The ‘new normal’ – from our children’s education, how we interact with friends and family, and even how we define having a good time – has changed us. The same goes for how we brand, position, and communicate about who we are and how we serve. From COVID-19 to mounting social unrest, we live in unprecedented times. 

Last week, I had the honor of speaking at a global symposium on this very topic. Brand stories have changed and we as business owners must look to current trends to understand and be better prepared for future strategies. 

Today, I’m breaking down the concepts from that talk and share with you my top takeaways for businesses and leaders who need to tell better stories, now more than ever.

Let’s jump in….

closed for business sign during pandemicPhoto by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

First, I want to discuss briefly what a brand story is. 

Brand storytelling is the cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions that your brand evokes. 

In other words, it’s the WHY behind the reason you are in business.

The science behind story has been well-documented. Humans are wired for story, and in the most basic form story is built from cause and effect as is the human brain.

The reason we use narratives to relate to the world is so that we can take these individual experiences and better understand how we relate and fit into the collective whole. 

Brand stories do three very important things: 

  1. They build instant rapport to help create connections and build loyalty faster in often saturated markets 
  2. They help differentiate yourself from the competition and stand out is an authority in your market
  3. They are meaning-making frameworks for success 

So they give you a reason to be in business, an ability to stand out, and give your customer a reason to buy.

BRAND STORIES & BEHAVIORAL TRENDS DURING COVID-19

In order to understand how the pandemic has changed how we market, we need to look at behavioral trends and what they’re telling us, not only about messaging in general but how consumers are using media. 

The top four behavioral trends that I’m seeing:

(1) COVID-19 is showing us a whole new way of living, being, and relating to others on all levels 

(2) Social distancing is highlighting just how important human connection is

(3) Social media use across all platforms has increased

(4) Creativity is now a requirement 

THE THREE PHASES OF COVID-19 MARKETING IN MOST BRAND MESSAGES

PHASE 1: EDUCATIONAL

We saw marketing messages, messages shift from selling to hygiene, keeping safe and awareness. 

PHASE 2: SOLIDARITY

We saw brands moving away from not only keeping people safe and healthy but also connecting them, showing that they were in this together. High levels of mental health issues, anxiety, loneliness, and stress were proving to be difficult for many people. And brands knew this, saw this and reacted to it.

PHASE 3: NEW NORMAL

We’re still trying to figure out this stage but what we’re seeing is that most brands are restating their brand purposes, especially in light of recent social justice issues. They’re also looking at realtime marketing strategies. So how can we connect with people who are online right now, as usage has gone up, 

All that being said, the ‘new normal’ requires three essential components:

First, from a branding perspective, we need to know who you are and what you value. 

Second, we need to know your brand’s purpose. We need to see that you’re expressing empathy and that you care about the impact you’re making in the world. 

And three, creativity cuts through the noise. What we’re finding is that traditional messaging isn’t working anymore and that we need to work with customers instead of blasting them with ‘buy now’ messages and expecting them to respond. 

“In order to survive, you must stand for something and you must have a story that shows that you do need to educate yourself on behavioral trends, especially on platforms.” – Stephanie Jiroch

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