By Paul Rowlett, EverythingBranded.

I think most business leaders would agree that we're currently facing the most challenging trading period in a generation. Consumers are in lockdown and, with mass layoffs and furloughing of staff happening across the country, many people simply aren't in a position to make purchases at the moment. And, when you consider all the staff shortages and wider economic turbulence putting even more strain on businesses, it’s little wonder that so many companies are struggling to stay afloat.But, as with every crisis, there's a window of opportunity for brands who can adapt quickly. I think that this is a chance for brands to start connecting with customers on a more personal level by focussing on positive marketing. In this post, I'll explain how brands can use this to their advantage, and share some tips I've picked up when using this approach to help promote my own company.

Why focus on positive marketing right now?

Positive marketing can have lots of benefits for your brand. It can help you connect with consumers on an emotional level and will showcase your brand ethics, which can help boost customer loyalty. And, if you’re successful, this could convert into sales once the crisis is over.Beyond the clear promotional benefits that positive messaging can have, I firmly believe that businesses have a social responsibility to do anything they can to help during this crisis. By pulling together, corporations can help the country to beat this virus as quickly as possible — and the sooner we can do that, the sooner life will return to normal for all of us.Below, I've explored three key benefits that positive marketing can have in more detail.

Brands can use their influence to aid in the crisis

Brands often have more influence than they realise, and they can leverage this to get important messages out to their customer base. This is especially true if your target audience is often cynical of more traditional voices of authority, the government, or mainstream media. By amplifying COVID-19 safety messages, you can help them to reach a wider audience and reinforce how important they are. For example, if your brand is aimed at a younger audience, you could use your social channels to communicate messages about hygiene, social distancing, and staying home in a way that speaks their language.

It gives you a chance to showcase your brand ethics

Now is the perfect time to show consumers that your company is ethical and committed to giving back to your community. Customers really place a lot of value on brands taking a moral stance, with one survey finding that 58% of UK consumers were more loyal to brands that had a clear and transparent point of view on wider issues in society (YouGov). I think that brands who demonstrate strong ethics and a commitment to helping out will reap the rewards in customer loyalty after this is all over.

It provides a welcome break for your customers

Consumers are caught up in an onslaught of negative news and scary headlines right now, and that makes getting through to them very tricky. By focusing on more positive marketing tactics — like sharing charitable deeds and uplifting messages — you can help cut through the noise and connect with your audience on an emotional level.Smoothie brand Innocent is a great example of a company's that's doing this during the pandemic. They've been using their social media to engage with consumers by posting all sorts of jokes, challenges and uplifting content that is a really good fit for their brand positioning. As a result, public perception of their brand is likely to remain very positive, even during a period when demand for their products is likely to be lower than normal.

How we've used positive marketing at EverythingBranded

After the lockdown restrictions came into force, we saw sales of our core ranges drop by over 90% overnight, forcing us to rapidly diversify just to keep the lights on. Once we were a bit more stable, we began to look for ways that we could do our part to make a difference in the local community first, and to help support the NHS.After analysing our stock and supply chain, we found ways we could use our resources to help. We donated 20,000 self-diagnosis head thermometers, and provided hand sanitiser to a local homeless charity to help make their work safer. We also created some activity packs to donate to local children's charities.We did this because I really believe that businesses do have a social responsibility to give back to society when they can. But it’s also provided some excellent PR opportunities and coverage, helping to keep our brand on the map during a difficult trading period, so it’s a win-win for all concerned.

How to start spreading positivity in your marketing campaigns

If you want to start using this approach in your own business, then you'll need to start thinking of ways your brand can help during the crisis, and then design a strategy for publicising your efforts. Almost everyone can help in some way, whether it's using your existing resources to help produce PPE, or donating products to local charities to help the community during this difficult time.If you've been doing your part to help, don’t be afraid to shout about it. Post about it on social media, write blog posts, use your mailing list, and send out press releases to get the word out. You can use your social channels to cheer on other brands or local heroes who have been doing their part, too.Your regular marketing plans have no doubt been completely put on hold by the outbreak, so why not try changing tack and using your influence to spread some positivity? When done right, this could help you to connect with customers and build brand loyalty, which may even help secure some sales when trading conditions are more favourable.