Trying Times Bring Out The Best In (People) Brands

Mai Bautista, Mutant Media Group

Reconnect.
I’ve always been apprehensive of video calls (except for work-related ones). I’ve never been a fan of chatting with people face on over a small screen. Seeing those faces waiting to hear something conversation-worthy from me to keep the interest spontaneous makes me anxious. I just don’t like that feeling. It simply threatens my closeted introversion.

However, I had to face this apprehension while on lockdown. I had to convince myself that reconnecting with my family and friends through video calls is necessary and is the only means to keep everyone’s sanity.

Calls were then scheduled; participants were invited. It made me time conscious reaching the homestretch. Call me exaggerated but I honestly heard the clock ticking. My heart raced; palms were sweaty. And then finally, the inevitable happened.

At first it was weird to see most of my almost estranged friends in one frame. It’s been a while since we’ve all been “together”. Kicked off with the usual his, hellos and whatnots. It took a few minutes for all parties to get settled and feel warm, and when we did, boy the chatting just never stopped! We talked about everything – from dinner menus, exchanging recipes to gossiping about some people we knew. From babies and loss of sleep, to hypertension and hypothyroidism, to looking back to the old times and the way we were. We had such a great time that we had to make 3 free Zoom calls one after the other. It was so much fun that I even initiated scheduling another video conference! It felt great to talk to people I’ve always known. It was nice to be once again “surrounded” by people who have known me and have been sharing the same experiences, values and interests. It felt good to know that in a noisy world where everyone is busy trying to just make it, or be somebody of value and relevance, there are those who still know my core. They made me feel recognized, appreciated and loved. It felt amazing to reconnect and I’m really glad I did.

Self-preserve.
This global health crisis is indeed taking toll on our well-being holistically. To keep our heads above the turbulent waters, I believe that self-preservation should be our priority now above anything else. Sure, treat ourselves with nicely cooked Pinterest-worthy meals. Indulge ourselves with long warm tub baths. Unfollow toxic people on social media. Binge watch for days while in our favorite worn-out pjs. But the self-preservation I am talking about is more profound than that. It goes beyond the superficial and digs deep to the recesses of our true core. To self-preserve is to familiarize ourselves again with our strengths and weaknesses. To self-preserve is to find our own heroes to battle our demons. To self-preserve is to know our own brands once again and accept who we are, and who we are not. To self-preserve is to recalibrate how we position our own brands, and we can only do so by reconnecting – first, introspectively and then outwardly to the people we serve and impact.

Humanize the brand.
Just like people, brands and companies need to reconnect and self-preserve. Times are indeed downright scary. There is that lingering fear of the unknown. We do not know when things will resume to the normalcy we’ve been accustomed to. Maybe there will even be a new normal, we are unsure. In response, a reflex action: operations are put to a halt; budgets are kept hostage until further notice; brands and companies cut back on marketing efforts and initiatives to sell. I myself agree that these are all commercially and morally sensible. But I also believe that there is something else brands and companies can do now - reconnect and validate customer relationships.

People need people to survive, that is just plain human nature. Now more than ever, brands need to show empathy to its customers to show that they understand what they are going through; that they share the same struggles and at the same time reassuring them that there is redemption. Communication has never been more important than times like these. The worst thing a brand can do now is to go incommunicado. Silence will not just add more disparity among customers but will also put to waste the already established brand equity and affinity that brand owners have been painstakingly building for a very long time. Now is the perfect time to build brands, and it doesn’t take much effort to accomplish such, logistically and monetarily.

Listen well, communicate well.
Reconnect. Listen to what your customers are saying. Hear out their pains and understand their situation. Leverage on this knowledge to relate our brands to their stories. Is there something we can do? Is there a solution we can provide in the interim? Knowing that our current situation is different from what we have been used to, how can our brands adapt and innovate to better customers’ ways? Show them we care and give them a solution.

Once we are clear with our objectives, craft the messaging that they will understand into forms that they patronize. Do our customers fan over humor? Do our customers like to watch educational videos? Are they visually stimulated and rave over beautiful infographics? What kind of stories do they want to hear?

When we finally arrive to some clarity about what we want to say, how do we make sure that these messages come across? Do customers utilize our websites as a hub for useful information? Do they prefer using WhatsApp to inquire, or maybe even purchase products and services? Do emails still work for them? Do they spend hours scrolling curated content on Instagram? What we want is to be where the customers exactly are, not where we feel it’s more convenient for us.

Come to a full circle.
Times may have been changed by this pandemic. But people are still people. Our customers are still our customers. Our brands have not changed. Brands vis-à-vis customers is still about understanding human psyche and behavior and how we appeal to it. Now more than ever, brands need to be able to reconnect to self-preserve; listen well to empathize; be consistent with keeping dialogues open. All these to sustain and nurture customer relationships, because only then can we bring out the best in brands even at the worst times. Only then will the magic happen. Times may be cloudy but there will always be that silver lining.

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