Consumer sentiment dictate shape of brand communication in COVID-19 world

Authored by Pratik Gour Co-Founder & Head of Business Development, Footprynt

2020 was a year that saw our world, and life as we know it, turned upside down. COVID-19 rampaged across the globe, and in its wake, left behind a landscape radically different from anything we’ve previously known. Online shopping exploded, purchasing patterns and priorities drastically changed, and businesses across sectors were forced to re-evaluate their business models and strategies.

As 2021 rolled around, things seemed to be on the mend. Most countries had weathered the storm, and the daily global case count was trending downwards. The world seemed to be limping towards normalcy. Tragically, the past month in India has proven that to be a false hope. The coronavirus is here to stay, and we have a long fight ahead of us.

Under these circumstances, businesses need to take urgent steps to survive. And the best way to do that is by adapting their brand communication to address the collective new reality we all face. But that’s easier said than done. Building a connection with a customer base has never been a simple task, and the pandemic has only escalated the challenge. With marketing teams downsized and underfunded, any path forward needs to be chosen with a great deal of care.

However, there are a few simple steps that every brand needs to take to effectively manage consumer sentiments in these testing times:

Acknowledge the situation and moderate your message

A business that refuses to acknowledge the changes that have happened over the last year is one that’s bound to suffer. Companies and brands exist as part of a larger societal ecosystem. Over the course of the last year, people across the world have been faced with the loss of their loved ones, financial and job insecurity, and enforced confinement to their homes. Under these circumstances, it’s imperative that brands be mindful of the situation and craft their communication strategy with empathy, compassion, and understanding. 

Now is not the time for crass consumerism and blatant branding activities. Flashy photo shoots and celebrity endorsements can wait another day. Instead, put respect and integrity at the heart of every message. Use social platforms to promote wider social messages, whether it be encouraging people to stay at home, highlighting the importance of wearing a mask outdoors, or urging them to vaccinate as soon as the chance arises. Consumers will remember this restraint and appreciate it all the more in the days to come. In time, this approach will lead to the formation of a fan base whose loyalty is both enduring and well-earned.

Join the fight and take a stand 

At a time when the entire world is united in its fight against this pandemic, the onus to step up and contribute falls on everyone. This holds especially true of businesses. With their organisational resources and audience bases, they are ideally positioned to make a lasting impact. This aid can take many forms, with financial donations to the many NGOs working to stem the crisis being one obvious route. However, it’s understandable that this may not be a feasible option for businesses that have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Companies that support their employees by avoiding any layoffs, or use their social platforms to amplify important messages and information, can make just as much of an impact.

What’s most important is that any such contribution stems from a genuine desire to help, and that this comes across clearly in its communication. If a brand does choose to help, it should also be careful to avoid trumpeting its contributions. At times like these, choosing to do nothing is still a better option than aid offered insincerely. 

Plan for the future

With the situation worsening every day, it can often be difficult to think of a future beyond COVID. But as with so many other difficult times throughout history, this too shall pass. And in the global economic resurgence that’s sure to follow in the wake of the virus, businesses that have planned ahead will have a massive advantage over their competitors. Work on strategies that look beyond the current wave, ensure new product launches and activities are slotted in the pipeline, and plan for upcoming quarters to the best of your ability. This forward-looking approach will serve as a statement of intent to all of a brand’s stakeholders, and give them confidence in its future prospects.

A time for solidarity

An unfortunate truth of this pandemic is that many smaller businesses – across every sector and industry – won’t survive to see the end of it. While companies shutting down is a natural part of the economic circle of life, COVID-19 has been a black swan event devastating in its severity. In a situation that has seen even the best-run businesses struggle to survive, every brand must showcase their solidarity with the wider community. Let brand rivalries take a backseat for the moment and instead focus on extending a helping hand to those who need it, especially when it comes to smaller, homegrown businesses. This attitude should be reflected in a brand’s communication approach as well – thank customers for their loyalty and support, and avoid appearing pompous for having survived this once in a lifetime event.  

 DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. 


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