Adapt to survive: Why brands should maintain a presence in uncertain times

There is a lot going on right now, from COVID-19 to ‎#BlackLivesMatter. With brands unsure about if and how to continue activities in these uncertain times, we look at the importance of maintaining a strong presence and ways to connect with consumers as we emerge from lockdown. 

Why it’s important to maintain a presence

“Substantial empirical evidence suggests that increasing advertising during a recession leads to increases in market share and sales.”
Tellis G & Tellis K — A Critical Review and Synthesis of Research on Advertising in a Recession, JoAR April 2009

In uncertain times, brands that maintain a strong presence and adapt their messaging to be more relevant have real opportunities to increase their share of voice and build their brand at an accelerated pace. 

Rewind to the 2008 recession and last major global crisis. Brands that worked to increase their share of voice outperformed brands that were less invested by five times, across key areas such as profit and price share.1

Meanwhile, brands are now reporting a direct correlation between campaign relevance and an increase in positive brand drivers, showing the effectiveness of adapting messages to the current situation.2

And in a world emerging from COVID-19, this is more important than ever, as people instinctively turn towards the brands they know and trust.

“Our overall view is as markets start to open up this desire to really return to familiar favorites, to brands that are known, is very, very powerful.”
Chris Kempczinski, CMO, McDonald’s

The time is now

The truth is, appetite for brand connections hasn’t gone away. Just 8% of Twitter users believe that brands shouldn’t be advertising right now, while more than half agree that adverts bring them a sense of normality.

At the same time, COVID-19 mentions are dropping. In fact, 95% of conversations now taking place on Twitter are not COVID-19 related, as people return to previously popular topics like entertainment and health.3 Brands are also seeing their COVID-19 campaigns being outperformed by traditional campaigns across key metrics.4

This all tells us that the best time to build connections with consumers is right now.

Ways to maximise your presence

There are two key ways brands can maximise their presence in uncertain times: 

  • Launch something new 

  • Connect with what’s happening

Launch something new

COVID-19 hasn’t changed the types of launches happening; it’s changed the context they are happening in. 

So, before launching anything within this new context, brands now need to ask themselves some key questions:

1. Is the planned launch more or less relevant?
2. Do we need to reference the ‘new normal’?
3. Do we need to adapt to remain relevant as customers’ needs change?

Twitter has become a key platform to help brands meet their launch KPIs, and new launches are one of the most successful ways to leverage Twitter audiences. 

Here are some great examples:

To feed people’s appetite for entertainment, BBC created an innovative challenge experience for the launch of the new series of Race Across the World.

Cadbury’s found a new way to maintain its brand purpose — spreading generosity and kindness — to raise support for older people during lockdown.

Verizon chose actions over words, launching the #PayItForwardLIVE streaming entertainment series to support small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Connect with what’s happening

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, we have also seen a massive increase in Tweets about #BlackLivesMatter globally. As part of that movement, we have witnessed many powerful Tweets appearing on the platform. These include those from @MarcusRashford, whose Tweet led to a reversal of government policy. 

The way we access the things we care about and the ways we come together have changed. Events are moving online, new trends are emerging (look at the rise in home cooking), and occasions and movements are taking on more significance.

To continue to find powerful ways to connect, brands must understand this new context and ask the following questions:

1. What conversations and moments have always mattered to my customers, and how have they changed?
2. How can we help people connect with the things they love?
3. Do we have a role to play in new and emerging trends?

Connecting with what’s happening drives cultural relevance — a key factor in a consumer’s purchase decision.5 In fact, 61% of US consumers say that how a brand acts during this time will affect whether they will purchase from that brand in the future.6

Here are some great examples of how brands are connecting in the ‘new normal’: 

Tesco used the rise in home cooking to revisit its longstanding #FoodLoveStories platform, by using real stories to connect people.

IKEA showed us just how versatile a chair can be.

Dove’s powerful #CourageIsBeautiful campaign highlighted the sacrifices being made by frontline health workers.

1. Advertising in a recession — Long, Short or Dark. Peter Field, April 2020
2. Protein + Opinium Q1 2018
3. Twitter Internal Data. Global. Timeframe: March Avg. vs. April Avg. Twitter Insiders. US Only, April 9-13, 2020, n=727
4. Traditional Messaging Campaigns and COVID-related Messaging Campaigns (March 15, 2020 - May 10, 2020)
5. MAGNA & Twitter "The Impact of Culture" research, 2019, US/CA/BR/UK
6. Trust Barometer Special Report: Brand Trust and the Coronavirus Pandemic, Edelman, March 2020

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