Bolder Thinking Blog

How to maintain brand voice and identity at a time when everything is in flux

June 17th, 2020 | Rachel Arndt

Four steps to adjusting advertising strategies amidst COVID-19.

#1 Watch your language

As COVID-19 takes a human toll, it’s also taking a linguistic toll. With most companies emailing frequently about COVID-19, the terms they used to describe the pandemic rose, fell, and blended together.

Base: Emails from Chase, Wells Fargo, Capital One, Citibank, Bank of America, Citizens Bank, U.S. Bank; Source: Comperemedia Omni [3/1/20-5/31/20] as of 6/3/20
We see this trend in email subject lines too, where brands are using common terms like ‘help,’ ‘digital,’ and ‘important’ to signal common concerns. With so many similar messages going out, brands need to have strong brand identities to stand out.

#2 Watch your layout

Citi maintained its color palette but shifted toward more text-heavy emails*. By changing up its emails, Citi signaled that it wasn’t ignoring the gravity of the pandemic. But the shift may have been too severe, resulting in an off-putting message.

Subtle layout shifts can communicate continuity amidst change. By shifting the text to above the image, U.S. Bank foregrounded what it was saying while offering relief via consistent imagery just below.

#3 Watch your tone

Venmo turned more serious on social media. The new serious tone may have been too drastic of a change but might have been appreciated by some, given that the previous lighthearted jokes could be interpreted as tone-deaf.

Cash App depended on its terse social voice to carry it through the pandemic. Unlike Venmo, Cash App didn’t shift too much, instead using what it was already good at – communicating in an offbeat way – to convey a new, but connected, message.

#4 Action item checklist

Look both to yourself and to the world around you to inform a brand identity that’s current but unique.

  • Consider your current voice and what it depends on. Can it exist if the circumstances change?
  • Strike a balance between pursuing branding and pursuing consumers’ trust.
  • As you adjust your voice to stay current during a pandemic and civil unrest, keep in mind that the voice you establish now has to last into the future.
*All images sourced from Comperemedia Omni [1/1/20-5/31/20] as of 6/3/20
Rachel Arndt

Rachel Arndt

Rachel Arndt is a Senior Research Analyst, interpreting cross-channel marketing and consumer trends with a focus in telecom.