Long-term Effects from The Virtual Shift During COVID-19 – Branding in The Digital Age

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often but when the world is dealing with a health crisis, consumers’ behavior changes; sentiments and priorities evolve at lightning speed. And for brands to survive when the future is more uncertain than usual, they must be agile enough to change also. And rapidly.

We only need to flip the calendar back to 2016 to refresh our memories on the mosquito borne Zika virus. Savvy marketers recognized it was an opportunity to demonstrate a level of empathy toward customers; thus, they instantly put on their creative branding hats. Even in the midst of a pandemic, an ocean of branding opportunities exists. It may be time well spent to scan the digital archives to learn what marketing tactics were successful during the Zika crisis.

Mosquito-repellent kingpin, OFF!, immediately launched clever advertising campaigns to create connections and build trust with consumers by speaking specifically to their health concerns. Their objective was to build loyalty by being an ally. One of their taglines placed heavy emphasis on protection; they ended their commercials with, “Trust our family to protect yours.”

Once the media announces a life-threatening virus, sales of healthcare and personal care brands rise to the stratosphere, affirming that the health and well-being of themselves and loved ones is of paramount importance.

Unique Brand Partnership Offers Peace of Mind

In a crisis, people – and brands – tend to join hands and work together toward recovery. This is what transpired with United and Clorox just two months after Covid swept across the U.S. On May 20, these world-renowned brands announced their ‘United CleanPlus’ initiative.Two completely different industries collaborated cross functionally to allay the fears of the public. They also brought in medical experts at Cleveland Clinic in a ‘united’ attempt to assure passengers that they can travel with confidence.

United has always made safety a priority – as it is at the heart of their business. They need to keep customers safe at all touch-points of their journey. But this pandemic created a new platform for them to retell an old message. Clorox reiterated the message about enhancing people’s safety as they travel for work or pleasure. Adding the prestigious Cleveland Clinic into the mix blended in an extra layer of comfort; experts sharing knowledge seemed to add validation to the initiative.

On flights longer than 2.5 hours, United will offer all passengers an “all in one” economy snack bag. Inside is a wrapped sanitizer wipe, bottled water and snacks.

Connect. Build Trust. Be Relevant.

The airline industry isn’t the only one that can piggyback off of another brand. Other collaborations may be just as impactful if they can emphasize the benefits of using their products during a pandemic. After months of listening to negative headlines that dominate the news, consumers are looking for some good news. If brands focus their efforts on offering peace of mind, consumers will tie their brand to positive emotions and will make them the brand of choice when their health is on the line.

Once a vaccine emerges and this pandemic finally passes, things may not return to normal for a while. Stockpiling supplies may subside and air travel will eventually take off again but, the extra attention devoted to hygiene may be a long-term change. Empathetic marketers will need personalize campaigns to keep these and other shifts in mind.