Weathering the storm - Marijke Timmers

Weathering the storm

How marketing can help small businesses survive and even thrive during an unprecedented crisis.

First of all, I don't want to be yet another person talking about the Coronavirus. But, as someone who weathered the 2008 GFC with one of the UK's largest brands, I thought it helpful to share my learnings...

Because there will be businesses who weather the storm and others that just simply aren’t around in 6 months time. I’m not trying to add to your anxiety - rather to empower you. It is completely within your control to come out of this even stronger.

When the global financial crisis hit nearly twelve years ago, I was VP of Brand & Advertising at a prominent bank in London. While our competitors slashed their marketing budgets, we invested our’s. We cut activities like events - it’s obviously not appropriate to be splashing cash on lavish events during a recession, and certainly not during a health crisis. But by investing in our brand and continuing to engage our customers, we received an enhanced share of voice. While many others were keeping a low profile and experiencing internal meltdown, we were actively talking to our audiences. While chaos may have ensued a few years later (after I had left the bank and it nothing to do with marketing!), I still stand by the approach to remain active at the time.

Now, it goes without saying that what you say and how you say it needs to come with a sensitive tone. But do it right, and your customers will remember.

How do you get it right, I hear you ask?

By being a brand that’s built to last.

Almost anyone with a bit of commitment and drive can set up a business these days. An Instagram account and a smart product offering will get you started. Sometimes you don’t even need a decent product - managing a slick Instagram account and your personality alone can generate sales.

I’m a huge fan of this. It’s enabled Mums to generate income from home. Side-gigs to turn into full time employment. And people that would never have had the courage to start a business, to give it a go. That’s awesome.

But sadly, not all of them will make it out of this. Because not all of them are built to last.

Building a brand requires strategy. It needs structure. Differentiation. Digital sales tactics aren’t going to cut it in a market like this.

Does your brand stand for something? What are your values?

If you don’t know, I suggest you start defining them.

Brand values help you effectively target the people that stand for the same things. They drive your messaging and your tone of voice. And, they encourage consumers to stand by you in difficult times.

They also enable you to pivot. To adapt to any situation.

You only have to look at Louis Vuitton who are using their manufacturing prowess for Guerlain, Christian Dior and Givenchy to manufacture hand sanitisers for French hospitals. How cool is that?

Consumers will remember and they'll probably have a deeper understanding of the LVMH brand. While the deliverable is outside of what you'd expect, they’re staying true to their brand values of being creative and innovative by delivering something that is vastly needed at this time.

New Zealand's Les Mills is another great example. Committed to creating a fitter planet, they were quick to develop a partnership with TVNZ to provide Kiwis with free exercise classes five days a week during lockdown.

And, that’s what marketing is all about. Serving a need. Not simply pushing products.

If you want some help defining your values, come and join us in The Marketing Collective - it’s one of the first things we do.

You can test the beginning of the process out with my free topic on Developing Your Brand Essence, which is an essential component to developing a brand that’s built to last. It's available in the toolkits section of my website.

Remember, it’s those businesses that have brands that are built to last that will. Investing in your brand now is more important than ever.