Sustainable brand growth in a post-pandemic world

COVID-19 is the latest challenge many businesses find themselves facing. In this rapidly changing environment, making the right decisions for tomorrow while maintaining operational effectiveness today is fraught with anxiety.
New information is coming thick and fast. This means the context which informs the decisions being made within businesses is changing rapidly. There has never been a time when strategic partners were needed more than mere supplier relationships.

In ‘normal times’, aspiration, confidence, fear of failure and trust all play a role in the B2B buying mindset. If you add the risk of imminent recession and likely need to cut overheads, there may even be a healthy dose of guilt in the mix.
It sounds obvious, but avoidance of risk is a key component of business continuity – more so now than ever. With all the noise about lead generation and “growth hacking” in B2B, it’s easy to forget that the people brands are targeting are actually human beings rather than rational decision-making robots.

B2B brands need to consider this, as well as the opportunity posed by limited competitor activity. Binet & Field’s analysis of the IPA Databank has shown that fame and salience matter in B2B, as they do in B2C. This analysis has also shown the need for emotional resonance alongside rational messaging. Add to this the outputs from Kantar’s recent COVID-19 Barometer (March 2020) and you need to consider your tone of voice and principles that guide your comms activity.

The Kantar study found that 75% believed “companies should not exploit the health crisis to promote their brand” but, in contrast, only 8% believed “companies should stop advertising altogether”. The vast majority of respondents (77%) expected brands to be helpful during this pandemic. So, B2B brands need to shift their focus from ‘BAU’ promotions and instead look at ways to genuinely help and support your audience.

All around us people and the businesses they work for are being forced to adapt. How can your brand support this? Established rules are being broken all the time. As, the filmmaker and author, Astra Taylor observed that “in a crisis, the rules don’t apply”. So, what actions can you think of which support your words? With McKinsey’s reporting (following their ‘B2B decision-maker response to COVID-19’ survey) that business buyers are expecting to cut budgets (e.g. 60% anticipate a reduction in Vehicle purchases), what would encourage buyers to maintain spending with your brand and cut it with a competitor?

B2B brands like SEAT are helping their customers by reminding them of easily background risks and offering guidance to help reduce them, such as the risk posed to businesses by moth-balled company cars. Accountancy software provider, Sage, has pulled together a content hub offering practical advice – from a daily webinar on UK Government help for businesses to guidance on making a claim under the “Job Retention Scheme”.

If B2B brands can hold their nerve in the face of pressure to cut budgets and consider the timely needs of their audience, they will be in a very strong position to thrive when we return to the “new normal”.

Colin Gray | Head of Marketing Strategy and Behavioural Economics

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