In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, when daily life has been thrown into disarray and there feels to be no single source of information on which to focus, one thing is clear: We are in a period of great uncertainty. It is unclear how many people will get sick, whether a recession will take hold, and how much – or for how long – our daily routines will be impacted.

In this confusing time, brands have an opportunity to pivot their products, services and experiences while maintaining their overarching positioning. They can become both authentically relevant to their customers and help them manage the challenges of the crisis, while being a source of consistency. Brands can be there to provide a platform for the same type of engagement and connection that consumers have grown accustomed to receiving from them over time.

While difficult economic times are surely ahead, brands that find ways to remain relentlessly relevant during this crisis will without a doubt be the brands that thrive coming out of it.  Organizations must lean into the proven drivers of brand relevance: showing that they continue to be customer-obsessed, ruthlessly pragmatic, distinctively inspired and pervasively innovative. Keep reading to learn more about these components that help a brand maintain its relevancy in a world on edge.


Brands must take steps to demonstrate empathy toward the serious challenges consumers are facing and the needs they have during this time. Brands can demonstrate such empathy by understanding the benefits consumers want most or determining the needs consumers cannot fulfill on their own. Then, they must offer compelling solutions that deliver on these benefits or meet these needs for consumers.

Brands exemplifying such empathy include:

  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs is allowing customers to postpone loan payments for a month and is forgiving interest payments during that time as well – demonstrating it understands its consumers’ need for flexibility at a time when they may not be working or being paid.
  • Snapchat knows its consumers are feeling stress and anxiety. Therefore, it expedited the launch of its “Here For You” feature. Originally scheduled for April, it is available now and provides users resources when they search for topics related to mental health.

Ruthlessly Pragmatic

Brands must be there for their consumers, making their products available where and when they need them. Brands can show up for their consumers by exploring new channels and business models. They must be agile and flexible, willing to make strategic decisions typically outside of their wheelhouse, but which still align with their core purpose.

Brands demonstrating such presence include:

  • Comcast’s NBCUniversal is making its movies available in the home the same day as their global theatrical releases, bringing movies to its consumers when consumers cannot get to movie theatres.
  • Time Out, though typically focused on helping consumers explore and enjoy the best of the city, has shifted its focus to helping consumers stay in. The company has temporarily branded as “Time In” and is emphasizing stories that support this new way of living (e.g., “The best takeout and delivery restaurants in New York,” “The 40 best movies on Netflix right now,” etc.).

Distinctively Inspired

Brands must connect with consumers emotionally and inspire trust during this highly stressful time, all while staying true to their brand purpose. To do so in the short-term, brands must recognize the unprecedented nature of this situation and focus on “doing good” while still being purpose-led, stretching their thinking about what their true purpose is. This will allow consumers to see brands as in touch with the current reality.

Brands inspiring trust and connection include:

  • Zoom’s purpose is to remove friction and replace it with empowering communications experiences such that people can do more. The brand is staying true to this purpose, while also emotionally connecting with consumers, by giving K-12 schools its videoconferencing tools for free, providing schools and families that may not have the resources needed to educate and be educated.
  • Sweetgreen‘s purpose is to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. Sweetgreen is flexing this purpose, by delivering free meals to healthcare workers and first responders, connecting with those consumers who are working around the clock and may not have time to make or go out to pick up food.

Pervasively Innovative

Brands must find creative solutions and quickly adapt to the disrupted environment in which the world now finds itself. They must consider how this pandemic will change how society functions and innovate modern solutions that will allow them to maintain their businesses over time. They must focus on building business models, solutions, products, and experiences that allow them to stay profitable in the long-term.

Brands adapting through innovation include:

  • Disney had to close Disneyland and Disneyworld but drove new subscriptions for Disney+ by releasing Frozen 2 earlier than planned.
  • Resy, a restaurant reservation website and app, saw declining engagement as social distancing and quarantines took effect, so it pivoted to assembling a continually-updated guide to pickup and delivery options near consumers.

Final Thoughts

Though no brand should be “taking advantage” of a crisis such as the one the world is in right now, how brands react and demonstrate their relevance during this time will influence how consumers think about them during the crisis and beyond. Brands that stay relevant and truly deliver during this time of crisis will stand out in the minds and hearts of consumers and will be able to better withstand the market challenges the world now faces.

If you need help figuring out what path to take both now in the next 6-8 months (and beyond), please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to have a conversation. Also, if you have any questions you’d like answered by our experts, drop them into the comments below or reach out directly here.