6 Jul 2020

Thoughts in Progress #2

In this next series of Thoughts in Progress, Superunion Madrid Head of Strategy, Almudena Clemente, offers thoughts for brands to consider during coronavirus. 

Is your brand living up to new expectations?

During recent months, never have we seen or experienced so much change in such a short time. Two currents of thought have emerged from the social and structural changes we are seeing: those who believe that a better, more united and conscious society will emerge from this crisis, and those who think that nothing will change and will forget everything we have suffered and learned - from protectionism or disbelief, to innovation, sustainability, solidarity and teamwork. 

It's still too soon to know. But that doesn't mean we're not thinking, and here are some of the things we're thinking about at the moment. Some may be important points. Some may be distractions that will look odd in a year's time. But if they help anyone else with their thinking at a turbulent time, that's great. Welcome to 'Thoughts in Progress'. 

A new paradigm 

Time will tell which changes will remain and which will be forgotten in the New Normal, but inevitably this has had and will continue to have an emotional impact on our lives. 

In a society where we never had time for anything, we suddenly have time for everything; from getting bored, to rediscovering old hobbies or taking up new ones (who hasn't baked a cake or a loaf of bread during lockdown?) 

This has also been a time of reflection. In these last weeks, consumer expectations have changed, society has evolved and matured, appealing to individual and collective change. Values which, a few months ago, we considered emerging (solidarity, collaboration, commitment and empathy) in the blink of an eye have become basic and fundamental. We have discovered the true value of solidarity, collaboration, commitment and empathy. 

Actions, not words

A large number of companies, especially those with more resources, are already demonstrating this empathy, willingness to collaborate and commitment to society, which poses a new competitive context in all sectors. It implies that brands must review their role and promise in the face of an ever more demanding society, against and even more complex and uncertain social and economic backdrop than before. 

However, if this crisis has taught businesses anything, it's that almost all of them have acted in the same way. Most big companies have launched almost identical communication campaigns, addressing the difficult times we are experiencing, letting us know they are by our side and that we will get through this together. Without the different closing logos, we would hardly notice a difference. 

New standards for our brands

Therefore, in the face of new market circumstances, it's important to articulate a narrative that allows brands to highlight the positive contributions they have made during this crisis and push to continue in the future. From the deepest change of commitment to society and the challenges to come. 

A new brand positioning, according to the new standards, will allow businesses to naturally assimilate these essential values, and to continue to build their brand from a new relevant and differential perspective for this new era. 

This exercise may well have different derivatives or implications. But there are specific steps brands can take to ensure they are ready for the new expectations:

1. Brand platform - Positioning, values, brand personality etc. Businesses must ensure that this new social dimension is part of their brand DNA and an integral ingredient in its brand strategy. 

2. Purpose - For brands that do not have a clear purpose, this would be the ideal time to define it and make it the guiding star. 

3. Brand narrative - Enrich the narrative with a discourse that aligns with its brand platform, is distinguishable among stakeholders and which aligns internal and external communications. 

4. Internal culture - Inspire and promote company culture and people behaviour. Imbue them with this renewed positioning, stimulating internal engagement and attract new or potential talent. 

Ultimately, whatever a brand's positioning is today, it is important to review and remain competitive in this new context. It's not about changing who you are or who you want to be as a brand, but about being more empathetic and proactive with the world around us, naturally implementing this new perspective into organisations. Because society now expects it, and because any brand will compete better in a healthy social context in which everyone, brands and society, moves forward towards the future together.