Safeguarding your business brand during uncertainty

Saleem Sonday  - 17 September 2020

In the sixth of 10 webinars in the Survive and thrive series, brought to you by the Allan Gray Umbrella Retirement Fund, we explore what a brand is and how businesses can protect and grow their brands during times of uncertainty and beyond. Watch the webinar recording of “Safeguarding your business brand during uncertainty” below.

Key takeouts

King James Johannesburg managing director, Lesego Kotane, Oranjezicht City Farm co-founder, Sheryl Ozinsky, and Doug Place, Nando’s Africa, Middle East and South Asia chief marketing officer discuss what it takes to build a long-lasting business brand and how to respond effectively to brand blunders. Here is a summary of the key takeouts.

A brand is an asset, not an ad campaign

There is a misconception that brands are built through advertising campaigns and logos, but brands are really built on how people experience your service or product offering. “You don’t have to invest in advertising, you need to invest in decisions that build competitive edge,” Kotane says.

Place says business owners need to think of their marketing function not as an expense, but as an investment that has the potential to deliver bigger rewards in the long term. “If you withhold an investment, sure you have more cash, but you’re also not going to have any returns. You’ll have an immediate benefit by not investing, but you have much bigger long-term pain,” he advises.

Being empathetic is key

Building a business brand is ultimately about establishing and nurturing emotional connections with the people you provide a service to, in a manner that demonstrates organic empathy. Listening to your customers is one way of building empathy, establishing checks and balances is another way. Place says businesses can safeguard against making reputationally damaging mistakes by ensuring proportionate representation among teams.

“Proportionate representation is one way to build empathy, it’s not the only way, but it’s a very strong and obvious way. If I don’t walk in that consumer’s shoes or have a tangible experience of what their life is like, there is a higher probability that mistakes will continue to be made.”

Protect your brand in 6 steps

No person or business is immune to making brand-damaging blunders, but it’s how you respond to them that will largely determine whether your business brand survives a reputational storm or not. Ozinsky says learning from your mistakes and using those learnings to turn it around, while reassuring your customers, is critical to safeguarding your business brand.

These are her top six tips for protecting a brand during times of crisis:

  1. Protect your team
  2. Check in regularly with your stakeholders
  3. Communicate with your customers transparently and build an emotional connection
  4. Adapt the way you operate and try new things
  5. Go above and beyond to help
  6. Highlight the human connections and positive things people are doing

Bolster your brand through collaboration

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many lessons, but key among them is the power of collaboration. As businesses work to rebuild what was lost during earlier stages of lockdown, we are likely to see more business brands collaborating in reimagined ways.

Collaborating can be a very effective way of building your business brand through exposure to new markets and connecting with others who have the answers to questions you are asking. However, not all collaborations are successful. If you are considering entering into a collaboration with another brand, Ozinsky advises that you listen carefully to your gut and not allow your integrity and ethical standards to be compromised over a ‘good deal’.

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