By Charlotte Black, Strategy Director at Saffron Brand Consultants 

Charlotte Black, Strategy Director at Saffron Brand Consultants

We are all experiencing first-hand an uncertain and unsettling time. It’s hard to know how to act, how to plan and what to be thankful for. We are feeling this on a personal level, but the businesses we work with are considering similar questions and how these translate for their brands.

We already live in an age of transparency. Brands are judged on how authentically they show-up. How they live up to the promises they make and how it differentiates them in highly competitive landscapes.

Enter a global pandemic.

As we are faced with situations and decisions we never imagined, it is critical for businesses now, more than ever, to address the question: “What real value do we offer to our customers or users; the people we serve?”

Brand value means more today than just the deemed equity placed in your brand. It’s the whole value you offer to the people in your brand’s ecosystem. Whether they are direct customers, partners and employees or one or two connections removed, the realm of influence is wide and must be respected to allow for long-term brand value to be built.

It’s not about what you want to offer them, but about identifying what they will value in their lives. How will you solve a problem they face? How will you enhance their life? How will you help them unlock something new and valuable?

Find Value Through Empathy

Understanding your audience, their needs now and their new experiences is critical to knowing what your real brand value is. A good example of this is the escapism and structure Joe Wicks, founder of The Body Coach, is offering through his free PE class, held at 9am every day for the British public. He has identified how his brand can offer the greatest value in these times and The Body Coach will only benefit from his genuine commitment to this.

Agility Will Win In The Long-Run

As governments work to find a way out of lockdown, it has been clear that the businesses that are thriving are those that have agility as a core part of their brand DNA. Uncertainty will continue, but being able to move forward will be the greatest advantage. The ability to adapt and meet your customers where they are will create brand loyalty and lasting engagement. Instagram has shown themselves as a great example of this. A user shared a post in the first few weeks in lockdown suggesting that they change the default on their ‘Ask me a question’ sticker to ‘How can I help’. The platform picked up on this very quickly and within a day updated this function. This illustrates how important listening and being agile are in finding opportunities to deliver true brand value to your audience.

Pivot To Authentically Remain Relevant

Creating real value for your community also means being willing to adapt when necessary. Being alert to changing needs and pivoting to deliver what really matters. COVID-19 has made this approach more important than ever and some companies have truly stepped up.

Rum brand Bacardi pivoted some of its distilleries to help supply ethanol to make hand sanitizer, which served a real need and delivered for society. This was a very valuable contribution, but now companies must look forward and tackle the long-term implications of COVID-19 on their own businesses beyond crisis responses. This is where brand value will play a critical role: businesses that use it as a guide to make decisions on how to pivot will see long-term success.

Being true to your brand and where you can authentically bring value will allow businesses to look to the future and set a new path. Uber’s recent investment in Lime scooters is a good example. Uber’s mission is to ‘set people in motion’, so, with a public mobility crisis caused by the need for social distancing, they assessed how to deliver the greatest value. By pivoting to find alternative ways that will ensure people can still be mobile, even when COVID-19 has diminished the options available, they found a solution that was authentic and highly valuable.

There remains much uncertainty about what’s next and what ‘new normal’ we might face. By focusing on brand value as a means to deliver real impact in people’s lives will help set a direction and offer a framework to be able to adapt and thrive in the years ahead.

Three steps your brand can take now to identify where its real value potential lies:

1. Listen to your customers – Human behaviour and culture are changing rapidly. Using all resources available to you to understand the needs and drivers of your audience is more important than ever. Social listening, focus groups and ethnographic research will equip you to identify human insights that will guide you to where you can bring the most value.

2. Embed agility into your DNA – If you aren’t already agile by design, find a way to incorporate this into your business and your employee culture. Integrating agile processes and agile mindsets will allow you to find opportunities more easily and adapt to deliver on them more quickly.

3. Pivot where you belong – Being able to adapt to the needs of your audience is key. However, it is also important to stay true to your brand so you don’t fall into the trap of trying to be everything, to everyone. When assessing how to adapt, look to your brand first and use it as your north star to guide you to how you can authentically pivot and remain relevant to your target audience.

This article has been originally published on Saffron Brand Consultants.