On May 7, AmCham Marketing & Communications Committee organized a webinar on the "Future shape of brands". Our speaker was Marta Marczak, Brand Strategy Team Director of PwC. Find meeting and presentation summary below.
Cultural narrative from the brand's perspective in the age of coronavirus
The consumer’s relationship with a brand
Our world is made up of stories that people tell each other every day and that makes life meaningful.
The richness of narratives creates the culture in which we are immersed. Brands are also a part of it, they also write their stories - if they do it in an interesting, credible and moving way that touches on topics important to us, they have a chance to create relationships with us.
And if, additionally, their actions (including for example, the product itself and the method of its production) support the story, the relationship can grow into a bond that will result in loyalty.
Is loyalty only directed from a customer towards a brand, or could it also work the other way around?
When we talk about loyalty, we often think of customers’ attachment to brands; however, this is a bilateral relationship because a brand also owes loyalty to its customers – honouring promises, acting in compliance with the declared mission, but also adjusting to changing expectations.
The meaning of the pandemic in the context of cultural narratives
As a civilization, we are currently facing a brand-new challenge – our knowledge and solidarity have been put to the test and many notions change their meaning. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on many aspects of our lives – nobody knows what it is going to be like ‘afterwards’, but we can already point to the current cultural narratives that are becoming weaker in the face of the experience and to the ones that are gaining importance.
Why is it worth thinking about cultural narratives from a brand management perspective?
The brand and the consumer are part of the same culture and in order to build an understanding between them, it is worth observing the hierarchy of values that is changing here and now.
Chaos is creative. Breaking the rules generates value
Order is necessary. Constraints can protect
Humans are omnipotent – they rule the world
Humans are feeble – they do not have everything under control
Individualism is the leading value – personal plans and ambitions are what really counts
Community is a value – everyone and everything are interdependent
Future is the most important issue – creating a vision of the future and forgetting about the present
Here and now are what matters – without understanding and controlling ‘now’, there is no ‘later’
Profit is crucial (constant growth and accumulation)
Safety is crucial (risk and loss control)
Competition is the goal – looking for leaders
Cooperation is the goal – looking for ‘brothers and sisters’
Life in abundance (things, stimuli) – you should always go for new things
Life in moderation (‘quarantine of consumption’) – you should always go for what’s necessary
Short-term thinking – instant profit, everything on demand
Long-term, cautious thinking
No time for relationships with others – other things are more important
Relationships with others are the most important thing (longing for people); here also caution in relationships (fear – social distance)
Technology as entertainment, maximizing convenience – a synonym of progress
Technology as a necessity, an indispensable tool for work and maintaining relationships (common social ‘digital advancement’, ‘acceleration’ of trend implication
Heroes in pop culture – celebrities (illusion)
Heroes in everyday life – medical services, enforcement services, drivers, shop assistants, etc.
Brand communication during a pandemic. Time for storydoing.
Does the brand matter in a pandemic?
The pandemic crisis took all of us by surprise and has changed our everyday reality. It challenged the current operating models carefully prepared plans of all market players, including of course, the marketers.
Many of us ask ourselves the question whether, in this new situation, brands are important to consumers? How should they communicate and, finally, how can they prepare for the time after the pandemic which – as we all hope – will finally come?
How can you build your brand in times of coronavirus?
For companies, the coming months will be the time of intense work with and on the brand, verifying:
· the sense and credibility of its mission, which should also define the non-commercial purpose of its existence
· the level of empathy; the ability to hear the voice of the consumers and understand their expectations
· flexibility; he readiness and the ability to introduce changes
Is it time to change your plans?
Today, most of brands abandon mutual competition and join forces in the common fight against the threat to our health, undertaking many useful initiatives. This is not a lock-down for brands, but a time when their narratives and declared values (storytelling) may change into real customer experience and actual support (storydoing or even storygiving).
Current events may become a reason for brands to change their positioning concept, communication strategy or even their business model.
Will we still need brands?
Brands are and will be a tool to achieve business goals. However, to be efficient, they must not only offer an excellent product, satisfying consumer needs, but must also keep up with the cultural narrative, which will enable an engaging dialogue with their customers and, as a result, build relationships and loyalty to the brand.
As the context in which we live changes, as we expect changes in the area of values, we can assume that brands will need an ‘new opening’ in the immediate future in order to accompany their consumers in building the ‘new normality’.
How should brands communicate?
For companies and brands, it is a test whether their Brand Purpose is real and how much it is worth.
For brands that have not yet defined it – it is proof that it is worth doing.
Current cultural narratives
‘Only live essential and valuable things should survive’
‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’
‘Together, we can do more – even if we are physically separated’
A ‘new empowerment’ is born
- a new understanding of what the impact on the reality means
Real help – strengthening brand values through storytelling/storygiving; the brand shares what people need (the return on investment will come later) – all forms of support for medical services, but also offering knowledge, inspiration, entertainment and a sense of pride and hope.
Crisis as an opportunity for renewal, revival, return to ‘what is important’; revision of the positioning strategy based on new brand values that support their consumers in building the ‘new normality’.