Why Associations Should Emphasize Brand Strategy Amid COVID-19

Right now, your brand may be the most visible part of what you do. For that reason, your association should lean into efforts to strategically raise the brand. Here’s why.

Most of the time, once you have a brand set, you leave it alone and let it do its thing.

But this is not most of the time, and suddenly, the brand is more important than ever. In fact, when you can’t hold meetings and receptions, it may be the glue holding everything together.

With that in mind, here are a few considerations to keep your brand strategy in focus:

Tighter budgets require a tighter strategic focus. Recent Gartner research found that nearly half of chief marketing officers had seen budget cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, and that has led many of them to reprioritize brand strategy. According to a Marketing Dive analysis of the data, a third of respondents moved brand strategy to one of their top three priorities—despite it being “near the bottom of the list in 2019.” Ewan McIntyre, a Gartner for Marketers analyst, said that the shifting economy required a shifting focus on brand awareness. “We are seeing successful brands take action that is authentically connected to their brand strategy and value proposition,” he said.

It will allow you to think beyond the crisis. Putting a focus on branding right now could also create a path forward beyond the current moment. In a resource page on the COVID-19 crisis, PwC recommends that businesses take the current moment to do some planning for a point when things are a bit closer to normalcy. “What we see today may be dramatically different in six months. In the long term, it will be essential to take a pulse of your customers to determine the need to make fundamental changes to core markets or business models,” the page states. “This is also a time to reassess your brand relative to competitors to understand your differentiating capabilities and where your company could win market share.”

It will allow you to emphasize visually what you can’t physically. In a lot of ways, brand strategy is about positioning. Now is a good time to experiment with what a brand could be. A recent Forbes piece shows how many retail brands are using digital and sensory experiences online as a way to highlight their work—and they offer a lot you can borrow from.

You should be willing to keep up right now. The one downside of brand strategy at the moment is that the uncertainty of COVID-19 means that associations, like many others, could find themselves shifting with the times. AdExchanger notes, for example, that many brands have had to adapt to the shifting attempts to reopen and close states and countries. Lindblad Expeditions, a firm that offers luxury adventure cruises, has leaned into online content marketing in its messaging as it’s had to pause service. “It’s a week-by-week thing,” noted Kim Kyaw, Lindblad’s director of advertising and digital, in comments to the website. “A lot of factors go into it, like the willingness of guests to travel, the willingness of people in those communities to allow guests and whether the airlines are going to those areas.”

(Chaosamran_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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