The Debrief: the brand, a compass in times of crisis (webinar)

An Alven > Ogilvy Consulting exclusive webinar – Summary of May 26th session

Crisis situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic crystallize two fundamental objectives for executives: protecting  what’s there, and defining a clear objective to prepare for what’s next.

At the crossroads of these priorities lies a critical tool, sometimes forgotten about – the brand. Far from being only the visible, Marketing representation of your company, your brand synthetizes the essence of your strategy, defines your voice and its tone, not only for your customers but also for all your employees and yourself as a founder. In times of chaos, the brand is the lighthouse that guides your reflexes.

Our webinar addressed how to leverage your brand in the current context, but for immediate, urgent actions and when planning for the future.

Indeed, the Covid crisis has a dual impact on startups: it reduces a startup’s ability to stay visible in the short term, while also increasing companies’ exposure to consumers’ opinion, thus accentuating the criticality of having an own and authentic positioning and promise.

Your brand must help you address the 3 stages of a crisis:

  • In the short term, a defensive stage, focused on how to react towards this unprecedented situation to avoid losing in consumers awareness and consideration.
    • How: leverage your brand to communicate with transparency, and make sure to push forward the continuity of your brand behavior, discourse and actions. You want to avoid being perceived as opportunistically benefitting from a dreadful situation
  • In the mid term, an assertive stage, shifting to how to adapt your offering and tone of voice to the current situation to separate from the mass in the next few weeks
    • How: analyze the ongoing changes, more specifically their impact on consumers’ needs and priorities, and adapt your offering to answer these new needs and building stakes
  • In the long term, an offensive stage: how to transform your business model and angles for the coming months and years to become a leader
    • How: adapt your positioning and offering to address new use cases
    • How: reinvent your narrative to incorporate new societal expectations

We also discussed 5 key areas where a startup’s brand should be leveraged, across each of the aforementioned 3 stages:

  • Using your brand as a north star to ensure consistency and cohesion in times of crisis
  • Staying clear and focused on the underlying raison d’être and the problem solved by your brand, relating them with the current societal challenges

Note: unless a crisis situation has led you to reinvent what your brand is pursuing, the 2 previous point should notably provide a great way to reinforce what your brand stands and has always stood for (e.g. “We’ve always strived to [tackle issue XYZ]. Now more than ever, we remain committed to [provide our unique solution]”).

  • Define or adapt your tone of voice throughout this situation, and ensure it applies throughout any client-facing interaction, whether internal or external
  • Onboard your team internally around your brand during this situation. Humanizing the approach your company has with empathy and transparency is becoming critical throughout this crisis, as not only “what” you do, but also “how” you do it attracts a lot more scrutiny and reaction
  • Leverage the founder figure to foster an embodiment of your brand identity – make sure that the founder’s public persona aligns with what your brand is trying to achieve

Indubitably, situations such as the Covid pandemic create immense challenges for brands and their leaders. But amongst those also lay good opportunities to build, adapt or consolidate the foundations for sustained success. The brand is a significant asset and tool in this regard.


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