Guarding Brand Reputation During Covid-19

A strong brand reputation takes years to cultivate, but only minutes to crumble. An ill-timed product launch, an unexpected scandal, and even an inappropriate social media post can knock back the public’s trust in you. In this time, more than ever it is important to guard your brand reputation and reaffirm your values and identity through your communication channels.

Guarding brand reputation during a crisis like Covid-19

Brand transparency

This is a key priority for customers in the age of social media. In March 2020, it was reported by Forbes that major apparel and fashion brands had cancelled over 2.8 billion dollars’ worth of orders in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to at least 60 million garment workers not receiving their salaries, and public scrutiny from NGOs and human rights organizations was intense, calling on companies to mitigate the impact on this vulnerable population.

On social media, users organized the #PayUp petition to further pressure brands like Gap, Nike, and Levi’s to honor their orders and payment obligations. By July, Vogue had reported that $15 billion worth of wages had finally been paid, over one-third of the $40 billion wages owed to these workers. The lack of transparency during this incident resulted in conscious consumers being disillusioned by the companies’ late responses, and remains an important lesson to companies to act responsibly and remain transparent even during difficult times.

Call for adaptation

In contrast, companies that did well in protecting their brands during this period were those that responded quickly and pivoted to meet the needs of their customers, practicing a strategy of brand adaptation.

In Singapore, companies such as Tenopy, an online live education platform for primary school students, pivoted to working with underprivileged children through a partnership with AMKFSC Family Services Centre Ltd. Other edtech companies also worked to find ways to reach populations most affected by the pandemic’s impact on education services in Singapore. This responsive attitude and sense of social responsibility is a model we should all follow. It is a great way to give back to society and build customer loyalty.

Consistency is king

Finally, as you pivot your channels to the digital space, be careful to curate your image and maintain brand consistency. For companies that are new to digital marketing, this can mean working with designers to curate an appropriate design aesthetic for your social media channels. Ensuring that your social media output is consistent with and enhances your brand image is an important part of keeping your brand consistent and reliable to your consumers.

For companies that are looking to venture into digital advertising, being conscious of where your ads are placed is another important aspect of maintaining brand consistency. Finetuning your ad placements through keyword blocking and seeking out relevant content to advertise your products with will go a long way in projecting your brand’s image.

A holistic approach

Here more than ever it is important to take a holistic approach when crafting a digital advertising strategy. In June 2020, Forbes reported that brand safety technology led companies to block advertising on articles about the coronavirus, leading to ad money being redirected away from mainstream news sites to disinformation sites instead. The failures of brand safety technology demonstrate the need for companies to buy ad space directly from publishers. Buying direct allows companies to take full ownership of decisions made, and finetune your overall brand strategy in your own hands or in the hands of a trusted agency.

Overall, practicing transparency, adaptation, and consistency in a holistic approach are the most reliable ways of guarding your reputation during a crisis like Covid-19. Looking ahead, it is also wise to invest in building a crisis communication plan to identify your firm’s risk points and plan workarounds ahead of time. While this year has taught us about managing brand identities during a public health crisis, it is important to prepare for other unexpected shocks and plan for them in advance.

Helena Ma brings with her a wealth of experience and a truly cosmopolitan perspective, having lived and worked in Shanghai, China; Gothenburg, Sweden; and London, UK. Her stints in Europe and China has armed Helena with a potent blend of ancient Chinese wisdom and contemporary Western knowledge which she incorporates into business management and client project