Surviving 'the biggest peacetime challenge': a guide for brands

Surviving 'the biggest peacetime challenge': a guide for brands

When Boris referred to our current situation as ‘the biggest peacetime challenge’ it instantly made me wonder what brands did to ‘do their bit’ during World War II and other less peaceful economic times.

Like the war, this virus will pass. Consumers will return to the streets, bars, coffee shops, festivals and even the office. This is why it’s important to invest now in building a meaningful brand and love for it.

In the UK, Marks & Spencer spent most of World War II manufacturing ration clothing for the British public. This act of kindness was widely admired, remembered and referenced as a key driver of M&S’ success throughout the 1960s and 70s. Today, mid-pandemic, we are seeing brands making similarly significant contributions towards solving the problem.

The findings from Havas’ Meaningful Brand Study 2019 shows that brands who are meaningful outperform the stock market by 134% and see their share of wallet multiply by nine. These brands also lock-in greater returns on KPIs, like 24 points more for purchase intent and 39 points for advocacy.

History is not the only guide

During the unusual and uncertain economic downturn we face now, is it really the time for brands to be building more meaning and love, particularly when there’s a quagmire of others looking to do the same? Isn’t it better to panic and pause activity and budgets until there’s more certainty, or even until it’s all blown over? Absolutely not the latter two options, no.

To name two of the post-recession-recovery-reports doing the rounds, findings from Millward Brown and Data2Decisions conclude that if brands reduce their spend during recessions, they often come out the other end weaker.

A more recent study by WARC: ‘How to win during and after a recession’, shows companies that cut investment by 50% in a year of crisis, can take up to two years to recover the share of market they lost. On the other side of the coin, WARC finds that brands that increase exposure in times of crisis can win up to three times more share of market in the first two years of recovery.

This data would suggest not to slash budgets, but to shift them.

So where should brands look?

GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a leading consumer-data platform, offer two (among many) key insights into the impact of the current pandemic on the global consumer landscape.

Firstly, that the outbreak is bringing back the ‘social’ aspects of social media. 39% of UK consumers are reading more news stories on social – this is the primary motivator to use social across markets, gender, and income. 80% of UK consumers also say they're consuming more content – broadcast TV, online videos, and TV streaming take the top spots for increased media consumption.

Secondly, that coronavirus dominates consumer demand for news coverage, but many are seeking escapism. Around a third of UK consumers want to see more topics unrelated to the coronavirus, showing the importance of bringing in a sense of escapism or normality as the outbreak consumes every aspect of our daily lives.

So, once brands have found their meaning and shifted budgets in the short-to-medium-term, what next?

My starter for ten – how brands can find meaning from tougher times:

  1. Social listening while distancing: analyse social conversation and trends to make sure your communications and actions are not tone deaf.
  2. Live, longer and prosper: increase frequency of online content and experiment with both longer and live forms.
  3. Bring the outdoors in: consider shifting from OOH media, experiential and sponsorship activities to digital media, social and PR.
  4. Look up from your laptop: seek external counsel on strategic plans and creative campaigns before going live.
  5. Voice of reason over share of voice: Err on the side of the public and the frontline, not short-term profits.
  6. Friends close, competitors closer: check their activity regularly and be open to collaborations.
  7. When you can’t make, curate: there is so much content out there, package up what you think your audience will find most interesting and relevant.
  8. Fail to prepare is preparing to fail: think ahead to pubs and gyms opening; travel bans lifting; going back to work etc.
  9. Turn your creative up to 11: as lockdown continues, creativity will be rewarded and required to standout. Be brand-aligned but audacious.
  10. Keep calm, carry on: history shows that brands that keep going - in strong, meaningful ways - emerge from economic shocks ahead of their competitors

    In short, the advice from One Green Bean is:

    • Don’t panic.
    • Pause.
    • Find meaning.
    • Shift not slash budgets.
    • Prepare for better, more prosperous times.