How Brands Can Build Equity and Stay Authentic to Their Values in a Divided Time

come back stronger -whIt is September 2020 and America is still reeling from a global pandemic, with no clear end in sight. The U.S. elections are quickly approaching and the outcome will deeply influence the trajectory of the nation and even the world at a critical time in history.

So how can companies be strategic about their marketing efforts during this time of uncertainty while continuing to build brand equity and staying authentic to their values? Here are some critical principles for organizations to keep top of mind as they plan and execute new campaigns and optimize existing ones.

Show empathy and build relationships

Everyone is in this together. Now that many professionals are working from home, if they are able to do so, we have a more personal insight into people’s private lives. This is an opportunity to get to know clients, colleagues, and customers on a more personal basis than before. Learn about the things they care about and empathize with their challenges. Many are juggling childcare and inevitably working longer hours to balance new demands.

Be creative and authentic

Some companies are already well-positioned to provide the essential services that make people’s lives easier, but those that aren’t shouldn’t fret. Now is the time to get creative! Companies should maintain their purpose, but consider how they can evolve to meet today’s demands. They should consider repositioning their brand to be more digitally accessible, or partner with another brand on a relevant strategic initiative or product. Collaboration shows strength, forward-thinking and a desire to provide value for customers.

Invest strategically in media

The U.S. advertising market will be cluttered this fall, with political ad spending expected to reach $7 billion this year. This is particularly true in swing states. The way people consume media has shifted during the pandemic, with fewer people commuting, more working online and glued to the news on TV, and many unplugging from it all by streaming television and podcasts. Inventory in broadcast TV and digital media will be sparse and expensive, so companies must be strategic and creative about how and where they invest to ensure their advertising dollars are spent efficiently and in brand-safe environments.

Prepare for the new regulatory environment

A change of administration in the White House—and/or a change in party composition in Congress—could significantly shift the legislative and regulatory outlook in 2021, putting a premium on having a strong reputational foundation. Knowing the issues and possible legislative agendas for each potential administration will be key for companies seeking to develop a strong business strategy to position their brand for success in 2021 and beyond.

Be flexible

Companies should approach their strategies and plans with flexibility and include scenario planning for unexpected events. If they are buying media, they should buy in shorter increments. They should also reduce investment during heavily saturated moments, such as the weeks leading up to the election, if they don’t have something to say that’s relevant to that moment.

Build trust and be transparent

In a highly polarized political environment, rampant with misinformation and threats of election interference, Americans are on edge. The advertising industry is becoming more personalized and citizens are concerned about their privacy. Brands should be non-invasive, transparent and cognizant about advertising in sensitive environments.

Now is the time for companies to be empowered to evolve their approach, provide value for their customers, be prepared for the unexpected and drive real actionable change. From the public commitments companies make to the ads they place, people are watching and ready for leadership and transparency.

APCO Alumna Allison Gittings coauthored this post.