Getting ahead of the curve: managing brand in a crisis

by Rowland

Published on
October 23, 2020

On the path to finding purpose in today’s chaotic business landscape, it’s never been so important for companies to return to what they know best — their core beliefs.

Harnessing the power of authenticity and staying true to brand values is not only pertinent in driving operational decision making, but has proven crucial in cementing companies’ image, reputation and positioning in the minds of consumers during this time of uncertainty.

But in a landscape saturated with purpose-driven messages and marketing, getting the brand mix — purpose, values, promises, personality, culture and identity — right is as challenging as it is critical.

So, what tools do you need to balance the brand mix? In our latest discussion forum, our panel of senior corporate affairs professionals and brand managers delve into how their brands are performing in light of the pandemic, and how they’re using their brand as a platform for purpose to build and maintain the trust of their most critical audiences.

Our panellists included:

  • Anthony Nowak — General Manager, Fundraising, Marketing and Communications, St Vincent de Paul Society QLD
  • Alison Smith — Group Executive External Affairs, The Star Entertainment Group
  • Meg Rayner — Media Manager, Coles
  • Melissa Lemberg — Specialist Advisor for Brand, Rowland

We put forward two questions to our panellists — Have your customers changed their behaviour and their expectations of your brand? How have you adapted your brand strategy to accommodate any shifts?

Here are some of the highlights from the discussion.

Anthony Nowak — General Manager, Fundraising, Marketing and Communications, St Vincent de Paul Society QLD

COVID-19 caused us to pivot quickly and close more than 100 of our shops — to navigate through that we remained agile and responsive, listened to the news and were open to speaking on topical social issues.

Alison Smith — Group Executive External Affairs, The Star Entertainment Group

No matter what industry you are in, the best thing you can do for your brand is understand the needs of your customers during a crisis and meet those needs the best you can — this comes down to robust governance, education, identifying risks and staying on top of mitigation measures.

Meg Rayner — Media Manager, Coles

Our entire business model changed due to panic buying, and we had to pivot more than many other brands to address this — our communication was essential to inform our customers and stakeholders of the operational changes.

Melissa Lemberg — Specialist Advisor for Brand, Rowland

It’s never okay to divert from your brand promise. You can change how you deliver on this promise in line with the changing needs of your audiences, but consistency is the shining light that helps drive your communication and operations.

Getting ahead of the curve: Managing brand in a crisis from Rowland. on Vimeo.

Short on time? We’ve summarised even more from the video here:

While all the panellists represent different industries and backgrounds, some common themes emerged:

  • The need to pivot was clear, and it had to happen quickly — many businesses were forced to pivot due to the effects of COVID-19, whether this was through communication or organisation operations.
  • Communication with stakeholders had to be consistent and regular — during times of uncertainty, communication had to remain frequent — even while many organisations were experiencing redundancies.
  • Authenticity through crisis is key — now is not the time for brands to pretend to be something they’re not, remaining authentic instils trust in your audience during challenging times.