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content strategy during covid 19

Do Brands Need to Modify Their Voice or Tone During Global Crises?

Our guest blogger Ashmita Bhattacharya writes

When brands communicate with audiences, they don’t just present dry facts. The emotion and personality that’s infused in their content is called the ‘brand voice’. This conveys the brand’s personality and values to the external world and connects the audience with the brand. A brand’s voice remains the same, but the tone changes according to the situation. For example, a brand that has a voice that is always ‘trusted, knowledgeable, authentic’, may have a tone that ‘celebratory’ during festive times and somber when humanity faces some crisis.

While most brand management teams would have done a ‘brand voice definition’ exercise, the novel (and unprecedented, as we hear a thousand times each day) turn of events around the world, with the Covid-19 pandemic have necessitated a change in tone for many brands. Brands need to use their imaginations to find a tone that connects to people’s sentiments.

The role of brands at times like this is to connect with two primary factors. Firstly, how people might be ‘feeling’ in such trying times? Secondly, what can they do to keep themselves safe and uplifted? Surveys conducted to understand consumer expectations during times of crisis have found that what they look to brands to be the communicators at these times. Brands can embrace three specific strategies remain most relevant to consumers.

Empathetic Creativity 

What is empathetic creativity and how to go about it?

Brands can play an instrumental role in delivering accurate information about the crisis and how each one can battle it in their respective manner. For example, Uber created an ad showing how people are spending time at home to combat the pandemic. The star of the ad is the tagline, “Thank you for not riding Uber“. These six words deliver a humongous and impressive impact to their customers and the world at large. It keeps the brand in the minds of customers when they are not using it.

Another brand that got the tone right is Coca-Cola. Their ad started with “For the human race”, and expressed appreciation towards health officials treating the pandemic, as well as normal people finding their own ways to deal with the situation. Those following innovative social distancing measures, connecting with their neighbors in new ways, and many more instances. They close with the line “thank you for filling the glass with kindness and hope”.

The DoubleTree Hotel disclosed its signature cookie recipe to the world with the statement, “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness”. This simple strategy created a tone that conveyed empathy, comfort, and joy.

These brand-voice and tone strategies have been appreciated and accepted as they showcase a sense of positivity and hope.

Messaging and the Power of #Hashtags

The second strategy that can help your brand voice to resonate with audiences during the times of crisis is to modify the messaging to reflect the new challenges and realities that people are facing. For example, the laundry detergent Ariel promotes the #sharetheload and #sharethelaundry initiative to encourage men to share household responsibilities,  which became particularly relevant as both partners were working from home and many support services were not available during the lockdowns. Brands leveraged social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok to deliver these new messages. 

Brands and influencers devised new hashtags about life during a pandemic. Several hashtags such as #stayathomechallenge initiated by soccer players, #socialdistancing #quarantineandchill #stayhomestaysafe and many others were used by influencers and brands. Many of these resonated with audiences and helped content to become ‘viral’ (not a nice word anymore!) 

Employee Assistance

The third strategy that conveys your brand’s core values is how you are helping your own team members to deal with the pandemic. As many workers were affected,  either because their work exposed them to the risk of infection,  or because their earning capability was reduced,  many were in distress. How employers stepped up at this time had a huge impact on their brands. 

The health and psychological impact of the pandemic was compounded by the news of job cuts and layoffs. In this scenario some organizations provided support to employees while CEOs took pay cuts.  These actions went a long way in communicating that the brand genuinely cares about its people.

There is no doubt that getting the brand voice right during a pandemic requires a great deal of sensitivity, creativity, and an ethical approach. Those that get it right will further cement the emotional bond with their consumers.

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