Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic seems to only have just gotten started. It is becoming clear that, even once the curve has flattened, we have a long way to go before we return to normal. However, that doesn’t mean that brands can’t start preparing now for the post-corona landscape. Below are three ways that we expect the pandemic to affect the branding landscape.
Businesses Will Be Cashing In On Goodwill (Or Paying The Price For Negligence)
Throughout the current pandemic, many businesses have found themselves thrown into situations that they could never have anticipated, even in their wildest dreams. Some businesses have risen to the challenge admirably, while others have seriously let down their customers and their communities at large. We have all read news articles detailing both the missteps and the triumphs of businesses who have either kept their heads held high and done what they can for others or tried to shamelessly exploit the current circumstances for their own financial gain.
There are also businesses that have simply been careless in their approach to responding to the coronavirus outbreak. GameStop is a clear example of this, an obviously non-essential business that fought tooth and nail to keep its employees showing up to work, handling goods that people wanted to trade in, and offering them nothing in the way of personal protection, all the while insisting that it was providing an essential service to the community.
In the post-coronavirus landscape, there will undoubtedly be a reckoning for any businesses that have behaved less than admirably during this crisis. Any brand that is openly exploiting the current situation or failing to adequately protect its employees and customers is incurring a debt that will eventually need to be paid. Given the universal impact of the coronavirus – no one has been spared from its effects – there is little reason to think that consumers will readily forgive brands that have failed to do their bit to help stem its spread.
However, the inverse of this is also true – brands that have stepped up and shown themselves to be conscientious and alert to the role that they have to play in managing the outbreak are accruing a level of goodwill that is unlike anything that we have seen before. Even the smallest acts of corporate kindness count for a lot given the gravity and the scale of the crisis before us. Once this outbreak is finally put to rest, or at least bought under enough control that a sense of normalcy can return, these businesses will be able to cash in on all that goodwill.
Treatment Of Workers Will Be A Core Component Of Branding Going Forward
It’s hard to think of another crisis since the second world war that has been so indiscriminate in its effect. The impact of the 2008 financial crisis was widespread, but it was not as universal as that of Covid-19. One of the few silver linings to this outbreak is that it has fostered a sense of unity and camaraderie among workers across the globe, irrespective of the usual dividers of class and wealth.
Of course, the impact has not been evenly spread – some people have been hit much harder than others. But even so, every worker in the countries most affected by the coronavirus understands one another’s struggles and anxieties. In most countries, businesses have had little choice about whether to shut down for the duration of the outbreak. However, they have had some degree of control over the impact that their shutdown has on their workers.
The result of this is that consumers are currently much more attentive to the way that the brands they use treat their workers. While it is hard to predict exactly what the long-term effect of Covid-19 will be on consumer attitudes, it seems very likely that, at least in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, the way that brands are perceived to treat their workers will be a more important consideration than it has been in the past.
When the economy finally begins to return to normal, there will be a lot of businesses looking to fill vacancies that have arisen, for one reason or another, over the course of the pandemic. Businesses and brands who are now associated with the poor or callous treatment of their workers during this period are going to have a much harder time recruiting, while other brands are suddenly going to be much more attractive prospects for job hunters.
How long consumers’ memories will be remains to be seen. However, there are a significant number of workers who are now going to be much more attentive to the issues surrounding the treatment of workers. Brands can capitalize on this shift in attitudes by making it clear to consumers and employees alike that they value their workers and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure their wellbeing.
An Emphasis On Community Value
We all know how fickle the changes in societal attitudes that follow major crises can be – within a matter of weeks or months, people tend to forget about what has happened and return to their pre-crisis attitudes. However, with a protracted crisis like the Coronavirus outbreak, these shifts in attitudes are going to have longer to embed themselves in our collective psyche. Previously, prolonged crises in human history have led to longer-term shifts in behavior and attitudes. Now that we have all seen the value of community-focused businesses, consumers are inevitably going to be demanding community value going forward.
In the post-corona economy, a focus on community value is going to carry significant weight and this is something that brands across the board will want to take advantage of. Focusing on communities enables businesses to provide value to consumers that goes beyond the products and services that they offer, and this has now been demonstrated conclusively to their audiences. Any business whose brand is associated with this kind of communal spirit is going to seem like a much more attractive option to consumers.
These are deeply uncertain times, so we all need to be careful about making hard and fast predictions about the future. However, looking at the way that consumers have responded to the behavior of businesses during this crisis, we can say with some confidence that brands who embody the qualities outlined above are going to be much more popular.