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10 Things Your Brand Should Adapt in Light of the Pandemic

We may all already be tired from reading and hearing about the global pandemic, but the truth is the challenges it has brought with it are never-ending and ongoing, even, or especially, for brands. While some live under the impression that when this will all be over, we will go back to normal, the truth isn’t as straightforward. Everyone wants to know when this will end, but that is not the right question. We should instead be asking: How do we continue?

We won’t go back to normal

Most experts agree that Covid-19 will continue to impact our lives throughout 2021, so there is no exit strategy. The most important thing brands should do is not disappear – not stop communicating with their customers, not stop adapting, not only hoping for it all to pass. The global pandemic’s collective trauma has reshaped our lives on many levels, personal and professional ones. The collective trauma isn’t the event itself. It is defined by how much an event disrupts collective identity and each individual sense of security within society. Covid-19 restrictions have shut down our sense of global cohesion, and our general conception of ourselves as working consumers and participants in a globalised economy has changed. And even though the pandemic will eventually end, some changes are here to stay.

Experiments in isolation: In 2013, NASA asked a group of astronauts to live in a remote location to understand the psychological effects of voluntary long-term isolation. Under such circumstances, they found that the little things have become more essential than before. Small pleasures, such as specific smells, little self-care moments and social bonds, became crucial to daily life. Another thing that was of great importance was remembering one’s purpose and engaging in creative activities, which helped counteract the inevitable boredom and frustration.

What has changed and how to adapt?

We are all facing numerous changes. If you want to survive these challenging times as a brand, it’s high time you rethink the following ten points. Most of them may sound obvious, but they can all be crucial for your further existence. Read on, if you want your brand to survive.

You’ve got this!

1. Migrating to online channels

With physical spaces shutting down, brands have been forced to migrate to online channels. This may mean many different things: increasing their presence on social media, building their e-commerce presence or creating a webshop from scratch, enabling same-day home delivery, migrating their live events online, investing more in digital marketing or becoming present on more channels.

Statistics show that time spent consuming digital content has nearly doubled since the pandemic started. Depending on the purpose and the size of your brand, you may already get some ideas. If you don’t yet have an established online presence, know that it is no longer optional, but a must to survive nowadays. For sure, it requires investing resources – time and money, but the investment will soon return if done right.

When planning your online presence, make it meaningful. Strong and meaningful digital presence is one of the reasons smaller brands have been outgrowing larger ones. Being small is tough, but it often requires more adaptability, which is a great skill to have at this moment.

Worried that your target audience is not present online? Times have changed as more than 346 million new internet users came online in the last year, many of whom were older generations, especially baby boomers. Their time on social media has increased, and they have gotten more familiar with online shopping.

2. Creating virtual experiences

One thing to keep in mind when designing your online shop is to shape the customer experience. There’s an opportunity to make significant changes. For example, MAC Cosmetics now uses Augmented Reality (AR) to enable customers to virtually try on products via YouTube, and Nike uses AR to help people get the right sneaker fit without trying on in-store.

The era of only displaying the products online is over.

Not only stores but also live events are now taking place online. Many virtual events aren’t meant to simply recreate traditional live events but are instead inventing an entirely new experience and have the power to last well into the future, even after the pandemic. For instance, livestream shopping events are predicted to increase over the next few years as such experiences are proving more effective than physical stores.

Think about what kind of virtual experiences your brand could offer. Maybe some webinars with your expert advice? Livestream shopping events with the help of influencers? Or a simple Instagram live Q&A? Possibilities are endless, so make sure you explore and take advantage of them.

3. Escaping to an alternate reality through entertainment

Naturally, people are looking for ways to escape the pandemic without leaving the safety of their homes, so they are increasingly turning on the screens to watch TV shows, listen to music and play video games. Streaming times have skyrocketed. Many people state they will continue high streaming video and audio consumption even after the pandemic.

Brands can tune in by creating content that will help consumers fantasise a little, whether through evoking luxurious fantasies, cosy comforting idylls or dreamy travel destinations. Anything to escape – we don’t expect that people will be craving movies, books, and TV shows about the pandemic anytime soon. Leave such content for history books.

4. Focusing on video

Predictions say video content will continue to gain popularity. When we talk about video, we mean it’s many forms: from online video campaigns with influencers to educational videos and online courses.

Many brands nowadays rely on high-quality educational videos that walk their customers through their products/services’ ins and outs. Research found that when potential customers can watch explainer videos on a brand’s product or service, 73 % are more likely to make a purchase.

Video environments like YouTube and TikTok will continue to grow, and brands will seek ways to freshen up their online video campaigns. We recommend brands should at least try creating some video content and even customise it (or parts of it) to speak directly to their niche audience.

5. The rise of DIY

The pandemic has awakened people’s creativity. Many are spending more time on home improvement and craft projects since the pandemic began. Watch time for “step by step” and “for beginners” how-to videos rose 65 %, and searches for “DIY” were up 80 %. This comes as no surprise as making things from scratch can be a process that offers some mindful time and helps achieve a meditative state, improving people’s mood.

Brands can tap into consumers’ innate maker tendencies during this time by rethinking their product offerings and pivoting.

For example, instead of only selling a chunky knit sweater, a retail brand could offer a pattern and yarn. In general, brands should shift their mindset from consumers to co-creators. They should consider their products and services as “unfinished” and ask what elements of their experience could be cocreated.

6. Changes in the workplace

More people are working from home than ever before. The increase in remote work has been borne out of necessity, and it is predicted that many people will continue working remotely even after the pandemic. Some will embrace a hybrid model: a mix of working remotely and in-person sessions. In a Gallup study, researchers found that employees’ optimal engagement level happens when they spend 60 – 80 percent of their time working remotely. Employers must adapt to the fact that the meaning of “workplace” now has less to do with a physical space and more with mindset, supported by technology.

7. Sustainability is more than just a trend

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the focus on sustainability has only intensified. Accupac predicts we are embarking on a new era of planet-friendly innovation – one that explores bolder ideas and more unconventional thinking. The actions being taken by brands of all sizes signal to the world that climate change is no longer a part of the mission statement, but a collective, foundational principle influencing brands at every level.

Brands should address packaging waste by swapping their existent packaging for the use of thinner, more lightweight containers; bio-based plastic alternatives, and reducing pollution through eco-friendly dyes.

Many brands are reducing their carbon levels to zero net output (and we applaud!). Some are taking a step further and are striving towards achieving carbon negativity. Microsoft is one of them. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975. Way to go!

8. Thinking more local

Because of the pandemic, consumers are spending money closer to home in their local areas, and many say they intend to do so even after the pandemic. This means global businesses should think more local, as people spend most of their time in their local communities. Don’t forget to look for ways to become more visible in people’s new paths in their local areas. For instance, if your advertising has previously mainly been on public transport, that may no longer be as efficient anymore as people aren’t using public transport as much currently.

Also, the number of consumers that want brands to support local suppliers has grown, so getting a local supplier for your brand would be a great start. It also contributes to a more environmentally friendly business, so it’s a win-win.

9. Helping solve the mental health crisis

Mental health concerns continue at heightened levels due to stress and ongoing uncertainty, so mental health will be a big topic in 2021. Simultaneously, the stigma around mental health is slowly declining, and many people feel brands should be using their social channels to create a sense of community and support. Brands can help solve the mental health crisis, either by providing access to information and care or simply addressing the problem. Positioning your brand’s offerings and messaging to be in line with the mental health-conscious segment is essential. Whatever you do, the worst case would be pretending mental health problem do not exist.

Oh, and don’t only take care of your customers – many of them think brands should place more focus on their employees’ wellbeing.

Many people also report the increasing feelings of loneliness that were very concerning even before required social distancing. The issue has since become even more severe, especially among the senior population. Brands can help with launching initiatives to support vulnerable populations in these challenging times, e.g. with apps ad services that bring people together remotely.

10. Fulfilling the brand promise

Consumers call for more authentic forms of corporate social responsibility, and purpose-driven brands will become more potent in the years to come. Companies will shift from brand purpose to a new era of a brand promise. Namely, consumers expect brands to go beyond merely signifying support for a cause and step up to create solutions, paving the way for public policy and systems through their actions. Creating a brand promise and taking an active role in social change is critical, especially to win over younger consumers who tend to be sceptical of soft claims and demand to see results.

With consumers increasingly feeling like the world is broken, they are looking to brands to help remedy what they can. Where other institutions lack the resources or cultural power to influence, brands are uniquely poised to meet bold promises of change.


 

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References, sources and further reading:
Accupac
Canvas8
Dentsu
Fjord | Accenture
Forrester
Global Web Index
Hootsuite
IAB
Kantar
Signals
Sparxoo
Trend Hunter
We Are Social

Founder and lead strategist at studio Atlas Authentica. Her mission is to help businesses form agile and strategy-driven brands as well as mentoring young creative enterpreneurs.

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