If British Telecom encouraged us that it was ‘Good to talk’ in the 1990s, the impact of working through Covid-19 has made many of us think the complete opposite in the 2020s. In fact, we have never talked so much, caught up with more people and frankly we are zoomed out. With face-to-face interactions replaced with virtual conversations, we’ve been deprived of many of the non-verbal exchanges, and the unspoken etiquette that is second nature. When those subtle nuances like facial expressions and body language disappear, we have to make an increased effort making sure we’re properly understood, and it's exhausting.
It’s an interesting parallel for brands, who, when deprived of their own personal encounters with consumers, their retail spaces and their traditional communication channels had to find new ways to engage with people. All at a time when people need brands to be more sensitive, sincere, supportive, solutions-oriented and above all effortless.
As the pandemic constraints evolve, the new reality in how we express ourselves, is changing too, and the same goes for brands. Brands started with empathy, where companies played it safe, to avoid upsetting anyone, while they too scrambled to work out what was right. However, the fear of being misunderstood was high, resulting in brands diverting to a generic pandemic response; ‘unprecedented times’, ‘importance of family’, ‘empty offices’ and ‘staying close when staying apart’. The problem was they lost their ability to communicate at a brand level, and merged into the mundane sea of public messages. So what now?
Many brands have started to understand how to flex and face everything and rise, as we discussed here some months ago, finding different ways to express themselves with a focus on uplifting messages and innovative solutions. Solutions that are not only in tune with the needs of their community but also feel genuine from a brand perspective.
Persil is repurposing and changing their 'Dirt is good' tagline to 'Home is good', being able to deliver a relevant and supportive message that’s still true to brand. How Nike has stayed true to their story and brand, adapting it to the new circumstances during the different phases of the pandemic is impressive. From the initial 'Play inside, play for the world' to the latest 'You can’t stop us' using lots of stock footage and user-generated content throughout. The innovative idea to create a 'Pawfect'’ Spotify playlist for pets, sponsored by the pet care brand Frontline, is a brilliant example of how to stretch your brand. It also gives Frontline a great channel to their audience, offering a solution to make pets feel less lonely once their owners return to work. We’re also seeing how brands are starting to change the narrative from full-on-pandemic mode to prepare themselves (and their consumers) for a post-pandemic world. The First Visitors ad from Snickers is a great example and perfectly on-brand. The spot ends with the line: ‘Confused? Maybe you just need a Snickers’.
These brands are all trying to alleviate some of that confusion and move on. They also show how to make maximum use of their limited means, while still staying on brand and not trying to be something they’re not. The pandemic has been a cultural and economic leveller but staying true to yourself has never been more important.
The classic ‘a crisis is just another word for change’ springs to mind. While this is true, it’s important to avoid changing fast and mindlessly or allowing paralysis to stop you from changing at all. The brands above are all acknowledging this, and turn to sensitive, sincere and supportive solutions that strengthen and flex their brand expressions within the new world. By staying true to themselves, they will come out of this stronger and continue to thrive in a post-pandemic world.