By Brett Booth, partner and head of strategy and creative at Urban Nerds
In the UK, as speculation around the extent that coronavirus (COVID-19) could impact our economy sets in, many businesses are scrambling to survive.
Reported cases of bankruptcy around the globe are already significant, with many more expected to follow. International headlines even suggest that most of the world’s airlines will be bankrupt within the coming months unless there is the offer of significant special assistance from their respective governments.
If the global evidence and predictions thus far are anything to go by, then this pandemic clearly poses a significant threat to the livelihood of many UK businesses. Some will survive, and sadly some will fall, but the innate nature of many of our business owners and leaders is one of raw drive, determination and resilience. It is with these characteristics in mind that this piece avoids our current situation and instead fast forwards to a post-pandemic scenario that may await many of us.
My overarching feeling is that brand building will play a vital role post-corona and we should expect to see the rebirth of many brands as a result. Brand rebirth will not be limited to businesses that have fallen to the economic impact of the pandemic, but also include those that change and shift focus as a result of the human behaviours and societal shifts that emerge from this challenging experience.
Below are six factors for consideration and potential action by business leaders that I believe will be worthy of pondering and planning for, while we navigate these testing times.
1 - Changes
Many of us will witness changes. It is clear that the Coronavirus experience is set to temporarily impact and potentially change things for good. It is already changing people. How individuals, social groups and communities operate on a day-to-day basis is morphing, in response to the restrictive conditions of the moment. At a macro level, new digital platforms and experiences are quickly becoming the new normal, whilst at a micro level, communities are setting up street specific WhatsApp chat groups to support neighbours in a way that many have never connected before. Will your outlook or ways of being change for good as a result of this experience?
There are plenty of interesting predictions that should help stimulate and guide your exploration of forecasted changes. Here’s a couple that got my attention: Li Edelkoort on ‘Coronavirus Reset via Dezeen & An aggregate line-up of short form predictions via Politico.
2 - Values
Changes in people, that are both emerging and predicted, will inevitably affect the landscape of values. We have to assume that what certain individuals and communities will prioritise, in terms of values, could change for good, post-corona. And when values change, so do brands, as the core of every solid brand is the values that they are rooted in.
Do the changes you have identified as a result of this pandemic, that are personal to you or pertaining to your industry, signal the potential for a deeper shift in underlying values?
3 - Rebirth
When your values shift, the core foundations of your brand shift with it. Based on the above assumptions, the post-corona context is likely to present the need for many a brand rebirth. Brand rebirth will be essential for many brands that face the challenge of coming back strong and steadily in order for our economies to be restored.
Whether your business survives the economic trials of this pandemic or not, do the combination of suggestive changes and potential long-term re-prioritisation of values point to the requirement for a brand rebirth post-Coronavirus.
4 - Action
So, you reckon a brand rebirth is going to be key to your business positioning post-corona, but where do you start? What will you need in order to approach, and make this rebirth a reality? Action will surely be required, but considered steps in identifying and then planning explicitly which actions are necessary for you and your brand will be vital.
Key areas for consideration in your post-corona rebirth planning should be:
Do you need to refresh on audience insight and update your understanding of the landscape within which your brand will sit in the post-corona future? To what extent do these forecasted changes affect the audiences that you intend to serve?
What about strategy? Different audiences, with different expectations and re-prioritised values mean new challenges. These challenges will include how best to reach, connect and engage. Who is best equipped to assist you in strategising for these challenges you see ahead?
If your brand has evolved as a result of this pandemic, to what extent does the presentation of your brand need to evolve also? Who is equipped to refresh, rebuild or build from scratch a brand on which you will ride toward success?
Assuming that the comeback will build gradually and with caution, maybe with restricted initial investment in staffing and infrastructure, what partners exist out there with the expertise to support you in your ambitions to serve your intended audience through your rebirthed brand?
5 - Story
When the dust settles, brand rebirth stories will rise. Comeback tales will light up the press as a beacon of encouragement to all who strive to follow. How will you capture the components of a compelling, press-worthy story about your brand rebirth and the process of unlocking it as you work through the above? What are the formats and assets you will need to best enable the sharing of your brand rebirth story?
6 - Duty
Whilst many may make breakthroughs, shift values and move toward new ideologies as a result of this pandemic, there will be many who are moving in the opposite direction as result of experiencing the very same situation. This is expected to result in an amplified version of the continuing polarisation in societies that we are seeing the world over. How will your brand be mindful of the potential for increased polarity and it's impact on society in the aftermath of the virus? What will your brand do to curb polarity in the times ahead? This will play into the continued conversation around the importance of purpose based brand marketing, but with a topical, post-corona lense to it.
At Urban Nerds we are keen to see how the innate nature of our business leaders plays out in the coming months in the face of this challenge, and we look forward to seeing the stories of success and efforts in brand rebirth emerge on the other side.