Brands have been one of the strongest support networks that audiences have relied upon during the coronavirus pandemic. With such large platforms and the ability to influence, brands have a responsibility to guide their customers through uncertainty. This isn’t in terms of providing official, governmental guidance. It’s more about leading customers to make good choices and effect change.
Brands that encourage their customers to take positive action have to display this behaviour themselves. Portraying a particular brand personality and not demonstrating it physically will do more harm than good to brand reputation. It’s unauthentic, and we know that customers do not react well to brands that aren’t transparent with their audience. During the pandemic, brands have had to navigate a really unpredictable environment. They’ve not known what move the virus is going to make or the guidance the government is going to release. This has made brand communications largely unmanageable.
It’s been the brands that haven’t been empathetic to their audiences’ needs or consistent with their existing personality that has seen backlash from customers. Brands that have utilised their existing personalities well and extended empathy, humanity and an open-ear have really come out on top. Here are some reasons why brand personality is so important and examples of brands that have used their personalities well during the pandemic.
What is brand personality?
Brand personality is defined as the set of human characteristics that are attached to a brand. This could be funny, serious, confident, straightforward, excited or friendly. The personality a brand has depends on its values, purpose, product or service. If a brand is an accounting firm, typically its personality will be more formal and confident. These companies want to appear trustworthy and professional because they’re dealing with financials. For cosmetics companies, their personalities are likely to be fun, energetic and friendly. These brands want consumers to enjoy using their products and adopt them as part of their daily routine.
Personality traits bring assets to life. Brands use them to guide their messaging, communication and visuals to create a consistent identity across all channels. Brands must establish a personality that its customers can relate to and resonate with. If a customer feels like they have similar characteristics as a brand, they’re more likely to engage with the communications and buy the product or service as it aligns with their personal values.
Brand personality must be authentic
Consistency and authenticity are key to a successful brand personality. If customers can identify noticeable characteristics and behaviours in every piece of content a brand publishes, this is a sign of consistency. It shows the brand knows who they are, what their purpose is, what their customers want to see and expect from communications. Brands that chop and change their personality depending on current events, the product they’re releasing or just to please the audience have no idea what their true purpose is. This can be detrimental to brand reputation and customer relationships. Similarly, if brands convey a personality that’s different from their actual behaviours and actions, they will lose credibility instantly.
This isn’t to say that brands can never evolve or grow. They can change their personality traits depending on the vision of the brand and the direction in which they want to take their marketing. Likewise, if a brand has a personality and values that are no longer appropriate with the current climate, this has to change. Brands have to be empathetic, respectful and adaptable to keep up with changes in the audience and environment. The COVID-19 pandemic is the perfect example of this. Brands have had to change their usual approach to sales and marketing to fit with the new lifestyle customers now have.
Nike is a prime example of altering its personality and messaging to suit the times whilst remaining true to its purpose. The brand has transitioned its focus from group sport and athletics to home workouts and outdoor exercises like running and cycling. The personality remains energetic, motivated and inspired but it’s less about hitting personal bests and more about staying active and healthy where possible.
Brand personalities that have responded well to change
Nike isn’t the only example of brands that have navigated the current situation well. Most brands are doing what they can to remain true to their own personalities while adapting to new consumer needs.
As live sport was suspended at the beginning of lockdown, sports fans and businesses alike were devastated about the news. This decision, while the right one, was a huge hit for gaming, betting and broadcasting. As they understood fans with the Sky Sports package couldn’t use it while live sport was on hold, the brand enabled customers to pause their subscriptions to the service. This meant customers had a bill of £0 while sport was officially cancelled over the spring and summer. This didn’t mean customers had no access to sport, all 11 Sky Sports channels were still available for viewing.
Unlike BT Sport who didn’t offer customers the opportunity to suspend their packages, Sky Sports received brilliant feedback from its audience. When live sporting events resume on 17th June, Sky Sports will automatically resume paused packages so customers can enjoy the service again. Sky Sports understood the situation fans are going through and the financial struggles they face. They responded empathetically while remaining true to their personality which paid off greatly for loyalty with the brand.
Admiral is another brand that has done right by its customers. Lockdown meant people all over the UK were confined to their own four walls with limited access to the outside world. For many, this meant not driving to work, the shopping centre, for day trips and holidays. While vehicle usage was down, costs remained. Admiral understood that paying for a car or van that’s not in use is causing a struggle for people undergoing job losses and pay cuts.
Admiral made the decision that while customers are staying at home to protect one another and driving much less, they’re offering a £25 refund to all its customers to say thank you. The decision cost the insurer £110million but truly paid off in customer satisfaction. Admiral reaped the benefits of reduced accident and breakdown cover so wanted to give back to its loyal customers. It forced other insurers to follow suit and reward their customers in a similar way.
If you’ve eaten at Wagamama before then you’ll know why the restaurant has such a loyal following. The Asian food is healthy, delicious and the communal restaurant experience is perfect for friends and family. As restaurants were forced to close at the end of March, Wagamama fans were devastated that they could no longer enjoy the food experience. Wagamama decided to create a virtual cooking series called “Wok From Home”. The series involves Wagamama’s executive chef giving viewers lessons in cooking some of its most popular recipes.
The series was posted across all of Wagamama’s social channels including YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. The series is filmed in the chef’s home kitchen and gives viewers written recipes prior to the lesson so they can buy the ingredients needed. Viewers can cook along and gain tips and tricks from the expert himself. Just like the restaurants, Wagamama wanted to create a communal experience at home by inviting fans to cook the same meal at the same time regardless of where they are.
These brands all stayed true to their very own personalities and characteristics. They took the time to understand the current environment customers are experiencing and what they would need from brands right now. This wasn’t a new product or service with expensive marketing and sales tactics. It was empathy, understanding and giving back to the people that have shown loyalty. Sky Sports, Admiral and Wagamama found new ways to delight and provide value to their customers. This level of satisfaction builds strong relationships through consistency and authenticity. Customers appreciate the gestures and will remain loyal long after the pandemic is over because of how great the brand made them feel when they needed it the most.