How Startups Can Position Their Brand with COVID-19 Restrictions?

It has been a few months since the COVID-19 pandemic started shaking the world and it doesn’t seem like it would be ending anytime soon. As nearly cities all over the world continue to maintain some level of social distancing, it has become obvious that this pandemic is not just a danger to people’s health and lives but also a threat to businesses everywhere.

How COVID-19 is affecting brands today?

The lockdowns, quarantines, social distancing, and other restrictions that came with COVID-19 meant that the world of commerce has been disrupted like never before.

COVID-19
COVID-19

Retail stores have been forced to close, factories stopped production, and many companies have had to let go of some of their employees.

While all industries are facing difficulties presently, those who are in the airline, hotel, restaurant, and travel industries are the ones that have been affected the most. And consumers’ buying behaviors have changed, too, and whether that change is temporary or permanent remains to be seen.

On the other end, businesses, especially startups, are looking for ways to stand out and improve brand awareness during these tough times to make sure that they come outstanding after this pandemic is over.

Those who are in the business of advertising and marketing are challenged to come up with fresh strategies for their campaigns to make sure that the brands they promote can still thrive in the “new normal.” This in itself is tough, but add to that the fact that advertising spending is expected to decrease due to COVID-19 and the challenges are only heightened.

The state of branding amidst the pandemic.

 Consumer views on brand communication during the coronavirus pandemic worldwide as of March 2020, by country
Consumer views on brand communication during the coronavirus pandemic worldwide as of March 2020, by country
  • 65% of consumers say that hearing from brands about how they respond to the current situation is both reassuring and comforting.
  • In the United States, 50% of consumers prefer email as a brand communication channel during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only 13% say they’d rather hear from brands via texts.
  • 73% of small businesses face a substantial decrease in domestic demand.
  • 28% of businesses said their sales were going up.
  • People are spending their money differently, depending on the type of goods.

Brand positioning defined.

Brand positioning, as the term suggests, is the strategy that you employ to ensure that your brand creates an impression on consumers. The main goal is to secure yourself a position of prominence in the minds of your target audience and make sure that you stand out from your competitors.

When done right, brand positioning can make it easier for your products to be distinguished and picked up in the marketplace, no matter how many competitors there are, offering similar products. Simply put, brand positioning is establishing your superiority and unique value proposition in your industry.

How to nail brand positioning with COVID-19 restrictions?

As the world pauses and changes around you, you can take your brand to two different paths – just go with the flow and see how things work or take the initiative to use branding to transform the image of your business and possibly build a community that supports your brand.

Brand Positioning
Brand Positioning

So, how do you create strong brand positioning? Here are the steps:

1. Adapt your brand positioning strategy.

As people deal with a worldwide crisis, what message does your brand send? How do you respond to what’s going on around you? There are brands out there who choose to stick to the image that they have already established. While it’s never wrong to stay true to your core message, you might want to consider changing things up – adapting to your current environment and see how you can make the most of the situation you are presented. Whether you choose to keep your brand image unchanged or opt for better positioning, here are some things that you should keep in mind.

  • Keep things simple.
  • Acknowledge your weaknesses but embrace your strengths more.
  • Know and stay true to what you are and what you are not.
  • Highlight the difference.
  • Deliver on what you promise at all times.

2. Make sure your business has strong presence online.

If there’s ever a time to check and see if your brand is discoverable online, it’s now. As consumers make most of their purchases online these days, it’s necessary for your business to have a strong presence online. That means having a well-designed website with fresh content posted regularly, as well as active social media accounts that you should use not only to promote your products or services but more importantly, to communicate with your customers.

If this sounds complicated to you or you feel like you can’t handle this part of the business on top of your other responsibilities, you can always work with pros who offer SEO services.

3. Reassess what you’re offering to your customers.

As mentioned above, the purchase behavior of consumers has drastically changed in the last couple of months. This is brought about by a number of factors, including having limited resources and a change of priorities. Most people are now buying strictly essential items. If your business doesn’t offer anything that belongs in the category of “necessities,” you might want to consider adding new products or tweaking what you’re offering right now to fit the needs of your customers.

It doesn’t mean that you’ll lose your brand identity. For instance, if your brand is known for statement shirts or pretty dresses, you might want to offer matching reusable masks. You might want to consider offering free masks for every purchase of your clothes.

4. Build an online community for your market.

Remember that businesses are not the only ones affected by this pandemic. Your customers are bearing the impact of COVID-19, too. An online community makes sense right now. You can use social media to stay in touch with your audience, let them know what your brand is up to, perhaps provide them with perks like giveaways or discount codes, do Live videos to have real-time conversations with your customers, and generally provide them with a sense of belongingness with your brand and a group of people they have a common interest with.

5. Prioritize your pros.

One of the many realizations that people have had since the COVID-19 pandemic is that the workforce is indeed the backbone of every business.

It is too bad that a lot of brands had to let go of some of the most hardworking professionals.

Perhaps this step is something that you have to put a pin on until the pandemic is over and you’re on the steadier ground again, but it really would be excellent for your brand (and of course, your workers) if you could appraise your employees and show them the support they deserve.

6. Continue to innovate.

Innovation is critical no matter what industry you are in. Under normal circumstances, being innovative is encouraged but during difficult times, it is expected of you. Already, businesses and consumers are adjusting to a new normal and now is the time to really step up, amp up your creativity, and come up with ways to set your brand apart from the competition.

The goal should not only be what could make your brand look good but what would your customers need during and after this pandemic.

7. Take every opportunity to give back.

Due to COVID-19, people everywhere are observing social distancing but in essence, it has also brought people together. People and organizations have united to fight the pandemic and bring aid to those who are in need of help.

Whenever you can, assess your brand’s assets and see where and how you can lend support. Help doesn’t always have to be monetary.

You can donate products, offer free tutorials, help with information dissemination, and more. Not only will you be helping others but consumers also remember and gravitate towards brands that show compassion during difficult times, so it’s a win for all.

Examples of effective brand positioning strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Deliveroo

Deliveroo was among the first brands to provide their customers with contactless delivery, which is amazing as it eliminates personal contact between the customer and the driver.

Deliveroo Foodscene
Deliveroo Foodscene

This move is surely one that people remember as they’re looking at businesses and seeing which ones have their welfare in mind, too.

Nike

Nike’s approach to brand positioning is always excellent – simple and impactful. Their ‘Play Inside’ campaign urges people to stay active and healthy within the comfort and safety of their homes – one that governments of almost all countries are enforcing, too.

Nike: Play Inside Campaign
Nike: Play Inside Campaign

Of course, it helped that Nike’s ambassadors like LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Cristiano Ronaldo have also reposted the campaign.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has always been on point when it comes to their branding. They know what message to send out to the world and how to do it. Their campaign during the pandemic is no different. It was a smart move to choose which among the most crowded areas in the world to hammer the message of social distancing on. It was really creative to post their usually tightly connected Spencerian script brand name with space between every letter.

Staying apart is the best way to stay united.
Staying apart is the best way to stay united.

Then the straightforward message “Staying apart is the best way to stay connected” is one that doesn’t need any explaining. It might be worth noting that the Coca-Cola Foundation also made a pledge worth $13.5 million to be given to five non-profit organizations.

Takeaway

Brand positioning is definitely among the most important elements of your strategy. It shows everyone what your values and your visions are, what traits you have that would give them a reason to stay loyal to your brand during this pandemic.

COVID-19 is only pushing the limits of how marketing professionals and business owners can come out of this situation triumphant. And the thing is, you don’t have to be a major corporation to come up with effective brand positioning during these trying times.

Remember that what you need to do is to reach out to your customers where you can, show your support, compassion, what your brand can offer, and let your brand values shine through your story.

Published by Aaron Chichioco

Aaron Chichioco is the chief content officer (CCO) and one of the web designers of Design Doxa. Aside from his expertise in web/mobile design and development, he also has years of experience in digital marketing, branding, customer service, eCommerce, and business management as well.

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