The Effects of COVID-19 on Brand Marketing and Ways to Adapt

The coronavirus pandemic has affected how companies market their brands across all industries. We’ll take you through brand marketing data and research amidst the age of COVID-19 and how to improve your strategy.

  1. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected major brands
  2. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer trust
  3. How brands can adapt to the effects of COVID-19: a summary
  4. Further reading
Table of contents
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
  1. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected major brands
  2. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer trust
  3. How brands can adapt to the effects of COVID-19: a summary
  4. Further reading
6-minute read

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our way of life, including how audiences perceive company brands and marketing. Based on recent facts and research, this article will help you to tune your branding to make it more effective during the age of COVID-19.

How COVID-19 has affected major brands

FutureBrand, a trusted brand-transformation consultancy, conducted a survey during quarantine, putting a spotlight on the values cherished by the consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to their research, companies that perform excellently are companies that:

  • "Take big brands in distinctive directions and that act with genuine authenticity and personality"
  • "Are prepared to think unconventionally to do the right thing"
  • "Really think beyond profit, not just say it"
  • "Prioritize customers and their needs even if it means forging a different path to rival firms"
  • "Are focused in on sectors that will be fundamental to human life in the future"
  • "Care about their own people as intently as their customers, including a firm commitment to diversity and inclusion"
  • "Realize the true value of an open culture that fosters a happy and productive workforce"
  • "Embrace innovation, change, and agility to maintain resilience in the face of fast-moving, sector-specific, national, and international events"

People putting hands together for teamwork
Consumers prefer companies that do something to take care of them, the society, and the environment.

The sectors studied were the Consumer Goods & Services, Technology, Healthcare, Financial, and Industrials, Telco, Oil & Gas. Some of the sectors benefited from the pandemic by improving their brand images while other sectors suffered due to long-standing brand perception issues, even among sectors that suffered, individual companies managed to rise up in ranking. 

Even the companies that fell down places in the ranking aren't all lost either; in some aspects, they saw massive improvements due to their actions. Some of the companies listed in the charts are the following:

  • One of the new entrants to the Top 100 charts is AstraZeneca, currently conducting trials of a potential vaccine against COVID-19. In contrast, the biggest loser in the charts is Gilead Sciences, the producer of Remdesivir, currently under trials as a potential antiviral against COVID-19. It suffered from the bad press due to its decisions to sell the drug exclusively to the US Government and to ramp up its price. 
  • Royal Dutch Shell, one of the biggest multinational companies involved in fossil fuel exploration and trade, was the biggest winner in the charts, moving 59 steps up. This is partly due to its expansion to the renewable energy industry and its pledge to become a net-zero carbon company. However, SINOPEC, a Chinese company also engaged in fossil fuel exploration and trade, dropped off the charts. 
  • Apple is the number one company in the charts. Apple managed to maintain its brand perception that it inherited from the time of Steve Jobs. Facebook, on the other hand, fell to number 37 from its peak at number 11 in 2004. Facebook suffered from data privacy scandals, the most prominent being its connections with Cambridge Analytica.
The most important lesson from the FutureBrand Top 100 Charts is that the financial well-being of a company is tied to its brand perception, but financial well-being does not assure a good brand perception. 

These results point out to changes in brand perception among consumers, including us. You probably agree with the points raised above; I do as well! We can learn more by considering another survey conducted on brand perception...

How COVID-19 pandemic affected consumer trust

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the trust of brands? Edelman produced a report titled Trust and the COVID-19 Pandemic to tackle this issue. The observations can be summarized into three ideas:

1. The consumers are watching how brands present themselves during the global pandemic.

Consumers are willing to support brands that respond well to the crisis and punish brands that don’t. Here are specific stats: 

  • 65% said, “How well a brand responds to this crisis will have a huge impact on my likelihood to buy that brand in the future.”
  • 33% said, “I have convinced other people to stop using a brand that I felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic.”
  • 37% said, “I have recently started using a new brand because of the innovative or compassionate way they have responded to the virus outbreak.”
  • 71% said, “Brands and companies that I see placing their profits before people during this crisis will lose my trust forever.”

2. Businesses should take responsibility to help the people during the pandemic.

Consumers do not believe that businesses should prioritize profit above everything else, but instead, be a good partner in improving the quality of human life. Here are specific stats: 

  • 78% of the respondents say that businesses have a responsibility to ensure their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and do not spread the virus into the community.
  • 90% of the respondents believe that brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends.
  • 86% of the respondents argue that brands should be a safety net, stepping in where they are needed and able, to fill gaps in the government’s response to the virus.
  • 89% of the respondents want brands to offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, high-risk individuals, and those whose jobs have been affected.

3. Brands should ensure their ads strike the right tones.

The COVID-19 crisis holds a special challenge to the mental and psychological well-being of the consumers, and so the right message will help them cope during the crisis.  Here are specific stats:

  • 84% of the respondents think brands should use social media channels to facilitate a sense of community and offer social support to people.
  • 57% of the respondents want brands to stop any advertising or marketing that is humorous or too lighthearted in tone.
  • 42% of the respondents believe brands should avoid escapist advertising showing people gathered together using their products and having a good time.

Do these ideas resonate with you? We are part of this change in brand perception, already occurring for years due to increased awareness of environmental and human issues, further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. What can we do to ride on this wave of change in brand perception today?

How brands can adapt to the effects of COVID-19: a summary

Group joined by holding hands
Outreach to your local community is one good step towards improving your brand perception.

Even with the global economy hitting the rocks during the pandemic, this has been the golden moment for some companies to improve the perception of their brands. Even if you have a small business, you don’t have to make grand plans to get this done. You can do the following to help boost your brand today:

  1. Identify your audience through consumer surveys, helping you gauge their needs and wants, and how your brand is perceived. If you are venturing into eCommerce, our guide to eCommerce niches can help you get started.
  2. Keep your audience by maintaining a positive connection with them. Social media sites are now used to keep the connection alive. Use it well!
  3. Venture into social causes by identifying the most cherished causes by your audience. Besides venturing to causes relevant to the audience, you should also include doing actions that will help your audience survive the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  4. Leverage user-generated content related to the brand, primarily customer reviews, to further boost your connection with your audience.
  5. Keep your feet on the ground by continuously conducting surveys and listening to your audience through social media channels. 

Further reading

You can learn more about improving your brand perception in 2020 from these articles:

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  1. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected major brands
  2. How COVID-19 pandemic has affected consumer trust
  3. How brands can adapt to the effects of COVID-19: a summary
  4. Further reading