.  We know you’re not paying as much attention to meeting reports and proposals, so we’re going to go easy on you. Challenge us to help you through these difficult times.  Don’t feel you need to do it all “in-house” and have the belief that your agency partner is not interested in the ‘small stuff.’ We are here for you and have your personal and professional best interests in mind.  While you’re dealing with the pressures of sales goals and customer volumes, we’re using our time to learn new ideas and remedies that might be helpful to you. 8. We will all get through this together. At the time of this writing, there’s not much good news to report.  The virus is rising in reported cases and the market is falling.  Businesses are struggling and employee wages are in question, if not non-existent. We are all in this together and as history has proven, we’ll make it through this together.  With every crisis comes a new normal.  I’m not sure what that will be yet, but perhaps it’s the way we view our partnerships, work, and cultural surroundings as well as professional sensitivities. There’s a fast-growing plant-based food chain, Plant Power Fast Food (plantpowerfastfood.com) that has always been a great community citizen in the markets they serve.  They have a very strong mission and cultural compass.  To help support their employees during this difficult time, they are selling tee-shirts and the proceeds are going directly to their staff.  The shirts don’t tout their amazing sandwiches and creative concoctions – but share a message that I’ll leave you with: Be good to yourself.  Be good to...
“Cultural Brand Performance” – A New Indicator of Sales Growth and Consumer Engagement

“Cultural Brand Performance” – A New Indicator of Sales Growth and Consumer Engagement

There have been important, game-changing strategies associated with marketing performance over the years.  For example, “value proposition and differentiation,” “brand positioning,” and “corporate social responsibility.”  Each has evolved from the previous and all have demonstrated revenue growth. The latest idea being integrated into brand and marketing strategies is that of cultural relevance.  Simply (easier said than done), integrating what’s most relevant and important in our culture, social consciousness, and personal responsibilities with brand personas and communications strategies…no easy task. Take a look at a couple recent failed attempts of seeking cultural relevance: Peloton lost almost a $1 Billion in market value as a result of backlash from a TV commercial perceived as depicting men encouraging women to stay in shape. Hallmark pulled, then re-instated, a “wedding” commercial for Zola featuring the marriage of two women. Cultural amplification forced their turnaround in thinking. Watch any video today, on cable, network, or social media, and you’ll see brands seeking that fine balance with cultural relevance.  Whether it’s interfaith and interracial relationships, political or satirical points-of-view, or gender defining/neutralizing, how a brand performs and reflects cultural relevance has a direct and significant impact on its bottom-line.  I refer to this as “Cultural Brand Performance,” a new indicator and strategy for sales growth and consumer engagement. More fuel for this perspective:  in September, Merriam-Webster added the singular pronoun “they,” used to refer to “a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary,” or “to a person whose gender is unknown or is intentionally not revealed.” Earlier this month, the publication went a step further and chose the pronoun as its “Word of the Year.” Cultural Brand Performance is a new, important strategic consideration in today’s marketplace.   Finding the right equation in your market, while sometimes ‘like walking on eggshells’, is key to a brand’s long-term success.  More than ever, it’s paramount to stay on top of what’s trending culturally in your marketplace.  While I have never been a big proponent of creative testing, it seems to be worth every penny.  And can save hundreds of millions. Just ask...
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