You might be wondering why on earth we’re talking about branding and a pandemic in the same sentence.
Surely there’s nothing appealing, from a marketing point of view, about the ugly coronavirus that currently has the world in its grip?
However, you would be surprised just how closely the two things are actually linked.
Think about your own experience for a minute. How have your habits changed since the virus emerged in March? Do you shop in the same way, at the same places? Do you eat out where you used to? And are you visiting the same kinds of venues on days out? Or are you making different choices with COVID-19 in mind?
Do you find yourself, for example, vetting shops, restaurants and hospitality venues before you commit to going? And, if so, what are the things you’re looking for from them?
It’s likely that the answers to these questions are quite stark, now you’ve stopped to think about them. Because all the signs are that people’s habits have changed dramatically since the first lockdown. A higher percentage of people are now shopping online, rather than visiting the supermarket, so much so that value giants like Aldi are in the process of fast-tracking a move to an online delivery service. An article in the Supermarket News trade magazine quoted representatives from the FMI food industry association and research experts Nielson, saying that research conducted among 3,600 consumers showed that online grocery sales increased by 300 per cent in the first three months of the pandemic, and the industry has seen seven years’-worth of online sales growth in just seven months of 2020. Meanwhile, online retailer Amazon has increased its global warehousing and distribution capacity by 50 per cent and carried out four major recruitment drives to increase its global workforce to a whopping one million people, to cope with the increase in its sales, after people flocked to it as their fourth emergency service, keeping them supplied with everything from home entertainment to store cupboard essentials and morale-boosting treats. Not surprisingly, it recorded record revenues of $89billion for the second quarter of 2020.
Suddenly, WHAT businesses offer their customers is no less important than HOW they offer it. Who would ever have imagined, a year ago, that good hygiene would be hip? Yet it now is.
What customers really, really want
With this in mind, no matter what line of business or service provision you’re in, you only really need to look at your own personal experience and put yourself in your customers’ shoes to imagine what they are looking for from you.
They want to see your team wearing masks or gloves if dealing at close quarters or handling groceries and food; washing their hands and observing safe distances. They want to know that, if you’re a venue, you’re adhering to the track and trace system by offering check-ins in line with the new NHS COVID-19 app.
And, where restaurants and cafés are concerned, they want to see that you’re doing everything possible to avoid cross-contamination from cutlery, condiments and other items, and that you’re keeping people a safe distance apart while dining. And if you’re a community care provider or facility, they want to be reassured that you’re making the maximum effort to prevent passing on the virus to their loved ones, through appropriate visitor control, sanitisation and the wearing of personal protective equipment.
You get the picture – essentially, the public are judging every organisation and business they deal with, from their employer to those they buy products and services from, by how well they try to protect them. This means that there is an unprecedented opportunity to stand out among your competitor businesses but, at the same time, get it wrong and you will pay the price by watching others march ahead with your former customers in tow.
Help is at hand
The good news is that achieving the very highest standards is not as hard as you think. As Elliott’s Sales and Marketing Executive, Chris Elliott, explained: “Hygiene has traditionally been low down the list of priorities for businesses. Complying with the various standards and requirements has been seen more as a hassle they can do without, than something beneficial.
“And when new businesses are first preparing to launch, we frequently see them focusing more on the nice-to-haves, like their colour scheme, lighting or choice of furniture.
“However, in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated what we’ve said for a long, long time, which is that a brand is nothing if the business doesn’t have the necessary infrastructure in place to care for the people it deals with.
“In our view, good hygiene has always been absolutely paramount, but the current situation has now brought this realisation to the front of everyone’s minds.”
Achieving the latest, higher, COVID-secure standards, is attainable for every business, according to Chris. It just needs empathy, a strategic approach and a commitment to prioritising what needs to happen.
“The first, and most important, thing we advise businesses to do, is to ‘walk the walk’. Literally, tour their premises either in their mind’s eye or physically, and look at them afresh from the perspective of a customer or an employee. What are the risk areas, where are the potential hazards, what could be done better?
“Then, it’s about taking a methodical approach to working through a strategy for getting things right, establishing processes and roles within the business to ensure it is acted out consistently, and continually reviewing to ensure nothing slips.”
At Elliott’s, we specialise in hand-holding organisations through the process of reviewing or creating their hygiene strategies. We also have a handle on all the latest COVID-secure guidance, and can give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you have all bases covered – see our free COVID-secure guide for businesses for more details on that.
If you’re in any doubt how well your hygiene strategy reflects your brand, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for some experienced advice via 01482 327580 or firstname.lastname@example.org