Your brand will be (re)made now. What are you going to do about it?
Allow me the irony of using words to point out that there has never been a better time for action over words. Our current moment defines moments that matter. Organizations will be defined by what they say now, and more importantly, by what they do. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal released an Experience Report by Chris Kornelis that noted how coronavirus-related emails from companies may not have the desired calming effect. A similar sentiment was shared by Dan Egan, director of investing and behavioral finance at Betterment, when being interviewed by Dr. Daniel Crosby on his Standard Deviations podcast. Betterment’s first approach of sending proactive communication during volatile times actually led to more account activity, some of it positive but much of it negative. Not everyone who received the message needed the message. We can all appreciate how the fastest way to feel panic is being told “don’t panic.”
There is a tension between being fast and being thoughtful; however, this time is already being characterized by slow response. No one will be blamed for not foreseeing this scenario in their 2020 planning, but many will be blamed for not taking action early enough when the severity became clear. Worse still is being seen as providing too little while also too late.
Putting aside the settlement of recent years, Wells Fargo was seen as a shining star of banking coming out of 2008. The firm carried a positive brand halo for years in the minds of consumers. Similar positions will be available following the coronavirus pandemic and related market drop, and there may be surprises in the brands that later occupy those spaces.
So, what are you going to do about it?
Your brand is a living thing. It will be changed whether you take action or not.
Now is a time to separate what you know from what you think you know. Betterment was able to draw its conclusion because it used data to challenge norms.
Now is the time to use that segmentation you built for targeted messages when you do communicate. Make sure the right ideas get into the hands of the right people. Don’t underestimate the danger in sending the wrong message at the wrong time.
Now is the time to take what you know about your customers—their functional and emotional needs, their dependencies—and use that to anticipate and act. Move swiftly but not reflexively.
Now is the time to consider what you want your brand to stand for. Are you contributing what you can to the people who need it? Are you taking the oft-left-behind inclusion part of “diversity and inclusion” to heart? Is your commitment to the social part of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing intact? Is your brand a human brand or an empty vessel?
Put humans at the heart of your decisions. Rely on your data and insights about those humans to guide you. Do and do right.