During the time of the pandemic, the importance of the right brand messaging is magnified. It could be great, be a cookie cutter, or it could even be costly. 

Douglas headshot In this episode of AMP Up Your Digital Marketing, Glenn Gaudet speaks with Douglas Spencer, President of Spencer Brenneman, LLC., a brand strategy consultancy based in Boston. They discuss how brands can go about brand messaging the right way, examples of brands doing a great job of this, some that did not, and keys of brand messaging to abide by. You’ll learn:

  • How to be empathetic in your messaging. 
  • What being authentic looks like in brand messaging, and what it does not look like.
  • The importance of sincerity, and why it’s an absolute must in your brand messaging. 

Douglas is a branding expert who helps organizations, small and large, figure out who they are, refine their focus, and connect with the people most important to their success. He’s offered to help small businesses and nonprofits with their brand messaging free of charge during the time of the pandemic. 

Right now, it’s even more important than ever to have the right brand message. The wrong message can be costly, however, having the right brand messaging can build brand affinity and loyalty, leading to people to keep your brand at top of mind when they want your products or services. 

So how do you go about brand messaging? And how important is it? Doesn’t your bottom line take priority in these stressful times? The answer is, your brand is always important, especially during this pandemic

How Important is Your Brand Now? 

You may have heard this before, but we are living in unprecedented times. The reason people keep exemplifying this point is that it’s the reason people don’t really know what to do. There is a lot of uncertainty. 

How do you plan for the future when you don’t know how long these tough times will last? How do you navigate through this time when you have nothing to look back on for reference? Everyone is using their best judgment for their specific situation. You can learn from others, or you can listen to what other people are saying and doing, but no one has the 100% correct answer. 

For brands, you need to think forward, but also think about who you are now. There are organizations that don’t know what to do, and they make moves out of desperation rather than authentically helping. People have a tendency to want to do well but also want to help others out, Douglas said. 

“When you think about your brand now, it’s important to take a step back and really put yourself in the shoes of your customer, your employees, and the people that are important to you,” He said. “Think about what their lives are like. How are your interactions with them impacting that?”

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How Do You Think About Your Brand in a World That’s Completely Different? 

Some people might not think that branding is important during this time. Right now, they want to survive the short-term and get back to business when things return to normal. But that’s not the case. 

People who put work into their brand before the pandemic hit are better suited. They have more trust and brand affinity from their customer base than those who put no time into it. So what do you do now? Do you double down on your brand? Do you change it? 

“Think about it in terms of empathy, sincerity, and authenticity,” Douglas said. “In terms of empathy, it’s really important for folks to stop and think about where their customers are. What challenges are they facing? Look for opportunities to try and help that, and try to be there for them.”

In terms of sincerity, there are mistakes you can make. Douglas shared a story of one of his vendors emailing him recently for the first time since the pandemic started. 

In the email, the vendor acknowledged that its customers are going through a hard time, so to help out it offered two months of free service...if you sign up for another two years.

“OK...That is less than sincere. That is of no help to me,” Douglas said. 

Another example Douglas shared was of a national oil change company making a brand messaging flub in an email, but then salvaging it in a later email. 

First, the company said that it knows you’re going through tough times. Here’s 25% off your next oil change. 

“If they couched it with, ‘we want to keep our great employees active and we know that this is a tough time, so we’re willing to do this… But it just came off as opportunistic.”

Two weeks later, the company came back with another email, but this time it said that it’s still promoting the same offer, but an additional 10% off if you are a first responder or healthcare worker. 

“I thought that’s it. That nailed it,” Douglas said. “That didn’t feel opportunistic at all. That felt very genuine. And it’s just that little tip of the hat to first responders that made all the difference.”

Be Authentic But Stay in Your Lane

You need to be your authentic self in your brand messaging, and we know that people want to help out, but you have to do it in a way that makes sense for you. 

“If there is something you can do, then do it,” Douglas said. “I think it’s important for us to do what we can. Be authentic but stay in your lane.”

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For example, the Cleveland Whiskey Company has alcohol to make hand sanitizers, so it partnered with Cleveland Clinic to do just that. Many clothing brands, such as Levi’s, are making masks for people. Many automakers are making ventilators to try to help hospitals treat COVID-19 patients. Construction companies are helping out by building hospitals for the homeless. 

But these are all things that make sense for these companies. Douglas points out that no one wants him to make tests or masks, so what he’s doing to help out is offering his services to small businesses and nonprofits free of charge. If there is an email a small business wants to send but thinks it might sound opportunistic, he’ll help them fix it. 

But for some companies, what might make sense is just making a donation. If you can’t make masks or hand sanitizer and writing a check is the best thing your organization can do, there’s nothing wrong with that.

AMP Up Your Digital Marketing brings together the leading marketing practitioners to share how they are succeeding in today’s digital landscape. Each podcast episode focuses on providing you with the knowledge and strategies you need to be a successful marketer. Subscribe via Apple, FIR Podcast Network, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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