Business

Why organisations should focus on ‘branding’ now

A good turn done during a far-reaching crisis may be timely, and linger on after the bad times fade away

The need and opportunity for branding are ever present, but never so pressing and obvious as during a crisis. However, organisations may be up against two mental blocks to branding during the pandemic.

One, with most organisations crippled by poor revenue inflows and the inability to employ their manpower optimally, the instinctive response is to pull in the wings and play it safe — given this, branding may seem like an extravagant superfluity. Two, “crisis-time” branding may sound opportunistic and even Shylock-ish.

Addressing the second concern, Donn S. Kabiraj, CEO and founder, Donn Corporation, points out people would see through opportunistic branding anyway, but will recognise sincere efforts to help them out in a crisis, and these efforts will add to organisational branding, organically and unperceived.

The most compelling need now for branding of the kind that gives a leg-up to struggling associates is that there are many around that would do with that kind of support.

Easing the client’s burden

Each organisation would obviously factor in its unique realities while choosing how to stay relevant to the businesses they offer their services to.

“Organisations should try to ease their clients’ burden by offering certain services, either at a reduced cost or free, if that can be managed, during a crisis, and this generosity should be extended to even those clients who may have discontinued their relationship with the organisation, temporarily or otherwise, due to the crisis. It is indeed a tough ask, but it is ‘tough branding’ that will leave the greatest impact,” explains Donn. “If organisations don't make those sacrifices, they will likely pay heavily later for the lack of long-term thinking, as they might have to bid adieu to the idea of the client returning ever.”

‘No One Left Behind’ strategy

In the VUCA conditions triggered by the pandemic, organisations may be faced with an acid test in terms of how they value their business relationships.

In a webinar Freshworks conducted in May, its CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham dwelt on a “No One Left Behind” strategy that looked out for indirect ‘reportees’ representing vendor-companies. “We started taking on the payroll cost of our support staff who are not employed with Freshworks, but with our caterers and cab companies,” said Girish, adding that the organisation would offer this support during the critical lockdown period. Though Girish did not refer to it as a branding strategy, such exercises can strengthen relationships between businesses.

Sensitivity and brand equity

What is true of B2B scenarios should be true of business-to-consumer relationships. In the consumer market, mindfulness during a crisis of this kind can create value for companies.

“I think branding is important even now. Fundamentally, society has been redefined and reset by COVID-19, and there is a certain degree of consumer angst that needs a balm. And therefore, the branding required now is completely new branding that is sensitive to the new challenges of the consumer. Branding is today a finer art than it was yesterday. Depending on the brand science entirely may not be a great way to go. Today, branding is science plus art. Take the consumer brands, they use a celebratory economy language. They take a high tone and tenor and decibel and it is a case of shouting at the consumer. Now, branding has to emote more with the customer. There is a beauty to silent communication, and that is required now,” Harish Bijoor, brand guru and founder, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, puts forth.

Social branding and talent acquisition

When it meets the needs of the underprivileged, especially during a far-reaching crisis, an organisation is likely to be positively viewed in the eyes of the talent segment it may want on board, says Vidhya Srinivasan, adjunct faculty and advisor, XMIE Chennai.

She explains, “Today, youngsters are conspicuously present in the social space. For a majority of them, supporting a cause by sparing their time for it is just not enough. They have to announce the fact to the world through social media platforms . It is a generation that lives from hashtag to hashtag, something I discovered interacting with my students. An organisation that is socially engaged during a crisis by bringing succour to suffering people may provide its young employees with a cause as well as hashtag opportunities. When these young employees go to town about the social work, sharing photos and posts, it is bound to create a positive image in the minds of their peer-group outside the company, placing it in position to attract the kind of young talent it may want to have.”

While hashtag promotion should not be the objective of social engagement, and is usually not, adds Vidhya, there is nothing wrong about an organisation getting its young workforce to spread the word about the good work it may be carrying out in the community.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 5:10:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/why-companies-should-focus-on-branding-now/article31779453.ece

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