Branding in times of COVID – flexible brands for a world in constant flux

In uncertain times like those we’re experiencing, a strong link with customers is vital to keep our businesses afloat. But how can this be done in such unusual times? What’s the best strategy for our brand? How should we be addressing our audience? David Botella, co-founder of The Woork Co studio, explains why branding is crucial for companies and how to implement a brand strategy. Spoiler – fintech startups are a good source of inspiration.

Sometimes we can’t easily explain why, but there are brands with which we identify. It might be the colour, something that communicates strength, or it could be that we connect with the values that the company projects. That message that a company shares with us through its image and actions and that stays in our subconscious is built with branding, and that is what makes us choose that brand.

It’s already important enough in the digital world, where we have access to more and more markets and where competition is increasingly fierce, but now another variable is added into the mix. Coronavirus has meant that companies need to be essential for us to continue using their products and services, and it has changed what it means to be a customer. The answer for how to continue being valuable and relevant to post-COVID-19 consumers has to do with good branding.

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Isn’t branding the same as marketing?

It’s a classic error that could mean that our brand doesn’t have solid foundations. “On the path we have to follow between having a product and becoming a choice, branding is the flag on the horizon and marketing the steps you have to take to get there. Without that flag, the path is filled with obstacles and twists and turns that could easily become lost money and resources”, explains David Botella, co-founder and Creative Director of The Woork Co studio.

It’s good to be a leader (having a good product) and to communicate the fact that you’re a good leader (marketing), but you also have to look the part, and that’s the brand

That is to say that brand strategy is much more than a logo and some colours. It’s also the value of your business, what makes it unique, the emotional ties that will connect with your audience – your DNA. CEO of Blue Focus Marketing, Cheryl Burgess, summarises as follows: “A brand is a reason to choose”.

“It’s good to be a leader (having a good product) and to communicate the fact that you’re a good leader (marketing), but you also have to look the part, and that’s the brand”, reiterates Botella. At The Woork they are dedicated to creating brand identity and managing it in the daily life of the company. Recently invited to the Innova Home Festival and last year to the Error Design event, organised by BBVA Open Innovation, they know first hand the importance of a strong brand, particularly in technology firms.

Companies are alive, their brand is too

According to branding consultancy Branward, startups can fall into the trap of inefficient brand management if they focus too much on the process of developing their product, testing it with customers, improving it and selling it.

“In startups it’s common to talk a great deal about the technological innovation that their proposal involves. We mustn’t forget to create that brand feeling and the path we need to follow to get there”, confirms Botella, alluding to the strategic brand planning that fledgling companies must also pursue.

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“If a brand is a strategic element that your company has to help you relate to and be important for customers, and your company is constantly changing, it seems unthinkable that branding could be something static”, states Botella. As they also assert at Branward, “the evolution of the product or service and of the business model makes the essence and the very purpose of the brand waver. That’s why, in the same way that companies in the innovation ecosystem are flexible, their brands should also be flexible. In this evolution it is necessary to adapt to external changes and make your brand react to times of crisis”.

You can’t live off a fixed decision, you have to make sure that the brand evolves along with the business

The COVID scenario and how to re-evaluate brand

In defining a brand, experts insist on the importance of generating that emotional bond with your customer. “That’s what will make you survive”, proclaims Botella, and he explains: “At times of crisis, like with COVID-19, where consumers may be forced to choose resources, rational factors are destroyed more quickly than emotional ones. The product is important, but it can be overcome. However, if in the link with the person there’s also an emotional element, they’ll remember you”.

People are connecting more with those companies that have a strategy focused on action. “For instance, within the fabric of fintech SMEs, companies that help others in their sector and that generate strong emotional ties are highly valued”.

According to a report by the company Bynder, The State of Branding Report: COVID-19 Editionnow “it’s more important than ever that brands present themselves with one unified voice and remain close to their brand values”. The survey indicates that 53% of respondents believe that developing new messages, content and campaigns in direct response to coronavirus is their highest brand-related priority.

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With branding, large companies can follow the example of startups – be flexible, be innovative, be versatile

If we’re talking about how to adapt to customers, the expert insists that you have to be essential and adjust to the new reality. For example, remote working is here to stay and “for that consumer in their home, everything has changed”. In the fintech environment, startups will have to adapt to those new scenarios in which the financial needs of users and the situations in which they consume products and services are changing. If the audience changes, then the brand strategy has to as well.

The key to everything and for everyone – continual adaptation

Whilst for all companies it’s key to adapt their brand to the times in which we are living, branding firms like The Woork Co have also seen that they have to “be flexible to be able to be agile”, Botella suggests. In the current context, we can infer that companies, particularly SMEs, demand agility to be able to “adopt positions facing the competition that is coming their way”. Here, large companies can follow the example of startups – being flexible, innovative and versatile.

Botella concludes: “Coronavirus is going to mean that many organisations have to take a long hard look at themselves and reflect on whether they had a brand strategy, and if they did, whether it continues to be valid in the face of what’s to come. We have to review and adapt our processes to help manage the brand”. A lesson that applies to all companies. Be adaptable and you’ll win. Be agile and you’ll win. The same goes for your branding.

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