Branding, Guidance, Identity, Strategy

Skating to where the puck is going to be.

This quote from Canadian ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, (which the late Steve Jobs adopted as a guiding philosophy), seems more pertinent for brand strategy in a post-Covid world, especially when you consider that he also added ‘not where it has been’.

The saying may have been rather over-used in ‘corporate speak’ in recent years but the Covid-19 pandemic has given it fresh poignancy by moving all the goalposts – and in many cases fundamentally changing the nature of our goals themselves.

In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that we are at a turning point in history. We’ve already seen the staggering improvement in air quality that results when most of us have to stay at home – and, arguably, one of the very few upsides of the pandemic is that it has remined us all how little separates us. But will all that be lost as normality begins to reassert itself?

Perhaps most startling of the changes we’re seeing is the way that even the global giants appear to be softening and becoming a little more ‘human’

Not necessarily, in our view. Perhaps most startling of the changes we’re seeing is the way that even the global giants appear to be softening and becoming a little more ‘human’, with Facebook, for example, announcing a $100 million-dollar support scheme for small business and Google and Microsoft making their Hangouts and Teams services free of charge for users.

Of course, cynically speaking, it’s a great way of attracting new long-term users. Nevertheless, brands across all sectors of every industry imaginable around the world are becoming more open-handed and striving to divert their resources to do what they can to help the communities they work in. That might mean sharing software without charge, turning manufacturing facilities to vital PPE production or, as in the case of Easyjet, allowing furloughed employees to utilitise their skills in support of NHS workers by providing a much-needed hospital meal service.

There really is a refreshing element of altruism in this response – that but that’s not to say there aren’t important long-term benefits to brands and businesses here. And they’re to be had by standing up and being counted as part of the community your business serves, whether that’s a local one or a global one.

In an insightful article on Forbes.com in March, Rebecca Vogels put forward a fascinating hypothesis: ‘In the future, the focus of brand positioning will be the question: “How can we create value for our community?”’

She goes on to suggest that this new mode of business thinking will be among the pandemic’s permanent after-effects – and that’s where the proverbial puck is going to be. That means a sideways, possibly seismic, shift in the way we think so that we question ourselves constantly… How we are being helpful; what can we do for our community? How can we make our collective lives better? And what is it that only we can do in this respect?

We’re not simply proposing that everyone jumps on a bandwagon. On the contrary, this is about researching what competitors are doing, re-visiting and re-examining your brand’s core values in the light of this ‘new normal’ and then thinking about what you can contribute that is aligned with those values and that positions your brand as one making a unique contribution.

Sounds difficult? Well, Rebecca Vogel’s article suggests a way to narrow down and
simplify matters: R I D

Relevant – to your brand and your customers

Impactful – something that solves a real and immediate problem.

Doable – is it realistically deliverable and can you deliver it pretty quickly?

Beyond that, it’s all about how you want your market to view your place in the new world. So it’s not just our brand values that we all need to keep in mind as we tiptoe forward – it’s the value of our brands.

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