Well, this is a blog post we never thought we would write. But, I guess we can say that about a lot of things these days. From canine coworkers to virtual happy hours to crafting creative Zoom backgrounds as a hobby, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned almost everything we know about running a business – and a household – on its head.
But there’s one thing that we’re working really diligently NOT to change here at Ethos, no matter how crazy things get. And that’s our brand promise.
When a lot of companies think about protecting their “brand” they talk about things like logo consistency or using the right color palette or font. And while that’s important stuff, here at Ethos, we believe a brand is a promise. And above all, the promise is what brand managers need to work really hard to understand and protect. It’s the commitment you make to your employees and customers, day in and day out – the guiding principle for everything you do and every decision you make. Whether the core of your company is convenience, philanthropy, stewardship, safety, health and wellness, or anything else – the key is that you live that promise in everything you do – from the way you answer the phone to the packaging in which your product is delivered.
And whatever your brand promise, continuing to live it during a pandemic – especially in a pandemic – is critical. Because times of uncertainty are when people’s and business’ true colors come to light.
Think about the last time you or your family was experiencing a hardship. Who showed up for you? Who delivered meals or took care of your children or held your hand through the darkest times? And who was suddenly MIA or couldn’t be bothered to go out of their way to help? Even years later, it’s likely you haven’t forgotten.
Now think of your brand as a close friend of each of your customers. This is your opportunity to prove to them that you’re the real deal. Now is the time to hold the line and show up in a big way.
Consider the outdoor apparel company Patagonia. Their brand promise has long revolved around environmental and social responsibility. And they have proven time and time again, that this isn’t just some marketing gimmick. Patagonia was one of the first major companies to eliminate Black Friday sales (typically one of the biggest revenue days of the year for retail businesses) in an effort to get more people outside (and out of the malls) and to reduce overall product consumption in favor of longer-lasting, high-quality items that can be repaired and reused so that we might limit the environmental impact of mass production of clothing and accessories. The company took a revenue hit in order to live their promise and their values – and that means something (a lot, actually) to their customers.
When COVID-19 came crashing into the US earlier this year, Patagonia again wasted no time in their response. They immediately closed all of their retail stores (and later their website and distribution centers) in an effort to protect their employees and their customers from exposure. They also committed to paying all of their employees for the entirety of the closure – no small feat even for a global brand.
Not every brand can afford such sweeping measures – but Patagonia’s commitment to their employees is a key piece of their brand promise, and they decided that the financial sacrifice was worth upholding that promise. So, they did the right thing, swiftly and decisively.
And it matters.
It matters to people now more than ever. Because right now people are looking for the heroes. For the do-gooders. For the companies that are committed to people over profits.
So, if like many businesses today you are feeling consumed or paralyzed by fear, consider instead the opportunity this pandemic has provided to take action and to demonstrate what you stand for in unique ways. Consider the opportunity to live your values and let them shine – while all your customers are stuck at home watching.
Whether it’s converting your manufacturing lines to essential items, donating time or expertise to the more vulnerable in the community, or simply holding the line on the types of work or materials or products you will or won’t accept or sell – it matters.
It matters now – and it will matter even more 12 or 18 or 24 months from now when we look back at who chose fear, and who chose action. And who remained unwilling to compromise their core values – their brand promise – even under the most challenging conditions.
It’s hard. We know. Especially for small businesses. Here at Ethos, we’re making tough decisions, too.
But even if you can’t close all your stores or pay all of your employees or make hand sanitizer or surgical masks – you can communicate with your customers – openly and honestly. Because even (and especially) during a pandemic, the most compelling message is the truth.
Maybe you are cutting pay to preserve jobs, or closing your doors to protect your employees, or just trying to hang on so you can better serve your customers on the other side of all this. Maybe you’re continuing to publish happy, funny, or inspiring content to help provide a mental break for those consumed by anxiety – or because your brand is about optimism.
Whatever you’re doing, as long as you are making decisions that are in line with your brand promise – with who you are as a business – you’re doing the right thing. And it matters to your customers.
We’re here for you. We believe in you. We’re all in this together.
Ethos is a multiplatform branding agency that develops and executes integrated marketing campaigns across multiple channels for companies inside and outside of Maine.
At Ethos, we believe that the most effective way to set a company’s marketing course is by finding its core truth – its ethos. We know that once we discover and communicate that core truth, we can truly make a difference for each client’s unique marketing and business objectives.
With Ethos, you get more than a marketing agency. You get a long-term partner whose goals are your goals.