Covid-19: What should brand leaders do? – by Ashish Banerjee & Mariagrazia DeAngelis

Ashish Banerjee is Executive Strategy Director CEEMEA and Mariagrazia DeAngelis in General Manager Dubai & ME at Landor

By Ashish Banerjee, Executive Strategy Director CEEMEA, and Mariagrazia DeAngelis, General Manager Dubai & ME at Landor

Mariagrazia DeAngelis, General Manager Dubai & ME; and Ashish Banerjee, Executive Strategy Director CEEMEA at Landor

As repositories of belief, brands must play a wider role beyond just being transactional vehicles for goods and services. Already, brands which have not acted well in these times are being shunned or boycotted, whilst those that have made a visible and real difference are being applauded.

Going forward, we believe brand leaders should keep these five points in mind:

1. Look after your people first, then look to serve community and society:

Engineer your plans not just for business continuity but for people continuity too. The safety net of the state can only stretch so far, you must do your bit as well. The world is watching how you treat your staff. Treat them well, and it will give you its custom again when this peril passes. Abandon them now, and risk potentially unrecoverable damage to reputation, preference, and loyalty.

2. Go big, or stay home (and stay safe):

Ask if your brand can make a tangible difference to people in these times, and if the answer is yes, then act in meaningful ways. Separating the elements of your logo to bandwagon on social distancing is of limited value at best, actions matter far more. If possible, repurpose aspects of your business to serve the public interest. Do so not for visibility, but to serve the greater cause. Don’t blow your horn… people will know anyway, and respect you for it.

3. Reflect, and re-examine the basics:

This crisis gives us the time to take stock and be more future-ready. Now is a good time to think about what you could do to create greater brand resilience, starting from brand fundamentals. Did your brand’s purpose give you and the business enough directional guidance? Did your brand strategy serve you appropriately in terms of shaping organisational choices and behaviours as you confronted the crisis, and is it ready for a changing world that is already making itself evident?

4. Recalibrate your promise v delivery equation:

The unexpected is often beneficial in ways which make themselves evident in time. Business and brand digitisation just accelerated, so ask yourself if your brand experience matches what you promise. Then, iron out the kinks across the physical, human, and digital aspects to ensure your brand is not just future-ready, but reasonably future-proof. If that entails breaking a few moulds, so be it. Innovate the experience wherever you can, in the most relevant and meaningful ways.

5. Embrace sustainability:

Put sustainability at the heart of your brand… it is what people and the planet need now, and it will yield justifiable profit at just levels. Going forward it won’t be enough to pay lip service, bandwagon, or greenwash, because the world stands at the cusp of a step-change in how the ecosystem of business must evolve. It won’t be enough to have ‘sustainability initiatives’ and CSR programmes, you’ll need to work off a core built on fundamentally sustainable practices.

The game just changed, and to play to win, brand leaders must re-think their basic premises to be successful in a world that is already changing. There will of course be an ‘After,’ and only the brands which act now to prepare for it will continue to be meaningful, relevant, and differentiated in times to come.