Trusted brands have the extraordinary power to project stability and competence amid chaos.

mayo 29, 2020

BRAND FAITH in a time of social crisis

(Brand stories / Research World)

By Susan Schartz McDonald

Brand passions can run deep, a guiding credo of contemporary marketing that’s really as old as the history of the discipline.

“It turns out that devotion to brands as an idea may help sustain cultural stability in a society under extreme duress.”

Brand faith and cultural resilience

We are clearly in a time of crisis like no other in modern history. The scale and gravity of the threat to cultural wellness seem unprecedented. Some of the new behaviors required – particularly separation from others – present challenges not just to our society but even to our evolutionary biology.

Like individuals confronting adverse life circumstances, cultures facing cataclysmic disruption display varying degrees of resilience. Ethnographers describe cultural resilience in terms of a society’s ability to withstand significant deprivation or challenge, like wars and famine, and to adapt effectively to changing circumstances. Factors that have been shown to make cultures more resilient include faith-based institutions, family ties, and strong traditions.

“Brands are part of the shared system of semiotics binding us together as a culture – and that makes brand resilience a driver of cultural resilience. How brands talk to us will influence their destiny… and potentially ours.”

For us today, the internet and the power of “virtuality” are proving to be life-lines. There are a host of other factors helping to sustain us ‒ cultures are complex, adaptive organisms ‒ but one key resilience factor we might not necessarily have anticipated is our relationship with brands. Familiar, trusted brands have an extraordinary power to project stability and competence amid chaos ‒ especially when government is not thought to be operating in fully effective ways. In that sense, the role of brands in this environment elevates our calling as marketers.

Brands are shoulder-to-shoulder with us ‒ clearly not invincible but still a source of endurance and strength. Their continuing signals reassure us that even when so much seems desperately wrong with the world, things can still be made right, for instance…

A RECENT SURVEY of 500 US consumers conducted by NAXION to monitor these issues provides some insight into the cultural role that brand communications may play in the struggle to achieve a (new) normalcy.*

Vital signs

Whether or not we follow brands on social media, we are all rooting for the future of brands we care about and considering what it might mean if they were lost forever from our lives. While viewed as stabilizing institutions, brands are also recognized by consumers as vulnerable themselves, prompting consumers to want to hear signals from them that they are optimistic about their own survival as well as ours.

* Our survey was conducted in April 2020.

Brands need to defend their relationships by continuing to connect and reinforce their indispensability on a personal level.

¿So what should effective brands be doing to help consumers keep faith in this time of crisis?

As many companies consider whether to “go dark” now, it will be important to assess the tradeoffs of withdrawing from visibility and stay mindful of what resilience looks and sounds like to consumers across the cultural landscape – even if it feels a bit like whistling in the dark.

  • First, be there. Communicate often and well. The themes that play best are care, concern, empathy, and responsibility. Seem, and truly be, responsible to your community of customers and employees. You can feature your storied brand history if you have one, but there is literally no time like the present. Be in it, be realistic, but be optimistic about the future. Whatever you do, don’t stop signaling.
  • Help your customers cope. Valuable forms of support can be both literal and gestural. Consumers are expressing appreciation for rebates and service accommodations, of course ‒ but they are also struck by small things that seem big- hearted. In our survey, calls or messages simply expressing appreciation for payment were flagged as the sort of endearing gesture that raised companies in customer esteem.
  • Integrate safe behaviors in all your communications. In the absence of clear guidelines, consumers are actually looking to companies for rules of the road as they think about whether and how to leave their homes to resume patterns of “live” consumption. Ads have always been vectors of subliminal social cues about how to behave. This is a time to stockpile feelings of trust in the integrity of private enterprise as well as particular brands.
  • Take the opportunity to be real. Consumers like seeing your employees and your CEO. We are all improvising now; all of us learning as we go. There’s nothing wrong with polish but dropping the drape to show your backstage is the sort of informality that creates a deep human connection at a time when we’ve been the missing the chance to hug people we love.
  • Define brand participation as community. That means encouraging your customers to see themselves as connected to one another and fostering that sense of affiliation. This is one reason that demonstration of care for employees has been a significant motivator for consumers and has helped to remediate some of the industry’s damaged reputations (like Walmart). It’s important to leverage local thinking where you can. Large corporations should project the brawn of big business but also let consumers hear the beating heart of the local community in their advertising.

Where we go from here

Normalcy is not a point in time for us now but a process of redefinition. Reality will have a half-life of just weeks and months, as we work to re-establish norms. To keep signaling in relevant ways, brands will need both creativity and sensitivity. This still-unfolding crisis is a critical opportunity for marketers to reinforce the mutual interdependence between consumers and brands.

Market research is the ideal way to measure the intensity of brand trustworthiness.

#brandbuilding #advertising #marketresearch #marketing #research #consultoria #consulting #investigacion #comunicación #insights #consumers #semiotics


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1 comentario en “Trusted brands have the extraordinary power to project stability and competence amid chaos.”

  1. Ricardo Cáceres

    Me encanta lo de la devoción a las marcas como «idea» para sostener una estabilidad cultural. Sin duda el valor de la marca denotado en el Equity tiene un papel que desempeñar.

    En esta época es donde veremos un «valor no dimensionado previamente» hacia algunas de las marcas a las que somos más afines, se hará presente una lealtad afianzada en valores que comparten (Esencia de marca), pero ojo, coincido que las marcas deberán hacerse presentes y no mostrarse oportunistas, sino cercanas y empáticas.

    Gran artículo.

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