Are you one of those people who can recite every Friends episode word for word? Or can you remember how you felt when princess Leia died in the Star Wars saga? If the answer is yes, then you already know the importance of great storytelling: touching people to their core and evoking an emotion, which makes them recall the story.
COVID-19 requires brands to rethink their storytelling drastically. And while many companies see this crisis as an economical low point, there are also opportunities to grasp in these unusual times. Let us explain how you can meet them by adapting your storytelling during COVID-19.
What behavioural trends tell you
Crisis or not, a great starting point is analysing emerging trends and behaviour around you. Entrepreneurs and marketeers are often so passionate about their brand or product, they tend to forget to listen to the needs of their customers.
COVID-19 is showing us an entirely new way of living, working, caring, educating – or whole way of existing basically. And there is a lot to learn from these new habits for brands.
Social distancing measures enhance the need for human connection. Screens and digital applications help us keep in touch with our families and business relations. New social media trends form a source of entertainment. Creativity and generosity are the foundation of many initiatives that bring people closer together, in a safe way.
Think of food companies delivering free meals to hospitals, telecom businesses sending iPads to nursing homes, car manufacturers supplying motor parts to help engineering students develop breathing machines, fashion brands who provide textile to seamstresses to stitch mouth masks and other great initiatives.
Businesses and consumers are implementing this new normal into their lives – but then how, when and where do you fit your brand story into it?
Why storytelling matters
Let’s go back to the theory of storytelling: “ Brand storytelling is the cohesive narrative that weaves together the facts and emotions that your brand evokes.”
Going back to our introduction: why is it easy to remember a Friends episode, yet so hard to recall a presentation filled with stats and figures? Because the first contains a storyline and evokes an emotional response, hence the power of storytelling. Cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it has been wrapped in a story.
Pre-COVID-19 times, this means that in addition to telling your customers about the benefits of your service or product, you also need to show them who you are and what you stand for as a company – in everything you do. How do you want to be remembered as a brand? And how are you going to bring that message across in this fast-paced, overly-automated digital society, with a generation of consumers with a decreasing attention span?
On top of that, the current COVID-19 crisis asks for new ways of telling your brand story. Finding the right message for your audience can be a real struggle in this new reality. So, what stories should brands tell these days?
How to communicate as a brand in COVID-19
So how can you alter your message to COVID-19 times and make it memorable?
#1 Don’t disappear – Although your company may be experiencing economic difficulties caused by the crisis, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Not communicating now, will have a negative effect on your brand awareness post-Corona, when consumers will re-start their lives. So whatever you do, don’t disappear.
#2 Manage the balance between being sensitive to people’s safety and psychological needs vs. your business goals – It goes without saying that in times of a world pandemic, it’s not ideal to send out highly commercial messages. Your communication can still have a commercial origin, but alter the message to the current needs. Are you selling kitchen supplies? Show your audience a tutorial on how to cook a nice dessert, rather than making a commercial offer.
#3 Engage with your audience on a deeper level – Due to social distancing, the crave for human contact is bigger than ever. So what if you adapted your social media link post to a fun poll or questionnaire? Ask people’s opinion on topics, so they feel heard and useful. Or maybe even collect your most interesting trends or advice in a free webinar or infographic? Feed people with engaging content. Reading tip: How to go from good to great content
#4 Show your impact and empathy – Are you supporting a cause? Tell your customers about the impact you’re creating. Or set up an action to support your customers, sending out inspirational newsletters, developing colouring plates for their children, offering free recipes. Whatever industry you’re in, show them you care.
#5 Be creative – If there is an upside to this crisis, it’s that it’s a great time to be creative. See this Corona episode as the perfect time to experiment with new ideas, that maybe you’ve been wanting to try for a while. You might be able to surprise your audience with a new format they weren’t expecting from your brand. Staying at home also means that people have more time to consume content, like watching YouTube videos, reading an online magazine, listening to podcast series or trying out a TikTok challenge.
The proof is in the pudding – Cases
Now that we’ve shared our storytelling tips, we’ll show you some recent cases of initiatives that we found inspiring during the COVID-19 crisis.
TELENET – #SAMENERDOOR
Telecom provider Telenet has taken a number of actions to reach out to their consumers during COVID-19, such as increasing the data limit for their customers and offering workout videos on their digibox. Next to that, Telenet engaged their own employees to create home videos and share these on the content platform. Each employee shares its expertise on the platform; varying from social media training to DIY projects with your kids.
JBC – WHATHETIKTOK
Belgian fashion retailer JBC launched a campaign to open up the conversation between parents and their teens about the social media platform TikTok. Together with advertising agency LDV and MMBSY, they developed the online platform – filled with useful tips and information. To make sure the campaign had a broad reach, MMBSY involved celebrities and influencers to take on the TikTok challenge with their kids and post a video together.
DOVE – COURAGE
Personal care brand Dove announced that they will be providing care products to front-line medical workers and hospitals. With their #WashToCare campaign, they’re reinforcing the importance of hand washing. The #SelfEsteemAtHome Project is helping parents, caregivers and guardians support young people’s mental wellbeing at home while schools are closed. Offering free online tools and new 4-episode series on social media hosted by body positive influencers.
Important reminder: no other brand can copy YOUR story. So make it count.