For the marketer in late 2020, it was very easy to feel a bit hesitant, possibly even frozen, when it came to knowing what to do next. The changes the past year has brought can leave even the most optimistic of thinkers wondering if they can be successful as everyone scrambles to find the best path forward.
Perhaps the future will be even worse than the present—endless pandemics, climate catastrophe and aliens invading—or the future might be wonderfully better, with healthy growth and a turn toward greater global unity and environmental care.
Marketers should not only think about how they react to change and uncertainty, but also how these forces shape the world. Grounded optimism tends to breed more optimism, and positive messages tend to yield more positive messages. Use what we call “The Reset” as an opportunity to contribute to the direction of the future, not simply to react to the present.
To do this, we return to three core lenses—trust, values and action—as we forge a path to success.
If trust in a brand has been eroded, what do we do? First, we identify the cause. If it is something the brand did, we acknowledge the mistake and articulate a path forward. If the cause is an external factor, something we do not control, we work to take back as much of the brand narrative as possible. Once we identify the cause, we drive forward to rebuild trust.
But what happens when trust has been eroded across multiple brands? This is the situation now, and the response must be a bit different. Instead of fixing a problem with the brand, the marketer needs to consider a more fundamental shift in the brand and brand messaging. This is a strategic shift, not merely a tactical response.
Many brands have always tried to stand for something, but that was very rarely pressure-tested by reality. We never really questioned that a restaurant was keeping workers home if they had a cold or flu, did we? Instead, we ordered our food, at a quick-serve joint or a fancy restaurant, and didn’t think twice. We assumed that airlines cleaned the seats and tables between flights. On those flights where we saw someone with antiseptic wipes scrubbing things down, we may have rolled our eyes or at least assumed they had personal reasons for taking precautions.
Now every brand must meet different and evolving standards. The new playbook guides brands to a deeper level of meaning, genuine and persistent credibility, and new relationship dynamics with their audiences. Brands can no longer just pretend to be what customers expect but must actually deliver what customers need.
Here are two actions from the playbook that will help establish—or re-establish—customer trust.
Play 1: Find a deeper level of meaning in your brand.
Go back to all that brand work that you did in the past and look at it with fresh eyes. Did you make a promise with the brand that you never actually kept? Now is the time to figure out how to not only keep the promise but also ensure that the promise is sufficient for your customers. What can your brand do differently that will set it apart from competitors in the years to come?
Recently I have seen a lot of hotel chains partnering with various cleaning product companies and healthcare organizations. Does a chain promising to use Lysol or Clorox products to clean their rooms change the deeper meaning of the brand? I think that, at best, these are stop-gap measures to solidify brand positioning as they do everything possible to bring customers back to the rooms. Deeper meaning behind the brands will need to come later, through the establishment of a level of transparency and trust not necessarily seen before.
Play 2: Remake the customer experience.
When we thought about customer experience in the past, we often referenced touch points as a key element of the process. Now, touch is one of the very things we are trying to avoid. Ignoring that irony, the truth is that customer experience is more important than ever—for every brand. Marketers should be leaders in customer experience, and the playbook of the future must be based on the series of interactions that build a relationship between customer and brand.
If marketers have traditionally focused only on the interactions taking place during customer acquisition, they must now extend their playbook to the entire customer journey. The best interactions are those where there is a clear sense of choice on the part of the customers, allowing them to proceed based on their own assessments of comfort, risk and reward.
A lot of restaurants have moved to touchless menus and payments, with the customer’s phone doing all the work. This creates trust and reduces concerns on the part of the customer, but it still feels very transactional. How can restaurants create a more seamless journey with the mobile device that starts when a reservation is made and continues after the customer has left? Looking at the entire journey, marketing can rewrite this scenario to build something better for both brand and customer. Every brand can do the same.
To learn more about plays for values and actions and read the full e-book, visit Acoustic.com/the-reset today.