The world is literally topsy turvy right now – big brands are shuttering their stores, fights are breaking out over bottled water, and I’m starting to sweat about the meager 5 rolls of toilet paper we have left at home. As small businesses who are just trying to weather the madness and make it through to the other side, it’s easy to get caught up in panic and forget our purpose.
The truth is just about every business is hurting these days, but let me remind you, friend, that no situation, good or bad, lasts forever. I know it’s uncharted territory, which is what makes it stressful and scary. But there are opportunities for you to be a positive light amid the insanity. There are good business lessons to be learned here, namely how to pivot authentically during tough times, remain on brand, and continue to show up in a genuine way for your audience and community.
Now’s the time to go back to the basics. To get clear on who your audience is and what they need from you right now. To realign on your priorities and values as a brand. And to be mindful of what you say and how you say it.
Below are some stellar examples from brands who are pivoting and takeaways you can easily implement in your own business. Links in the titles if you want to read further.
As a food hall whose whole premise is to gather everyone under one roof to experience the best food and drink the city has to offer, “Time Out New York” actually temporarily rebranded to “Time In New York” to place a new focus on staying home and eating in. Their website, typically known for articles on the best places to eat in the city, now features articles such as “The Best Takeout and Delivery Restaurants in New York” and “The 40 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now”.
Take away: Understand how your audience needs to adjust and offer ways to help with that adjustment. Everyone is being thrown into unfamiliar situations – is there a way you can make something easier for your people?
You know it’s bad when Chicago decides to give up on their St. Patty’s celebrations. Nothing says “crisis” like canceling decades old, city-wide traditions. It meant that everything was definitely not alright. So the St. Patty’s ad by Guinness that says “Don’t worry, we’ll march again” was exactly what a lot of people, including myself, needed to hear, if for no other reason than to be reminded that we’ll get through this and there are brighter days ahead.
Take away: Being a genuine voice of hope and positivity during times of fear and doubt can go a long way when everyone else seems to be stoking the panic.
In partnership with the federal government, Walmart and other retailers and pharmacies are setting up drive-thru screenings at some of their store locations, providing people with an easy way to get tested that limits their exposure to others.
Take away: Think of ways to be a part of the solution. And it doesn’t have to be in big, expensive ways. We were recently in Mexico for my husband’s work conference and everywhere we went, we were greeted by employees with hand sanitizer. It’s a small thing, but we so appreciated that effort.
It was truly amazing to see big NBA and NHL franchises and players come together this week to support the hourly employees who were going to be impacted by season cancellations. It reminds you that we’re all in this together and we’ll get through it if we support each other. Was it partially a PR stunt? Of course. They’re businesses after all. But it doesn’t take away from the impact that decision has on the thousands of individuals and their families who rely on those games for their income.
Take away: Live into your values and support each other. If you value small business, maybe try to shop local right now.
A few days ago, Hershey decided to pull TV ads featuring human interaction, like handshakes and hugs, from their rotation and instead focus on product only spots. While the human interaction spots are heartwarming, the brand recognized they could be viewed as tone deaf in today’s “social distancing” climate and made the decision to temporarily remove them out of deference to their audience.
Take away: Be cognizant of the conversations going on around you and think of how your messaging can be perceived by your community, then be willing to adapt accordingly.
Whenever I would go through a particularly difficult time as a kid, my mom would always remind me, “This too shall pass.” Well, this too shall pass, friends. We’ll make it through. I know it can be discouraging and all-around scary, but keep your head up and your hopes high. Use this time to get back to basics, really focus on your audience, and learn – it will help make your brand stronger when things start to turn around.
We champion entrepreneurs and are committed to supporting the small business community now and always. If you have questions or are in need of additional brand guidance as you navigate the coming weeks, please reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. All consults, pep talks, and advice are 100% on the house.
In the meantime, wishing you and yours a safe and healthy week.