COVID killed as many businesses as it did with people. Major companies filed for bankruptcy and shrank to a portion of their former glory once the worst was over—and they were lucky to be still alive. Small players barely had any capital to stay afloat during the lockdown, exacerbated by the loss of paying customers.
In light of the economic fallout caused by the pandemic, the principle of brand resiliency has seen an uptick in interest. Experts point out that businesses have to reinvent themselves if they want to survive these hard times. McKinsey’s survey of 300 senior executives in Europe found that a third said COVID had weakened their brands’ competitiveness.
Amid a reeling post-pandemic economy, it’s important to have a more serious discussion about brand resiliency. There’s no telling when the next economic upheaval will come or if past ones will recur. More importantly, it comes at a time when people have become more dependent on digital technology for their consumer decisions.
To comprehend brand resiliency better, there needs to be a clear idea about two important factors of business management: brand building and reputation management. One expert even cites them as ‘two sides of the same coin,’ inseparable from one another.
Brand building is, for lack of a better definition, getting your brand out there. Drafting strategies, promoting via multiple media, personalizing—all these and more constitute building a reputable image for any brand. There’s no reason for businesses to be unaware of how to do it.
The other factor, reputation management, has proven more difficult to do properly. Experts agree that most companies are managing their reputations wrongly by investing in winning the hearts and minds of customers at the expense of delivering on their promises. It’s despite many surveys indicating that most business leaders understand the importance of managing their reputation.
Brand resiliency is more concerned with the latter. A brand’s long-term presence and influence depend on its impact on consumers; excellent customer service, among other things, can lead to the brand being the talk of the town. As long as the brand maintains this level of reliability, it can maintain a healthy consumer base and weather crises and other downturns.
One success story is Volkswagen. Following the 2015 emissions scandal, the giant carmaker’s reputation plummeted as governments worldwide demanded an explanation. Several executives were charged with conspiracy, unfair competition, and embezzlement, among other things. The two models’ Green Car of the Year awards were rescinded.
The car brand faced a long road to redemption, starting with recalling the affected models and distributing goodwill packages to customers, but it paid off. It achieved record sales between 2018 and 2019, even outperforming fellow giant Toyota. It wasn’t spared from the pandemic-induced economic fallout, but it offered healthcare benefits to its workforce.
Despite the scandal being a permanent blemish on the brand’s reputation, its efforts to regain the public’s trust ensured its survival. It highlights the significance of satisfying customers, as even a single dissatisfied customer can undo all the hard work the company has done.
Marketing experts agree that a brand’s value and fragility have a ‘paradoxical’ relationship. As a brand’s value grows, so does the likelihood of its customers looking for alternatives if it becomes unreliable. Think about it: you’ve long trusted a friend to deliver in your time of need, only for them to let you down because of an avoidable mistake.
Contemporary brand design understands this. Any business owner’s action or decision will have ramifications, some of which won’t necessarily be popular with the masses. In creating a resilient brand, the following principles apply:
The relationship between the business and its customers has significantly changed, no less so during the pandemic. It turned once-proven sales strategies on their heads, leading to a paradigm shift in focus from revenue to customer satisfaction. Businesses realized that adding empathy to their communications led to more favorable customer responses.
This trend comes at a time when more people trust businesses than government agencies, NGOs, and media outlets. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer report states that three out of five people worldwide trust businesses due to the pervasiveness of misinformation. If not businesses, they’d place their faith in the words of their coworkers or neighbors.
Said trust places brands in a suitable position to persevere through the harshness of the post-COVID economy. To do this, they must conduct these initiatives:
There’s no shortage of quotes about learning from failure because it’s sound advice. The renowned magnate Henry Ford even said, ‘The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.’ Mistakes are as inevitable as the failure they result in.
When faced with such a result, it’s good to keep calm and reflect on how your business may have handled it better. You’ll be surprised at how it can help you think of more realistic goals and up-to-date insights.
Brand management is a team effort, let alone building its resilience. The entire team must be on board with the effort to reduce the risk of mistakes and, ultimately, remain competitive in a rapidly-changing market.
A clear purpose can inspire team members to work toward realizing any goal. But achieving this warrants the presence of three aspects:
History has shown how fickle markets can get, especially in dire situations like bubble bursts. The Great Depression is one example in which an estimated 86,000 businesses folded despite doing well. Amid more recent crashes, this historic crash remains the worst in history.
Regardless of an ongoing economic downturn, knowing where the brand stands in the current market and how it’s performing is imperative. It clearly shows a brand’s shortfalls and possible ways to remedy them in time for the next slump.
Life is full of risks, and it’s only normal to want to steer clear of them. While people leading daily lives don’t think about risks too much (e.g., dining out, crossing a busy street), the same can’t be said for business owners. Allowing risks to blow out of control can cost them dearly.
Risk detection and management should be a continuous process because risks emerge all the time. By establishing ample awareness, brands can steer clear of potentially debilitating risks or, if already hit by them, mitigate their effects.
Survival for brands entails remaining active in the market after a major incident, whether in an economic downturn or a natural disaster. A business continuity plan is centered on three key areas: a resilient infrastructure, rapid recovery, and various contingency measures.
Meanwhile, crisis management differs from business continuity, as the former concerns plans for when other measures fail despite best efforts. Despite this, they’re inextricably linked in several aspects, including the aforementioned key areas.
Digital transformation took several leaps forward at the height of the COVID crisis, and nowhere is this effect more prevalent than in e-commerce. A United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report stated that e-commerce’s global market share rose from 14% of all retail sales in 2019 to 17% in 2020. Market analysts predict it to rise to around 24% in 2026.
Then-UNCTAD Acting General Secretary Isabelle Durant commented that businesses that went digital helped lessen the severity of the pandemic-induced economic slump. She also expected the transition’s effects to persist for a long time but admitted that not everyone would be ready to accept the change.
With the shift to digital platforms comes a new necessity: mitigating disruptions in this medium. While much of the traditional brand resilience model still applies, it needs some tweaking here and there. These critical success factors are as follows:
Research by McKinsey last October revealed areas where brands could seize the opportunity to grow their resilience in the digital sphere. These areas include:
With enough resources, particularly capital and staffing, brands can become more entrenched in the digital space. For instance, investing in mobile app development won’t come cheap, and constant bugs are expected. Digital resilience demands that brands be well-prepared to deal with such issues to minimize disruption.
Brand resiliency has been an indispensable facet of brand management, only to become more indispensable post-pandemic. Much of the traditional rulebook remains applicable, but the fast transition to digital platforms warrants some changes. Nevertheless, resilience will be the name of the game moving forward.