14th April 2020

How to Use Your Lockdown Time Wisely - Reflect on Your Brand

Graham Allchurch

Time to Reflect On Your Brand

How often do you reflect on your brand? Its voice, tone, appearance or messaging? Once a year, every five, perhaps not since you launched it?

Just as furloughed employees have been granted some physical and emotional space to reassess and reevaluate, companies who are currently experiencing a slowdown or complete suspension of activities would do well to do the same.

Your brand should not be a fixed, static thing - it is not something you sell but a reflection and summation of who you are. So if your values, your goals, your working practices and - perhaps most importantly - your team adjust and flex with the times, so too should your brand.

So, before I directly address the specific challenges and opportunities afforded by Covid-19, let’s start with the basics - what is your brand?

It can be broken down into three distinct areas: how you talk, what you talk about, and how you present yourself. Or, put another way, your brand voice, your messaging and your appearance.

Brand Voice

How do you speak? It might sound obvious, but think about it - if you were to meet your brand in the pub, what impression would you walk away with of it? What impression would you like it to have?

For example, are you:

  • Serious and professional
  • Cheeky and witty
  • Warm and friendly
  • Down to earth and straight forward
  • Authoritative and expert
  • Sophisticated and cultured
  • Classy and refined
  • Affable and approachable

A lot of your brand voice will be determined by your audience - for example their demographic specifics (e.g. age and gender), how they conduct themselves and what they expect. Some will be influenced by what sort of goods or service you are providing and whether you are selling these B2B or B2C.

Finally, a portion will be decided by the public faces of your brand, for example your founder, CEO or Managing Director. They will be the ones communicating your company out to the world on a day-to-day basis. Whether they realise it or not, they will set the tone. Your brand voice must be authentic, consistent and sustainable across all levels of the business, and this must start from the top.

Messaging

What are you saying? What do you want to say? What problems are you solving or what issues do you want to promote? For example, are you aiming to:

  • Make the world a better place
  • Make people’s lives easier
  • Help businesses work better
  • Provide the best products ever
  • Provide the best customer service ever
  • Celebrate your heritage and tradition
  • Improve on an established product or service
  • Promote an entirely new product or service

In deciding your messaging, you will need to draw on your unique selling points - after all, there’s no point spending time and energy promoting your message if all of your competitors are saying the same thing. You’ll be swallowed up and lost in the noise.

So, what makes you ‘you’? Mindy Gofton, Our Head of Strategy and Innovation provides some ideas on how to really dig in to discover your USPs in this excellent blog post here. To get you started, what do you offer that no one else does? Is it:

  • Your people and their experience or qualifications?
  • The product itself or the way you manufacture it?
  • Your values and working practices that really sets you apart?

Though Mindy’s article focuses on law firms, the guidance is applicable to all sectors - simply put, if your competitors are all including the same USPs in their marketing materials, then they’re not really all that unique and so are probably best avoided!

Appearance

What do you look like? Are your logo, marketing materials, packaging and website up to scratch? When was the last time you reviewed and updated them?

There’s a reason that big brands such as Coca-Cola, Google and Amazon continually refresh and update their appearance - it keeps them looking modern and progressive, as well as helping them to announce updates and improvements to their product offerings.

While most brands rely on repeat custom, it’s important not to forget the value of a solid first impression. Many businesses are so accustomed to their fonts, colours, layouts, website and imagery they become blind to them - they don’t appreciate the damage an outdated shop window can have on prospective buyers.

So don’t get caught out with a website that looks and functions like a survivor of the Dot-Com bubble. 

Your Brand and Covid-19

The pandemic we are facing has offered us two additional distinct and useful standards with which to measure our brands against. Simply put: can your brand be helpful to your customers? If not, then can your brand offer light relief or entertainment?

If you do not fall into the first, then you have the opportunity to fall into the other. If you can offer neither, then you run the risk of falling off your audience’s radar altogether - something that few businesses can afford if they hope to reemerge with any degree of success once the lockdown is lifted. Now is not the time for hibernation.

However, neither is it the time for inauthenticity.

Do not be tempted to completely rebuild your brand personality from scratch just so that it is optimised to tackle the current climate. Yes, the current situation is unprecedented, and yes brands must take unusual and extraordinary steps to survive. But it will pass. And as harmful as it can be to do nothing, it would be equally harmful to reinvent yourself in a manner that is:

  • A 180 degree about face - or contradictory - to all your messaging that came before
  • Could be seen to be profiteering from the crisis
  • Will become totally irrelevant once the pandemic has calmed

The optimum is to adapt. Using those two principles as guidelines - to help or to entertain - adjust your voice, messaging and appearance to deliver your brand in a relevant way that feels real to your customers, past, present and future.

Where to Start

Not sure where to start? Ask your colleagues, your boss, your industry peers. Then ask your friends and your family. Why not go the whole hog and ask your customers or clients as well.

Ask them:

  • What do you need from us, right now?
  • What can we do that will make your life easier, brighter, more fun, less stressful?
  • What are you struggling with, what are you afraid of?
  • What does the future look like for you, what are you waiting to do or looking forward to doing again?

Wherever you are at the moment - business as usual, operating with a skeleton crew or stopped altogether - now is an invaluable opportunity to become even closer to your target audience. To learn what you can from your consumers and develop an authentic, two-way dialogue with them in a manner that will stand you in good stead for the long term.

Chin Up

Even if things feel gloomy right now, there are positive and productive activities you can be doing for your business right now that will help to make sure we all come out brighter at the other end.

Till then, if you need a hand with your branding, developing your brand voice, or more general digital marketing support then get in touch for a free consultation. You can email us at info@i-com.net or call on 0161 402 3170.

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