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Remember me, your former number one fan? The growing divide between brands and consumers

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While everyone is talking about Covid-19, what very few are talking about is the longer it hangs around, the farther and farther consumers will drift from some of their favorite brands. This simple statement comes with huge impact and opportunity – depending on who you are.

It happened to me across lots of categories. I’m a big fan of tequila, soda and lime. It was and continues to be my Covid-19 drink of choice. But after many months in, still working from home, my local store ran out of my beloved tequila, Casa Migos. Noooo!

Fortunately, this crisis quickly turned into an opportunity. Many labels had distribution issues globally, and I still wanted to enjoy my favorite cocktail. So there I was, standing in front of a new spirits brand. Fast forward a few weeks, and Casa Migos is back in stock. But, I have drifted to another brand. Much like the physical space we find ourselves putting between others during Covid-19, there is space between me and my once beloved brand.

On a macro level, this divide is happening a lot. Brands were out-of-stock (consumer packaged goods (CPG) / fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)) or out-of-touch (automotive / airlines), and consumers naturally started to drift.

Think about it. Do you still have a favorite airline? A favorite toilet paper? Or are you waiting to see how brands engage you on the other side of Covid-19? According to a recent McKinsey study, 77% of consumers have tried new brands during the pandemic. This crisis has created an opening for consumers to meet and try new ones. And brands are meeting new consumers.

Suddenly, your favorite brand is just another logo in a sea of logos looking to acquire new consumers. Don’t get me wrong, there still are superfans. And they’ll never leave their go-to brand. But Covid-19 will test the loyalty of all the others. So, what do brands do? Seize this monumental opportunity.

“Allow my-self to introduce my-self.” – Austin Powers

Brands must take time to reintroduce themselves to consumers. And get them to fall in like, then love, with them all over again. The reintroduction will be more than a transaction this time. It will be an exchange of values. A brand act.

Brand Acts are authentic brand gestures that include an exchange of value or values. They are rooted in solving social, cultural, or opportunistic problems and the outcome often creates permanent change. While they have been done sporadically, I believe they are about to become a marketing staple.

Why? Because they are a perfect vehicle for brands as we move into the new normal.

The great reset

First, they reset relationships. Brand acts have the ability to reset a lapsed connection in a way that is both disruptive and on strategy and when they are experiential in nature they can be even more impactful. For example, one grocery chain in the U.K. gave health care workers dedicated in-store shopping time at the height of the pandemic. It’s this type of act that inspires people to remember who really had their backs when they decided to head back into stores.

They exchange value over advertising a message. The strongest consumer relationships are built on alignment between a brand’s mission, vision and values. Feeling connected to a brand – on a real level. Experiencing the proof of a brand’s promise. Not just listening to what they spew out. When Charmin put free bathrooms in Times Square during the busy holiday shopping reason, it filled an urgent (pun intended) need. One that consumers were grateful for.

They are hyper relevant and hyper relatable. Insight-based brand acts attract attention, earn media and generate content, as well as build strong consumer connections. When L.L.Bean learned that the reason people weren’t going outdoors was because they were stuck inside at work, they brought the outdoors to the office with the world’s first outdoor co-working space.

True consumer connection is more than making a sale. It’s authentic, human interaction that leaves a lasting impression. When we look back, Covid-19 will have taught us a great deal about interaction and collaboration and will hopefully result in brands putting people first. They will have adapted because of what has been imposed upon us all and those changes will be for the better. These changes will have a long lasting impact on the way we live, work and buy things. So, consider asking yourself: how does your brand act?

Craig A. Millon, chief client officer, Jack Morton

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