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VIEW: How to get branding right in crisis times

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The success route for brand managers has helpful pointers: Identify the special emotions the brand emotes, revisit the core values that the brand represents, and propose what you stand for rather than what your product features. 

VIEW: How to get branding right in crisis times
We all recall the monsoon of 2015, which brought Nestle's iconic brand, Maggi under dark clouds.  While many anticipated this as an end of the brand, the Nestle team connected with market sentiment, reflected their conviction in the product line, registered new emotions, and kept the brand alive even when the product was pushed off the shelves. The theme 'Meri Maggi' 'We miss you too' kept the symphony going! When they bounced back, they did not just recover their market share; they even came back brighter and more robust with newer products. Nestle managed to see the silver lining over the dark cloud at the right time.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the world market in a crisis of unprecedented scale. Brand managers have a significant role in keeping alive the brands that constitute the industry such that the market does not lose momentum and be compelled to start from scratch when the tide turns.
Human emotions tend to be vulnerable when an unforeseen crisis brings daunting challenges. The mind has to grasp an overload of alarming facts while grappling with multiple pressures during an emergency. The question then for brand managers is how to connect with the customer's mind to sustain their own brand.
“Know that in your deeper mind are Infinite Intelligence and Infinite Power.”
Focusing closely on today’s wide market array, we realise that most brand choices are not conscious decisions but rather the result of a combination of reasons in the subconscious mind which are triggered by strong emotion, latent or realised. The subconscious mind is host to a mix of feelings and thoughts, rendering the concept of emotion of utmost importance for brand managers. It is, therefore, all the more vital that, in times of crisis, they reflect on how to engage with the workings of the subconscious mind, which is more reliable than the conscious mind in driving campaigns in the right direction.
Communicate, engage, and emote
The success route for brand managers has helpful pointers: Identify the special emotions the brand emotes, revisit the core values that the brand represents, and propose what you stand for rather than what your product features. An in-depth study of consistent human behavioural trends will assist marketers gain better insights in times of crisis.
Nike took the lead amid the pandemic pandemonium with their upbeat new message: “Play inside, play for the world.” By tapping into the right emotions, their powerful message served to boost the morale of the anxiety-burdened world.
A famous luxury goods firm wasted no time in announcing that it would shift its customary product line of high-end perfumes and cosmetics for affluent customers to the current top priority of the market: hand sanitisers for hospitals. That strategic move spelt solidarity with the universal need of the hour, setting the stage for the many firms that followed its lead in making shifts in their own market priorities. As the importance of social distancing became apparent, some companies responded by mocking up new versions of their logos. For this year’s parade-less St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness ran an ad that showed people toasting at home. “Don’t worry, we’ll march again,” a voiceover says.
Feel-good content that erodes anxiety while boosting positive messaging goes a long way in successful brand management. People remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis, especially if prompted by pure heart and generosity. A leading technology major recently announced that they are not laying off any employees due to COVID-19 and have no plans to do so in the future. This is a great brand campaign in itself. But the cardinal principle of all such model caring is that the promises are kept in the long term. Yet another plus is ensuring that your content is so reliable and relevant that other brands write about it.
Back in 1977, Steve Jobs taught brand managers worldwide how to launch an unforgettable marketing strategy by expressing what they believe in and stand for. Apple philosophy, driven by empathy, insightful focus, and creative presentation, is an inspiring strategy that could be impactful, particularly in these trying times. Responding with sensitivity in times of crisis keeps favourite brands in the limelight.
The article is written by Bharath Shivappa, Chief Strategy and Development Officer, and Jaayaa A Kumarr, AGM – BD at JSA. The views expressed are personal.
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