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  • Quynh Nguyen

Is Your Brand Taking the Proper Steps to Respond to this Pandemic?

Updated: Apr 8

Download CDA's COVID-19 Response Plan for Brands and Businesses today as a free resource to prepare for the challenges to come in the weeks and months ahead.

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For Brands: COVID-19 Response Plan


Brands are scrambling to find ways to reach consumers in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Because the crisis came so suddenly, many brands have spent the past few weeks either focusing on the short term, or hoping to sit the crisis out altogether. Given the expectation for prolonged disruption of businesses, it's essential to have a plan for how to handle a situation like this.


Below, we've outlined a three-point structure for planning and executing your COVID-19 response.


Phase 1: Crisis Management

Communicate clearly and often

Your stakeholders and audience/consumers need to be informed about what is changing, what isn't, and what they can do at this time. Consistent and reassuring messages can assuage stakeholder anxiety and faith in the company.


  • It's all about communication: All messages should be transparent, truthful, and timely. 75 percent of consumers feel brands should be informing the public about their efforts to combat the situation.

  • Be reassuring: 70% of respondents in a study conducted by Kantar said brands should adopt a more "reassuring" tone with 40% saying to “avoid humorous tones.” Understanding the anxiety caused to many consumers is crucial to maintaining an ongoing relationship amidst the crisis.

  • Maintain business best practices by using up-to-date and accurate information: According to last year's PwC Global Crisis Survey, the brands that survive situations like this are the ones who are best able to quickly gather, distribute, and adapt to the facts.

“Three-quarters of those in a better place post-crisis strongly recognize the importance of establishing facts accurately during the crisis. They are more likely to say that in the midst of the crisis, they did gather facts accurately and quickly — and they used those facts effectively to inform their response strategy.” PwC Global Crisis Survey, 2019


  • Align with charitable causes: 56% of consumers are pleased to hear about brands taking action like the donation of goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Encourage your employees to volunteer and share this with your consumers.


Phase 2: Recovery & Adaptation

Build new programs to mitigate lost revenue

Consumer behavior, priorities, and mindset are all changing dramatically at this time - make sure you have a plan in place to address these changes in your creative, messaging, and strategic approach.


Mitigate lost revenue by implementing unconventional tactics: Now’s the time to try something new because economic conditions like these foster innovation. Just think of the brands that were born in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession making use of the changing consumer behaviors: Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, WhatsApp, and Slack.


We already see radical approaches taking place to keep consumers engaged:


  • Online & delivery business models fairing best: No longer able to eat in restaurants, people are resorting to other ways to get their food. Grocery delivery apps like Walmart Grocery, Instacart, and Target's Shipt all saw a triple-digit percent increase in daily downloads from February 15 to March 15, but the increased demand has led to a recent strike from Amazon and Instacart workers. Food delivery services have also grown, meal delivery service BlueApron saw its stock price double.

  • Dining industry relying on drive-through campaigns: McDonald has rolled out a redesigned logo to reflect social distancing. Time will tell if the new logo has a significant impact on brand sentiment or drive-through business during the crisis.

  • Use Your Audience to Fight Covid-19: Coca-Cola and Nike have implemented social distancing awareness campaigns that urge people to stay at home.

  • Blockbuster motion pictures released straight to VOD: In addition to major properties like James Bond and The Fast and The Furious being delayed, several tent pole summer movies are being released straight to VOD, a move which audiences have embraced -- and which could prove catastrophic for exhibitors if this new practice remains a habit post-crisis.


Phase 3: Return to Market

Prepare for the transition back to normal conditions

A few weeks or months from now, people will begin socializing, shopping, and driving to work again - but we won’t be able to just snap our fingers and put things back to the way they were before. Brands need to form a communications and engagement plan for this transition now if they want to be ready to go to market by the time it becomes relevant.


  • Changing audience behavior, mindset, and media/content preferences: For years now, brand communications theory has revolved around the concept of the mobile-first, on-the-go audience. With the onset of COVID-19, there has been a seismic impact on consumer behaviors, as audiences have gone from “on-the-go” to “stay at home.” COVID-19, a catalyst for tech adoption, is shifting the mindset, behaviors, and habits of consumers. Some of these changes are likely to persist even after the crisis, and brands need to start planning how they are going to transition to the "new normal," post-crisis.


"COVID-19 is the unexpected catalyst for tech adoption. Consumers have been already shifting online the past few years but with shutdowns, it catapulted. 'In the coming weeks, however, additional growth will only be achieved if online retailers are able to meet the exponential growth in consumer demand.'"

- Romolo de Camillis, Nielsen Retailer leader for Italy, 2020


  • Consumers hate how much their screen time has shot up: particularly in the “Social networking” category. Predictions say, once quarantine restrictions are loosened, that people will be much more mindful of their technology usage - opting to break forces of habit and intentionally increase time spent outdoors. As the community settles into its new normal, businesses should incorporate a creative approach that revolves around unplugging.

  • Trust levels have changed: 52% percent of respondents most trust traditional nationwide news channels (broadcast and newspapers) for pandemic news, while 48 percent rely on government agency websites. Social media platforms are viewed as trustworthy by only 11 percent of respondents.

  • Cater to the new mindset, post-crisis. What we learned from the 2008 Recession is that consumer hesitancy can persist in discretionary industries long after the initial threat is gone. Have a plan in place that invites consumers to return on their terms.


If one thing seems clear from [a] new normal, it is that digital technology has forced a larger place in people’s lives, with live-streaming and e-commerce the new normal.

- The Drum, 2020

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