Modifying your Brand Tone While the World is on Lockdown

First off, I hope all our readers have enough toilet paper. But seriously, feels like the world started 2020 by shooting itself in the foot. To everyone reading this: stay safe, stay healthy, and stay separated.

Obviously, anyone who owns, manages, of consults for a brand is apprehensive right now. Brand owners are rightfully concerned about keeping their brand afloat, without appearing unaware of or indifferent to what their customers are going through. Here are some ways to navigate these choppy waters. 1. Check in on your community The first thing brands need to do is check on their community. This is their customers, employees, and people who share physical or virtual space. People are confused, scared, and hurting. Start with those closest to your company and work your way out. Right now, your own people need sick leave, work from home options, and health insurance. As much as possible, keep these coming. If it’s a hardship for your business, the Small Business Administration is offering loans in the US, and there are similar programs around the world to help small businesses out during these times. First, do this because it is simply the right thing to do. If that isn’t enough reason (it should be), brands that are throwing away their own teams like trash are getting destroyed online at the moment. Take Whole Foods, which suggested that employees share their sick leave. Or this Chili’s, which had its employees come in to clean and fired them as soon as they were finished. Next, check on your customers—regular customers, subscribers, followers, and everyone else who is involved with your brand. Check on them. Shoot out an email blast updating them on what you will be doing to help out your community. And see what you can offer them (more on that in a bit).

2. Watch ya tone

Business won’t stop selling and marketing during the shutdown, but this doesn’t mean we should keep pumping out the same sales pitch. People are used to ads, and no one is expecting you to stop selling. But do it softly and consciously. This is particularly true for what you are sharing on social media. People expect you to be up-to-date and aware of what is going on around the world. Share what you are doing to keep people safe. Share what you are doing to pass the time at home. As for ads, be mindful, but don’t stop: obviously, stopping is costly. Make sure you are selling what can be considered safe at this time. Group spa packages won’t go over well now. And back off on hard sells. People are online shopping a lot right now, but won’t appreciate being bombarded with pressure to buy. This goes for marketing, but individual sales pitches particularly. 3. Customer service Now more than ever people’s plans are changing, and brands need to be aware that their customers’ lives might have just drastically changed. With so many changes happening, it is likely that people will be making changes to their orders, subscriptions, and travel plans. To help people out, make the customer service part as painless as possible. For brands that offer subscriptions that won’t be used during this time, consider prorating for a few weeks, if you can afford it. For example, some gyms are freezing memberships. If you offer travel services, make changes as painless and free as possible. For e-commerce business, make sure you make change orders and returns as painless as possible, too. You don’t want to be the brand that is known for causing people friction at this time.

4. Offer something genuinely free

Last, if you can, offer something for free to help people out! Some brands are keeping it fun, like a taco place offering toilet paper with every order. Other brands with online resources—like newspapers—are lifting paywalls. Beachbody is offering two weeks of free online classes. The Metropolitan Opera is offering live streaming. Offer something people can use at home. Something that will help people get through this experience in some small way. Your customers will remember your brand for what you did and what you didn’t do during this time. At a bare minimum you don’t want to add any more friction to people’s already challenging lives— they will remember this when the dust clears. And consumers will be more than happy to come back to brands that made their lives just a tiny bit easier during their quarantine.

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