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20 March, 2020 - brands

Why honesty and transparency are key to brand connectivity in uncertain times 

This week, The Business of Fashion, a leading global authority on the fashion industry, published a message from a disgruntled user that read: ‘Did your social media manager go into quarantine? Why are you posting these horrible screenshots instead of making quality images?’ 
Business of Fashion responded promptly saying: ‘Looks like you caught us. . . Just like you, we are also trying to stay on top of the fast-moving and ever-evolving coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes to get the most pressing news out to you, our community, as quickly as possible, we’ve taken a few short cuts and had to sacrifice the usual high image standards you’re used to seeing.’
The response went on to encouraging audiences to respond with feedback that would keep them informed, as they in turn continue to inform their readers. 
This is a brilliant example of a brand being honest, transparent, timely and connected in these unprecedented times, where businesses, just like individuals, need to depend on their network to make it through to the other side.   
Teacup Influence has been carefully reviewing tactics that brands like the Business of Fashion have employed over the past couple of weeks as they try to grapple with the government restrictions imposed in light of the Covid-19 virus that continues to spread mercilessly world over. 
The UN estimates that the Coronavirus may cause a loss of almost $1 trillion to the world economy in 2020. Businesses are now caught in the constant pressure of making crucial decisions. There have been closures, cutbacks, stockpiling and mass cancellations as businesses look desperately for processes to support business continuity. 
So, how do we reorient our marketing strategies for future prosperity at a time when everything around seems to be in chaos?
It is a known fact that smaller businesses are capable of bouncing back more quickly than larger corporations. But the question people are asking is how long could this last for. Since there is no sure way of foreseeing the extent of the virus’ impact. Businesses are looking at each other for solutions and ways to maintain their market standing. 
Vijendra Rawat, cofounder of Color My Brand Pvt. Ltd., runs a business of corporate gifts. Most of the products are sourced from China. When the deliveries from China started getting delayed, the company started looking for local options. The company is now using Chinese samples to develop the products locally. 
Color My Brand has undergone a business transformation, which reminds us that even in tough times as these, the show must go on. Brands must continue to be seen and heard. And for now, the best way to do this is to strengthen your digital marketing strategies. 
This is the time when you can restructure your communications. Go back to square one and build community support. 
A few tps on how you can do this:

1.    Talk about safety measures adopted
Aviation companies have been at the frontline of these challenging times. Carriers like SpiceJet, Indigo and Vistara are encouraging their fliers and employees to use sanitisers extensively in order to reduce any risk of spreading infections. Videos and social media posts are emerging from the carriers talking about the lengths of safety precautions that they are currently taking. 

Film companies have stopped shooting of entertainment products till 31st March, citing the need for social distancing. Wedding planners have started looking for local destinations instead of international ones for weddings, and are offering help to those affected in rearranging dates and plans. Organic beauty companies such as Forest Essentials are discussing the benefits and methods of hand washing. Body Shop has discontinued makeup trials in-store to minimise interaction. 
Doctors and those in the medical industry have been working round the clock to treat affected people and research medicines which can control this pandemic. They are constantly sharing do’s and don’ts to increase awareness and reduce the impact of Coronavirus. 

2.    Open a dialogue – build a relationship 
Just like many other brands trying to stay afloat in this period of crisis, it is important for you to open a dialogue with your customers. Wipro Limited shared a post on its Facebook page, talking to all its users about the threat of the Virus and how they are coping with it.

One of the major flight carriers in India, Indigo, has been regularly posting on its social media profiles about Coronavirus and how the situation is being handled by them. The carrier also mentioned that they are trying their best to answer all questions and queries that they have been receiving – an excellent example of opening a dialogue with your customers. 

Brands like CoverStory, Good Earth, and Brown Bagels have also reached out to their customers through social media, encouraging feedback and stories on how audiences are coping. 

3.    Survey your customers to dig deeper into customer needs in terms of crisis 
Identify the vital needs of your customers during this period of uncertainty. How are your customers coping with the coronavirus outbreak? Is it possible for you to serve your customers in a new way? Can you offer a solution through your products and services?
If your business is not in a position to protect your customers from the health risks, you can still show sensitivity towards the situation. 
SMBs can reach out to audiences through influencers and social media channels to keep the brand alive online despite store closures.  
The Business of Fashion magazine pushed out a survey in their newsletter to identify ways in which their services could be improved during these turbulent times. 

4.    Don’t ignore the product 
Discuss what is coming up and how your brand is working on business continuity at this time. Talk about your product but be mindful of using the pandemic as an opportunity to pitch your products.

Current times require companies to show greater sensitivity with respect to the existing situation. It is important to build and maintain trust among your audience – something that social media influencers are well-positioned to do, providing they are an expert in your field and have the authenticity your content today demands. 

Build a strategy that compassionately approaches the impacts of the pandemic and helps you connect with your customers simply for loyalty. Because, even if you may see a setback in sales right now, customer loyalty can help you bounce back more easily. 

5.    Reorient your work strategies 
This is a good time to reorient existing work strategies. Companies are finally able to see the advantage in allowing employees to work from home. Travel costs reduce as video conferences and web meetings become the new alternative. Hosting webinars, podcasts and video stories keep the brand alive online. 

Businesses that had been reluctant in using online channels to connect with their audiences are beginning to view it differently. Social media is becoming an outlet for more meaningful connections with audiences. 

If you already enjoy a good online presence, then take it a step further by trying creative formats and new concepts for your campaigns.

6.    Blog!
People have more time now, and they are using it to read online a lot. Blogs make perfect sense to connect with your audiences, sharing valuable information and covering details about your products. Write interesting industry-related posts to give your readers insight into the industry.

7.    Be consistent
Uncertainty may disorient your focus and make it difficult to maintain your online visibility. But it is more important now than ever to maintain a strong online presence. Keep your communications clear and compassionate so that it serves as a welcome distraction from the grimness all around.
Like all difficult times that businesses tend to face, 'this too shall pass'. We will soon be able to return to our work as usual, and the connections we establish or maintain with our customers during this period will play a critical role in reorganising our business and picking up the threads once again from where you had left them. Keeping the brand alive, communicating openly and transparently are key to being able to maintain your customer base and market reputation even when your stores and services are temporarily paralysed.  


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