How Are Brands Pivoting During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
There is no doubt that the effects of the novel Covid-19 virus are being felt throughout the world and that the numerous reports of a financial market meltdown don’t exactly inspire confidence in business leaders, let alone provide the motivation to consider their brand positioning. However, there have been a number of companies from big, multi-billion-dollar outfits to smaller enterprises, that have taken the time to look at the current crisis and assess how they are pivoting their brand to engage with their audiences.
A Listening Ear
One of the major ways that brands have been pivoting their brands so effectively is by listening to consumers, to what they need and want during these chaotic, often frightening times. This has come in the form of opening up a genuine dialogue with customers, often with a free offering that authentically helps the client. The German software giant SAP announced in late March that they have launched a new digital learning initiative which offers “innovative, interactive educational content to support students, professionals and anyone wishing to continue to learn during this challenging time.”
Added to this, SAP have also rolled out a number of free initiatives to support the business community, including Remote Work Pulse, which enables employers to remain connected with their staff at a time when over 85% of workers surveyed in the US said that they wanted more from bosses to help them adapt to and manage their new situation. This willingness to listen to the needs of clients and provide a free service has been welcomed by the business community with thousands of companies signing up to use the solution.
And they are not alone, with other tech heavyweights from Google to Linkedin to Adobe pivoting their brands by offering some services for free in response to rapidly changing circumstances and the needs of consumers.
Startup INVEST, the leading Swiss financing platform for Swiss deep-tech startups have launched a free virtual matchmaking platform called Startup MATCHER to help startups that are struggling to find funding at a crucial stage of development. It provides a resource for startups to connect with potential investors through online profiles and then setting up virtual meetings. Daniel Bermejo, the co-managing director of Startup Invest said “We invite all startups, investors, corporates and support organizations in Switzerland to join forces and support the ecosystem in these times of crisis. The power of our platform is here to help with the fundraising in such a difficult time.”
Hundreds of companies have been rushing to help those on the front line of the Coronavirus epidemic by pivoting their operational output, from fashion houses from Dior utilising resources to make masks for workers in France, Dyson developing ventilators for the NHS in the UK and Diageo, makers of Johnnie Walker and Smirnoff, pledging up to two million litres of alcohol to manufacturing partners to produce more than eight million bottles of hand sanitiser. Making sure that these actions aren’t simply for commercial gain is important as consumers are savvy to brands that are seen to exploit the situation.
The New Rules of Engagement
While a number of companies have been hit hard by the coronavirus and many have actually had to close their doors for good, there are some that have been able to look at how they can still provide services to their customers, while maintaining their brand. Some are pivoting their engagement strategy.
Brand language is a visual one and, as soon as the social distancing rules came into place, companies began looking for socially-responsible ways to promote the message. With firms as diverse as McDonalds, Audi and Coca-Cola, among others, redesigning their logos to show support for social distancing.
One of the major ways this is being done is through engagement with their customers on social media and through the free offer (as mentioned above). Nike has managed to do both over the past few months, starting in China when Covid-19 caused hundreds of stores to close. The decision was made to to concentrate on digital sales and marketing. The company had already built a firm foundation in the digital arena which meant that the pivot was solidly supported. The new message, supporting social distancing and health at the same time, became “Play inside, play for the World.” They made the use of their premium training apps free for 90 days. This has meant that usage of the training app has increased by 80% which has contributed to an increase in 30% for digital sales. While they have suffered losses, thanks to the multiple-platform, digital approach, that responds to their customer’s unique set of needs, they haven’t experienced the fallout that might have been expected.