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Image / Editorial

How to navigate your brand through a crisis: what we learned

by Eva Hall
30th Apr 2020

IMAGE group contributing editor Melanie Morris chats with Gillian Horan, CEO of The Pudding, a brand marketing agency, in the latest IMAGE virtual event.

Business leaders have been scrambling to get to grips with the new normal we now find ourselves in — many of them forced to close their doors while Covid-19 wreaks havoc on our retail, restaurants and drink sectors.

Gillian Horan, chief strategist and CEO of brand marketing agency The Pudding, laid out steps to follow to help business owners big and small navigate their brand through this crisis.

In conversation with IMAGE group contributing editor, Melanie Morris, in a virtual event on Wednesday, Gillian acknowledged the “nightmare” that businesses are living in currently. “This is a nightmare we’re all going through, it’s testing us as a nation, as consumers, as businesses. For business survival, your brand is critical for this.”

Gillian Horan, CEO of The Pudding, in virtual conversation for the IMAGE event on Wednesday. Photo: IMAGE

A changed landscape

“There’s a new generation of customer happening, and there is a new normal, it won’t look the same as it did prior to Covid-19,” says Gillian.

Three areas you need to look at to manage your brand are: Assessment, Communication, and Bouncing Back.


Don’t just think about your customer, customers want to see how you’re treating your people, because your people are your brand. They’re the people who deliver the experiences, and they’re the people that we interact it when we buy or experience and engage with the brand.

Business leaders need to ask themselves: who am I as a company, what do I do, what do I offer, what makes me different and how your brand is interacting with people now in relation to that.

Key areas to look at include:

  • Purpose
  • Mission
  • Objectives
  • Brand positioning
  • Brand story
  • Brand salience
  • Target audience
  • Values
  • Tone of voice



Communication with your people (staff members)

This will be the success of your brand when we can get back out and communicate again. Engagement is so important. This is the new reality, we’re working from home, but we’re working within a crisis. Empathy is really important here as a business leader, whether you’ve one employee, three employees, or 30 employees or 300, empathy is crucial and understanding what your people are going through, making sure you massively communicate with your people.

Communication with your customers

You need to think about and put yourself in the shoes of your customer and what they’re experiencing right now. There is research conducted that shows that they are concerned as consumers — in terms of what’s happening with Covid-19 — but they’re also optimistic about the future. Brands need to look at what the behaviours are, what the values are, what the changing needs and wants of them are. It’s so important to put yourself in the shoes of that customer.

Research from Kantar has shown that customers are happy for brands to maintain advertising during Covid-19 (92%) as it creates a sense of normalcy. But campaigns that don’t strike the right tone should be stopped. It is okay to advertise, you just need to watch the context that you’re doing it in.

Content themes to watch out for:

  • Purpose focused
  • Behind the scenes (what’s happening in the business)
  • Locality and partners (local businesses and partnering with community)
  • People
  • Community
  • At home with your customers
  • Memories
  • Inspiration
  • Virtual experiences
  • Booking with confidence — address it (address Covid-19)


Bouncing Back

Fortune favours those who plan. And it’s really important that we’re taking this opportunity to ask what do we need to do in relation to our business and our brand and plan for the future?

In the new normal, there is definitely going to be social distancing. Business leaders are looking to what solutions can be provided and still have that social distancing. My advice to you and your business is to look at what this new normal will look like for you. What do you need to put in place in order for you to be able to live and work within your community, and how will work for your people?

Key areas to consider in bouncing back:

  • Hygiene
  • Technology
  • Safe and trustworthy
  • Natural movement
  • Loungewear
  • Customisation
  • Small gatherings
  • Cautious and intimate experiences
  • Omni channel
  • Working from home
  • Domestic travel
  • Family travel
  • Off the beaten track
  • Green
  • Wellness

If you missed the IMAGE Navigating Your Brand Through a Crisis virtual even, stay tuned to image.ie and IMAGE social channels for announcements on our next virtual event.

For more information about The Pudding and how they can help you manage your brand, see here