June 15, 2020 The Work Crowd

How brand and design can help your business communicate in times of crisis

The current pandemic and the resulting lockdown and recession have challenged businesses and organisations the world over in terms of how they can effectively communicate, with all their audiences and particularly with their staff and customers.

With the stakes so high, effective communication and reputation management have never been more important.

There are many different mechanisms through which we can communicate, some of which are more obvious than others. For instance, brand and design are powerful forms of more subtle communication. We were curious to know how brand and design impacts reputation and what effect the Covid-19 crisis is having on these areas.

As always, we turned to our community of expert freelancers across branding, design and creative strategy to provide us with powerful insights on this topic…

Dave Chapman, freelance product and brand designer with a passion for marketing and strategy within the creative process:

“On a fundamental level, design is all about communication – how companies communicate their brand, their values, and their policies. In a post Covid-19 world, this is going to be more important than ever.

It’s easy to get carried away thinking that your brand is your logo, but it’s so much more than that. Your brand really is not something you own, rather it is something that is forged in the minds and hearts of your consumers. How do you want your company to be perceived after the current crisis? That’s where great design will come in.”

Chris Outlaw, Creative Director at Elements brand management with experience spanning branding, brand strategy, design and marketing:

Branding is more important now than it has ever been. It has always been about creating connection, meaning and resonance with your target audience and this is paramount right now. With standard marketing being extremely difficult in some industries to strike the right balance of relevancy at this time with enough empathy to make sure your particular campaign or offer isn’t insensitive or seen as opportunistic (although now the restrictions have lifted slightly this will begin to ease). This has meant a lot of companies have switched to more focus on brand awareness and connecting with their audience providing support, stability and empathy.

Now is a really good time to re-evaluate your short and long term brand strategy by looking at your core (heart) of your brand and working out why you exist beyond making a profit (purpose), what your long term goal is (vision), how you plan to achieve this (mission), what you stand for and how you behave (values) and how you differentiate from the competition (positioning). Once you’ve looked at this with the potential of pivoting or adapting to the current landscape you need to re-evaluate 1, the logic layer: how do you put this into action as a business; 2, the identity; how do we visually represent the core of our brand that will resonate with the target audience through design; and 3, the voice: how do we communicate our core brand to the target audience in a way that aligns with who we are as a brand. 

Design is critical to your brand’s effectiveness; unfortunately, the mistake a lot of brands make when thinking of design is they look to current trends or what the competition is doing rather than how to uniquely characterise what their brand stands for visually to be understood by the audience. Great design that comes from an authentic connection to the brand’s core builds trust and often has the feeling of just being right.”

Narcis Sauleda, a brand and graphic designer:

“The Coronavirus crisis has sped up the trend that we have seen for many years. In the world of branding, businesses have become brands themselves, something that we have already seen in the fashion industry for a long time.

We are now seeing it throughout a whole range of companies. The consumer has been educated and now has the power to purchase according to their beliefs. And many statistics show how customers are prepared to pay more for the added value (e.g. natural products or climate conscious goods). Having said that, there needs to be authentic value, not ‘greenwashing’. This new way of consuming is the main reason why branding is so important today and in the future. Businesses will have to engage with their customers at a human level.

Branding is not a pretty logo anymore; it goes from inside, why the company exists and expands out, understanding the customer and what they do better than anyone else. Only with this understanding, can you create a brand that speaks the same language, verbal and visual, as the customers you want, as a brand, to engage with.”

Helen Weller, packaging and creative designer working with cosmetic and beauty brands:

“There has been a strange buzz around new product development, with some brands rushing to get new products out and others having to put them on hold, as there have been issues with supply chains. Beauty brands generally though are quite resilient in times of crisis as they are an ‘affordable luxury’ and have had a firm grasp on e-commerce.

Good brand design has always been about creating relationships with your customer and clear honest communication is at the heart of that.

During this crisis, where brand loyalties have been stretched, brands that have been open about how they are looking after both their colleagues and customers will only have enhanced their reputations.

Looking ahead, particularly for the beauty industry, I feel customers may not be ready for newness for a while, but I do think people will expect existing brands to innovate and acknowledge a kind of new beginning after Covid-19. For designers, I think this will mean building very thoughtfully and carefully on positive brand values, but also take the opportunity to question existing conventions. We’re being told there is going to be a ‘new normal’ – in many ways that can be up to us to create.”

How can we help?

The Work Crowd is a network of professional freelancers working across marketing and communications. If you are looking for a brand refresh or help on your communications and reputation strategy, get in touch today.

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