As the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) forces Barbadians to retreat indoors, impacting on the viability of many local businesses, there is a burgeoning sub-economy of isolation-friendly global businesses thriving. The stock prices of brands such as Netflix, Blue Apron, Zoom and Peleton have all surged. But this newfound prosperity may be far removed from your reality. If you’re a manager, executive, entrepreneur, business leader, owner/partner or investor you’re probably white-knuckling your way through every operational decision. The white elephant in the room is “will my brand survive the fall-out from the Covid-19 outbreak?” With the exception of cashflow, your “brand” or as I like to describe it in protracted terms, your stakeholder relationships (staff, customers, partners), reputation, product and service demand, stakeholder confidence (investors, shareholders), ENPS & NPS, net present value/future demand, will determine your operation’s survival.
Your brand, i.e. all those essential attributes that give your organization purpose and reason for being will be your anchor in the months ahead. Not only is your brand the single most valuable asset you can leverage to survive this new quarantine and isolation economy but its resilience, elasticity and adaptability will allow you to weather the social, political, regulatory and macro-economic forces that will threaten your organization’s continuance in the coming weeks.
Here are a few tips to ensure your brand will be around when the crisis abates:
- Become A Humanitarian Brand & A Social Enterprise: Use this period as an opportunity to redefine your purpose as an organization. We will all be financially impacted and very few P&Ls will look rosy this fiscal, so forget about profits and focus on making the well-being of employees and customers your priority. Whatever you can do, however little (or major) will go a long way in preserving livelihoods. A brand has no future without constituents and if they’re sidelined you will feel it too. So restructure to ensure you can shield the communities you serve from the fall out. Formulate a plan to offer support services to staff and customers, whether in the form of advice, counselling, financial assistance (loans, grants, special allowances), support services such as delivery, special transport and care packages (toiletries, personal care items, groceries). This will provide added social security and make your brand more relevant as the crisis worsens.
- Evolve To A People-Centric Brand: Place people at the core of your operational ethos to maintain the purpose of your brand. If you remain purely functional and utilitarian in your approach, your stakeholders will become emotionally disengaged and disconnected. You will lose that ever so critical share of emotional mind space you occupied in their thoughts and feelings. Beef up your communications and stakeholder engagement with helpful content that will cultivate deeper relationships. The key is to remain front-of-mind because once economic activity returns you want to be right there.
- Make Your Brand An Essential Community Service: Determine what derivatives can stem from your current offerings to spawn new categories of essential products and services. Consider the rapidly evolving fears, anxieties and emotional needs of your customers and adapt to cater to their priorities. Remember, if your brand is not viewed as essential it will be difficult to remain relevant in this new crisis economy.
- Become A Brand That Lives To Solve Problems: If your brand character can transition to a thought-based platform that yearns to identify issues affecting your stakeholders, this can spark innovative ideation and problem solving that will inform how you repurpose assets and functions to meet the increasing social needs of your customers.
- Take A Philosophical Approach: Get your people thinking and not reacting. This is a time to gain perspective and to carefully consider what lies ahead. Think through all the various scenarios and eventualities to seek inspiring solutions that will allow you to effectively augment. These capricious times will call for a significant degree of reimagining, reinvention and refashioning in order to survive. Whether you want to accept it, your business will have to evolve and this starts with strategic thinking.
- Develop A Freemium Brand: Freemiumise your brand and redefine your value proposition to maintain product/service demand even in a depressed economy. The key is to ensure you remain a part of your customers and stakeholders lives no matter how financially challenging the situation becomes. Determine new ways your brand can create value even in the midst of the current constraints. In some instances you may have to create offerings that are sold at cost or provided for free simply to keep customers engaged. But if you’re creative you may actually discover ways to even monetize the new value centers you develop for customers.
- Take Your Brand Virtual: there are way too many tech tools at your disposal to not to have at least some component of your product/service go virtual. In the new isolation economy access is king and if every aspect of your operation requires physical interaction you’ll be placed at a disadvantage. Whether it’s advisory services, instructional and coaching products (troubleshooting, DIY solutions, virtual assistants) or simply home delivery, determine what novel forms of your offering can be obtained remotely.
- Turn Your Brand Into A Passion: When you turn your brand into a passion you can create an entire movement, a community of advocates and loyal supporters. If your stakeholders become this emotionally invested in your brand they won’t imagine life without you. And with that, they will do all they can to ensure you survive.
Some of the worlds’ most successful brands, especially those in the 100 year club like Kellogg’s, P&G, Coca Cola, 3M and GE, have adopted these principles to not only win against the competition but to survive financial crises, economic depressions, global pandemics, international wars and political movements. These brands have not just simply endured; they have thrived. The world of business is speculative and unpredictable and no one knows what the future holds. But if history can be our greatest lesson, know that the Covid-19 pandemic will pass and the economy will return. And whilst nothing is assured, appreciate that the best recourse in facing an uncertain future is creating security not only for your organization but for the society at large.
Stay safe my friends!