The only way we can react as leaders and innovators of business is to respond in a way that demonstrates flexibility and a willingness to adapt. Consumers are now looking for companies that demonstrate authenticity and a desire to engage with social and environmental issues. They do not want their interactions to be faceless - they want to know that there is someone there, listening to their concerns and coming up with ways to address their needs and offer innovative solutions. This humanising of your brand through transformational business and branding - showing your authenticity and demonstrating that you understand what makes them tick and what keeps them up at night, will be what sets you and your brand apart.
However, it is important that these actions are not forced, that you are not doing the equivalent of greenwashing. If, for example, you claim that your business supports Pride, you need to be doing much more than waving rainbow flags. Look at how you can use your business to make a difference - donating to an LGBT charity and having a diverse workforce, show that your company brand is living its values. This authenticity is what consumers want to and need to see in such an uncertain time. It is not going to go away - this is the new normal for business and society, and you must show a willingness to adapt, move with the times and lead in ways to make a positive impact.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and probably the best-known entrepreneur in the world, is a master of transformative business. He has undoubtedly established the most successful eCommerce brand in history. He has looked at COVID-19 and how it has created a need for easy transactions. He is opening a chain of physical stores in the UK, where no physical contact to purchase goods is necessary. Customers will use apps and contactless payment to ensure that their transaction is completely contact-free, which, at the moment, is what customers want.
“Women possess the qualities of transformational leaders — vision, inspiration, direction-setting and out-of-the-box thinking.” - Forbes, 2020
Women make up just 5% of CEOs and 8% of world leaders, yet they have shown incredible success in navigating the Covid-19 crisis. Countries that have women leaders have seen significantly fewer cases of the illness. What is it that they are doing differently, and what can we learn from them?
Generally, women appear to be less risk-averse, which is important when it comes to innovation. They are also much more likely to demonstrate empathy and authenticity, which better connects them to their audience. This is precisely what consumers want to see from business leaders and CEO’s - the humanity behind the brand. These two traits also help them to see the bigger picture clearly and quickly when making key decisions.
Look at Jacinda Ahern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister. Before the pandemic took hold, she implemented measures that worked, and when cases started reappearing, she took swift action. While not always supported or popular, this decisiveness potentially saved thousands of lives and made her the poster girl for success. Suppose you could imitate her ability to make quick decisions, regardless of whether they are necessarily the most popular ones. In that case, it could do wonders for your business, particularly if you hit a crisis.
When the height of the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic hit, many brands went silent. What message does this send out to your customers? It shows them that you care when things are going well, but a whole different story in challenging times. It’s so important that you utilise email marketing and social media to keep your customers informed and up to date. In the UK, when schools were closed, and many businesses could not operate normally, they created new products, or supported initiatives to help families and people affected by the pandemic. For example, Heinze launched the ‘Breakfast Isn’t Going Anywhere’ campaign to donate 12 million free breakfasts to schoolchildren who needed them.
Transformational branding addresses the ever-evolving business climate and what consumers want and need. It is the way forward in business in this new era of a human centric approach - where we all need and want more humanness embedded in the way we connect, interact and do business. Where the way forward for brands is to live their brand values and be actively contributing positively to people and the planet.