Why brands need to rethink brand perception in these unprecedented times (COVID)

There’s research that suggests that brands are beginning to embrace agility and innovation in a bid to improve their brand perception. The goal of this is to outperform their peers and humanize customer’s experience during these uncertain times.

COVID-19 has disrupted the markets, and the levels of people’s lives are not the same. With rising cases, everyone will be tested by the swift and underestimated destruction which this pandemic caused. 

The current economy is one that is unprecedented for businesses because of this uncertain time. Everything is unusual and new, and there are no playbooks to guide the decision-making process. There is no hint for many businesses how they’re to respond or thrive in this economic climate. 

The best source of insight is in inputs and signals that customers share with brands that pay attention to it. This isn’t the time to make assumptions about what the customers want or need. It’s time to be certain amidst the surrounding uncertainty. 

Brand value perception at the heart of branding strategy

For instance, the early wave of emails that customers received from brands at the start of this pandemic had a generic template. Some of these customers had to complain about receiving almost the same message from different brands. It left the customers wondering why the brands felt like they had a duty to reach out. They did not even understand what the customers wanted or did not want from them amid fear and uncertainty. 

Messages like that show how ‘out of touch’ many brands are. They will choose to speak when they should be listening. This went beyond emails to different television and digital ads campaigns. All the brands were responding with the same guide/template. And this didn’t sit well or make any difference to many of the customers. Now, more than ever, brand perception is critical to a brand.

A period like this where we’ve found ourselves is not time to get anyone upset. We all have to look for ways to remove friction and add values to our lives. This is even more important for the brands when their customers are still anxious and uncertain about the pandemic’s impact.

This is a chance to humanize and meet the customers more refreshingly. Help people create better and more memorable experiences at this time. 

This is a time to listen more to the customer expressing themselves while offering care and kindness. Here’s why brand perception is more important now. 

How branding can influence customer perception

If there is one thing that’s almost quickly becoming a marketing fact, brands are becoming more human-centered and innovative with their approach. Marketing executives have started to prioritize five strategic initiatives going forward:

  • Innovation
  • Modernization of technological tools
  • Improved use of technological tools
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Real-time engagement

As the pandemic continues to rage, marketers have to be more attentive and work with compassion. They must have something of a “COVID” mindset. When the situation is like this, you don’t play by marketing playbooks. The marketing playbooks and brand style guides don’t account for times and how operations work. 

Going forward, you don’t expect to see the same results that you would with traditional marketing. It is even more likely to destroy customer relationships and brand perception instead of building it. 

In their research, Salesforce found that about 70% of marketers claim that the current role of traditional marketing reduces customer engagement. There were only 37% of marketers with this same view in 2018. This makes a personalized engagement the norm now and in the post COVID era as well. 

This means that marketing and customer-centricity will take its roots genuinely in compassion, empathy, and purpose. This means that there has to be a new playbook for the future generations. 

COVID-19 emphasizes the need for more empathetic experiences

More customers, now than ever, are ready for the humanization of brands. According to research by Salesforce published on the dissertation help, 84% of customers claim an excellent customer experience is as valuable as the service or products rendered. This typifies the evolution of marketing. It moves from the one-to-many, traditional approach to a personal customer experience that builds trust and connects and offers outcomes with mutual benefits. 

What do you need to breakthrough?

Most high performing marketers already attribute customer experience as an essential part. In a survey of 7000 marketers worldwide, there were only 15% of top performers. These are those that are satisfied with their overall performance in the market and their marketing investment results. There were also 14% of underperformers in the survey. In contrast, the majority were only moderate performers. 

That’s why the customer experience is defined as an addition of all the experiences that the customer has worked with a business. This will help determine how they view your brand, and this can make or break you post-pandemic. Everything counts in this case, including the keystones that are connecting the whole experiences. 

Change in the business model

An example of a brand that has used a different business model to win people over and change brand perception is PornHub (an adult pornographic website). They offered their solidarity during the lockdown period by providing one-month free access to their website’s premium content. They also made donations from their profits into global efforts against COVID-19. 

These moves changed the brand’s perception from being a ‘taboo’ to one that can offer support to people when they need it. They legitimized the brand, and it paid off for them. The statistical report on their website shows a massive increase in traffic. There was also a significant difference in the visiting times as it became more spread out to different periods during the day. This possibly indicates that their content is now more accepted socially. 

Rethink the offer

The COVID-19 has obviously affected many businesses because of their business models. For instance, Time Out is a media and leisure brand that inspires people and helps them enjoy the best places in a city. They used to give recommendations for different activities in a city, places to sightsee, restaurants and bars, etc. However, since this pandemic started, they couldn’t do anything since their business is mainly outdoor recommendations. 

This forced them to think and renew their offer. Time Out changed their strategy to “Time In.” They started producing content on how people can entertain themselves in their houses and prepare for the post-lockdown era. 

This repositioned brand perception. They were no longer just the outdoor leisure time brand but now offer different activities outside and inside your home. This increased their brand awareness and helped them to remain relevant. Although they must have lost some monies because of the pandemic, they didn’t lose their audience.

Customer-centric measurements are important

As a rule, you should only pay attention to whatever is valuable to the customer’s experience and the brand. You only do what you measure. But there is also the fact that it’s impossible to count everything that counts. Also, you don’t count everything that is countable. 

Customer experience has improved over the years and has become a critical Customer Performance Indicator (CPI) for brands. Apart from those showing general engagement, newer metrics will show the performance and benefit of a customer-centered approach. 

For example, 72% of high-performance marketers analyze real-time performance. This is in comparison with 49% of underperformers. Almost 50% of all marketing organizations now track experience metrics like customer lifetime value. But this is a work in progress. 

The performance of a business usually correlates with customer-centric metrics. Marketers with experience are becoming more strategic about investing in customer experience. This will help to improve customer retention and satisfaction. It also complements the strategies for customer acquisition. 

Measurement of current and aggregated customer experience gives marketers insight into where, what, and how they need to improve with due relevance to this COVID period and beyond it.

Stay relevant in this era, survive, and learn to thrive in a different economy.

To thrive in an economy impacted by COVID, you need to be ready to unlearn. Many things that you know from the marketing playbooks no longer cut it here, so you have to unlearn and relearn. There are high performing marketers that you can learn from. But more importantly, you need to learn from those you call customers as well. Have a mindset for growth and be willing to be empathetic. This will allow you to be active with:

  • Making a move quickly from traditional classical marketing to placing your focus on customer experience. 
  • Having a commitment to being helpful, trustworthy, and relevant. 
  • Creating an innovative culture as well as a continuing practice of iteration.
  • Having a culture of empathy-driven by data. 
  • Empowering and incentivizing your employees to learn the next thing and also do what’s right. 
  • Personalizing different methods of engagement and also humanize experiences with modern technology. 
  • Making the customer journey online and offline more intuitive, integrated, faithful, joyful, and productive. 
  • Transforming the touchpoints into. This will help you to project and articulate what you stand for as a brand. It will also empower experiences that are memorable and mutually beneficial. 

The first behavior of a digital customer during a pandemic is to accelerate, deliver the basics, and be empathetic, connect, and innovative. It’s also necessary that you provide Omni-channel and cross-channel experiences. 

You have to be mature in a cross that path to customer experience from classical marketing. More marketers are beginning to adopt and enhance some critical physical and digital touchpoints. You also have to make sure that they’re complementary to each other as a whole. 

Thriving in the pandemic-hit economy with customers seeking brands always to be empathetic, genuine, and relevant, you have to be what they want. The world is vulnerable at the moment, and everyone is trying to adapt. Living with a virus in the neighborhood and trying to survive as a business isn’t something anyone plans for. This is why marketers and even business brands should become the ones that they want to reach. So, as you adopt innovation, technology, compliance, etc. humanity can no longer be left behind. 

As a brand, you have to be hopeful, thoughtful, empathetic, creative, agile, bold, experimental, swift, and digital. But above all, at this time, you need to also be human in your approach.

Conclusion

Thriving in the pandemic-hit economy with customers seeking brands always to be empathetic, genuine, and relevant, you have to be what they want. This is the only way to ensure a positive brand perception. The world is vulnerable at the moment, and everyone is trying to adapt.

Living with a virus in the neighborhood and trying to survive as a business isn’t something anyone plans for. This is why marketers and even business brands should become the ones that they want to reach. So, as you adopt innovation, technology, compliance, etc. humanity can no longer be left behind. 

As a brand, you have to be hopeful, thoughtful, empathetic, creative, agile, bold, experimental, swift, and digital. But above all, at this time, you need to also be human in your approach.

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