COVID19 Brand Management – the magic when your activations meet motivational drivers

Author: Ashley Smith, Research and Strategy Director

What a time to be managing a brand! Arguably, those craving both challenge and opportunity couldn’t ask for a better scenario than the one we are anchored in right now.

There is a not insignificant number of “brand thought pieces” currently circulating. To assist in your consumption of these, I have curated a summary of highlights. Brand Activation initiatives (good or bad) are also a plenty – lots to digest here.

My goal is to tie the advice and activations back to the overarching notion of Brand Equity – longer term brand equity will be built (or eroded) via the actions taken during this crisis. At Sprout, we believe Brand Equity also has an emotional connection component, so emotional drivers cannot be overlooked.

Brands support people in their desire to achieve core human motivational needs. Right now, ‘security’ is top dog.

With consideration of both the plethora of posts and opinions and quite a few solid COVID19 research trackers, Sprout will be launching a special edition of our Mood of Australia research. This will further build the narrative around these emotional motivational drivers and what brands can do to deliver on them. More on our Special Edition research shortly.

But first, always a fan of getting to the ‘consensus of opinion’ – here’s what this seems to be right now in Brand World:

1.    Don’t go dark – history tells us that brands that maintain a voice or potentially even increase messaging stand to protect their market share and even grow on the flip side of a crisis. Kellogg’s doubled its advertising of its new cereal Rice Krispies during the Great Depression and emerged as long-term market leader. Brands that are seen as supportive and ‘relevant’ can enhance or create emotional connections that should endure. It even makes sense on a pure Mental Availability level. Many consumers look to big business to solve societal issues and only a minority of them want brands to stop advertising at this time. Perhaps former Unilever CMO Keith Weed says it best – ‘A bond forged in times of difficulty can be the strongest bond of all’.

2.    But don’t be tone deaf – messaging has to be seen as relevant and adding value. Don’t advertise products or rituals that are currently inappropriate. Think about the emotional needs of people right now and how you play a role (even if small) in meeting these.

3.    Show how you are pitching in – this could be in a number of ways.

Simply complying with regulations and directives – for example, your products/services and how customers acquire them are safe (we ‘deliver’ now, shopping hours for elderly, virtual Real Estate viewings)

 New ‘value add’ initiatives (Nike makes premium exercise app free for 90 days , Foxtel gives subscribers more kids channels for free)

How you are giving to society on a general level or supporting a category. Perfume and alcohol companies temporarily make sanitisers.  MessageMedia gives free text credits and phone services to help Australian restaurants switch to takeaway modus. Deliveroo has followed suit in supporting the pivot to delivery. Delivered Live streams shows to support artists who have lost considerable gig money.  

Remind how existing products can support and add meaning in the current scenario. What you do best and how this can bring joy into people’s lives – the comfort of a familiar brand. Think bonding together over a family meal. A great case from Bird’s Eye here

What’s all this mean?

Overall, we argue that high performing brands are better addressing human motivational drivers (ie what their customers are seeking to ‘feel’ more or less of right now) through well thought out behaviours and actions.

Our Mood of Australia Special Edition research will tap into the human motivational drivers that are most present right now and how brands are successfully (or not!) delivering on these.

Using longitudinal qual and quant research we will uncover brand behaviours and actions that have built positive or negative brand associations in customers minds.

And the Brand Equity ‘test’ will be largely about how well those associations connect to underlying human motivational needs we are seeking in this time of crisis.

Data is being collected now – first outcomes by end of next week. Stay tuned, have a safe Easter period and don’t go dark!