News 3 minutes, 34 second read Mark Johnson, Editor, Just.Marketing
It’s been a tough lockdown for brands almost across the board. But as the government faces pressure to release details of its lockdown exit strategy brands across different sectors are beginning to plan for the day when restrictions ease.
Hospitality – but at a distance
One of the first and worst-hit sectors has been hospitality.
Point A Hotels (see main image) is a chain of nine budget boutique hotels in central London owned by Queensway Group. Each property has been closed to all but NHS workers during the lockdown.
Queensway Marketing Director Victoria Heath says that as the hotels gear up for eventual reopening a more agile and flexible approach to marketing has been developed.
“We firmly believe in human experiences but after coronavirus we will provide much more choice – the way we deliver our service may change,” she says.
With so much uncertainty ahead, her department is developing a range of ideas at speed to reassure travellers – particularly those nervous of close social interaction – by including, for example, online check-ins and minimal contact with hotel staff.
The challenge has been, however, adapting these changes in line with the brand’s core values.
She says, “Service delivery may change but not the vision: creating human experiences based on emotional intelligence. Brands that move away from their core purpose during the coronavirus crisis lose a chance to reinforce what they stand for.”
Tech becomes a public service
Nasdaq-listed Bottomline Technologies is a financial technology and payments company. Bottomline Global Marketing Director Cara O’Nions says that a “public service” rather than sales approach is driving the way it goes to market in the belief that “customers will remember you by the actions you take now.”
Her first action during the lockdown alongside ramping up of internal communications was an outreach programme to every customer. The aim was to offer support, creating fresh scripts for customer care teams, to ensure continuity of service.
“We are critical national infrastructure. We really toned down the sales message within brand communications and shifted the tone to one of public service,” says Cara.
The tone in communications has since also been ‘humanized’ with acronyms dropped, for example.
For now, events and channels are shifting entirely to the virtual but this may become a permanent change “depending on how long this goes on for”, says Cara.
Water and social good
In mid-April, Bristol Water – one of the smallest water companies in the UK and privately-owned since 1846 – announced a water rebate for all NHS staff.
Faced with local hospitals no longer offering laundry for scrubs and medical garments, Bristol Water stepped in to ensure local NHS workers could wash their work clothes at home without paying for the water.
Head of Communications Rob Ellis says, “We’re not fighting for customers. We’re here to have a positive impact on society – beyond water.”
The company has historically had a socially-minded purpose but during covid it has become even more important to be seen to benefit the local community, says Rob.
So for a company impacted in a very different way from other sectors, the key has been to “stick to our principles and who we are” during the lockdown.
While the iron is hot….
The most successful brands will be those who use the lockdown to refresh their approach based on core principles, says PS London Insight and Strategy Director Kendra Rogers.
She says, “Now is the time to take a moment to be intentional; don’t rush to respond to the crisis but put consideration into how the brand can meet people’s needs.”
She believes that the desire for clarity and assurance has created an appetite for buy-in to innovative and creative ideas. This could shape the way brands not only weather the crisis but recover post-covid, she says.
“Organisations that understand their proposition and their brand’s personality are better equipped to respond correctly to the crisis and will recover in a better state too,” she says.