by James Vella Clark
“All we need to do is make sure we keep talking” ‘Keep Talking’ – Pink Floyd.
When three weeks ago, people started retreating inside their homes, businesses started working remotely and schools closed, we all made sure of one thing: that we could keep communicating.
We needed to ensure a constant flow of information – from the daily updates on how COVID19 was evolving, to how other countries are responding, from how our lives were about to be impacted, to how best we could keep coping.
No one was expecting this to happen. We first saw it happening in China and being so far away, we thought it will never affect us. This became a gradual tsunami, as the first cases in Europe started to spread across the continent and quickly, across the world. In a matter of a week or two, global news became our local, everydaynews.
Possibly, now, the biggest mistake that any brand can commit is to try and capitalize on this situation by turning it into a marketing opportunity. Any immediate gains will surely be short-lived. Because these are not normal times and people have found themselves reassessing their priorities.
So, in the same way people will look for guidance, leadership and information from those institutions that matter, they will also be expecting meaningful communication from the brands that to date, have been their main point of reference.
This is the time for brands to start asking themselves the most important questions – possibly, those questions they’ve been afraid to ask themselves for a while; ‘Why am I relevant? What makes me appealing? What value do I bring to the lives of my customers?
Locally, perhaps, one of the best examples we’ve noticed was GO and how the company, at a most delicate point in time, was quick to assure its customers that as a brand, it was going to remain true to its commitment of keeping all its customers connected to what matters most to them. And it kept its promise. It opened up more TV channels to help families keep themselves more occupied, it ensured that all its technical staff was mobilised to ascertain that all communication lines remained up and running, and it supported Malta’s frontliners namely doctors, nurses, police, armed forces and media people with free data bundles to help them remain connected to their loved ones.
Brands need to ask themselves what can we be doing and communicating in our country? What would be most appropriate for our brand to do right now? How best do we tell our story within this bigger context?
Another brand, Express Trailers, as Malta’s leading transport and logistics company, came out full force communicating that as it’s been doing for over 50 years, it remained committed to keep supporting the Maltese nation by acting as the vital link between Malta and mainland Europe to make sure that all the Maltese keep finding their life’s essentials on the shelves especially, food and medicinals. This helped people realise that what they have been taking for granted forever, is only made to look straightforward because of the hard work that happens ‘behind the scenes’.
Since the dawn of mankind, man has always been afraid of what he did not know or understand. This was a repeat situation that caught all the world by surprise. People were not only afraid of an unknown virus but they were mostly afraid of a situation they never imagined themselves in. They were afraid because they did not know how or whether they would manage to cope.
When people are afraid or feeling lost, they turn for guidance. Let your brand be a guiding light – a point of reference at a truly historical time that has already changed the way we perceive the world around us, forever. This also applies to how brands communicate with their own stakeholders namely their clients, their suppliers, their investors and their shareholders. But most importantly, their employees.
These weeks have been an eye-opener for everyone including brands, even those who perhaps might have been having a hard time understanding their unique role in people’s lives. Brands now need to use this time wisely by doing four main things:
- Keeping themselves reliably informed and updated so that they can keep reassuring their own people and stakeholders.
- Nurture a closer and more personal approach with their customers, by showing them understanding.
- Being wise with their campaigns and instead of pushing products, push what their product stands for.
- Preparing for the eventual recovery. Yes, because nothing lasts, this too will pass and things will bounce back to full strength. And when that happens, brands need to be ready to recover just as fast to recapture the previous momentum.
All the above have one thing in common: communication. Communication breeds trust, familiarity and confidence. When this is over, people will remember those brands who never stopped communicating, even in the most dire of situations.
Now is the time to be bold – when everyone is watching.
James Vella Clark
Ci Consulta – Corporate Identities