Once upon a brand, a story is told of a family of Mice who had been living in fear because of a Cat. They come together to discuss how to defeat the Cat. A young Mouse suggested putting a bell around the Cat’s neck so they could hear when the cat approaches. All the other Mice agreed in theory, apart from one wise, old Mouse. The old Mouse asked: “Who will put the bell on the Cat?” The Lesson here is that it is never a good idea to boast about an idea, until you know it’s going to work when executed.
Having worked at one of Africa’s best Public Relations firms, Global Media Alliance (GMA), I can confidently say that I know what clients want from agencies and why they engage them. From the suggestions of the wise Mise, we are put the bell on the cat. I’ll explain in a bit. Clients simply want straight-forward solutions and not more problems. They need agencies such as GMA to make a meaningful connection with the audience through effective branding.
Here, branding is what makes a memorable impression on consumers and allows your customers and clients to know what to expect from your company. You can also call it a true representation of who you are as a business, and how you wish to be perceived. Hence, setting the tone on branding determines the direction, feel, content, vision, and execution of every message that is delivered.
Our team of skilled PR professionals develop and implement tailored communications and marketing solutions to positively influence public perception of our clients, their brands and products/services. These skilled team members bring experience to bare in satisfying clients in key industries such as Finance, Telecoms, Technology, Travel/Tourism, Healthcare, Automobile, Aviation, Energy, Food, Beverage, Agribusiness, Gov’t relations, and Real Estate industries and more.
Branding realities during and after COVID-19
In March 2020 when Ghana recorded its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19, the whole country was in disarray. At the global level, no one was ready for a pandemic that destabilized economies, claimed lives, ravaged businesses, disrupt our normal way of life, came with job cuts, amongst other challenges.
Companies across the world were in a dilemma on doing all they can to salvage their businesses or turn their attention to the health and safety issue affecting their customers or citizens in general. Coincidentally, customers expected such brands to show their humane side in times of crisis specifically through empathetic actions. Amidst all these difficulties, the clients GMA works for and other businesses had to apply tact and sensitivity to the challenging times by maintaining their prices not to burden customers further.
As at now, customers have taken keen interest in scrutinizing actions and inactions taken by brands when it comes to safety of customer, employees and communities in general. Subconsciously, customers and the general public have taken notice of brand’s efforts at improving society or connectively positively with society and hence offer good scores for companies who care and have earned the public’s trust amid health and safety uncertainties. The reverse is true brands who are making profit but caring less.
The COVID phase of lockdown and its accompanying hardship saw most organizations contributing to the public good by donating cash, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), among others. Other brands and individuals partnered the COVID-19 Private Sector to construct and stock Ghana’s first Infectious Disease Centre.
More recently, the Appiatse explosion around Bogoso in January 2022 has seen many well-meaning Ghanaians and multinational donating relief items— mattresses, rice, sugar, buckets, cooking oil, canned fish and toiletries—worth millions of Cedis to support the dislocated residents, support towards the rebuilding of the township and commensurate with the grieving families.
The branding gamechanger
The fundamentals of brand building have remained the same but the “how to build the brand” is much different post COVID; it therefore calls for a new or refined playbook that tackles the real issues. Let’s zoom in some brand game changing ideas.
- Prioritize authenticity to drive action
During the pandemic and lockdown phase last year especially, the Ghanaian consumers got used to empathy, community support from countless brands. With consumers being served social responsibility by brands, the bar has been raised when it comes to getting an authentic tone of voice from brands, brands speaking the truth or being open and keeping consumers reliably informed.
The modern-day consumer has outgrown PR and social media stunts, and see right through scripted activities and acting; they lean more towards authentic brands that tell basic stories using great values, messaging and tone of voice which are just appropriate (not overdone) it.
- Stand for something
To answer the bigger question on why companies and individuals divert huge sums of monies for COVID 19 support and other emergencies, it comes from a place of brand commitment to adjust and offer innovation strategies to compete against the COVID-19 pandemic-induced market downturn.
To make brands trustworthy, brands are smartly shifting their priority from solely making profits to ensuring the wellbeing of customers and employees first.
It is as simple as that and a worthwhile investment.
- Keep a pulse on what customers want
The major learning during COVID 19 outbreak, lockdown and its accompanying restrictions was that consumers controlled the market in terms of what they wanted and how fast they wanted it, thanks to car hailing apps, food delivery apps, social media platforms, and others.
In 2022 and beyond, brands must excel at having a clear understanding of customer expectations, and consumer journeys to gain a distinct competitive advantage. As companies look to build trust, it’s important that marketers own customer experience initiatives across the organization. It’s not enough to have a presence. Marketers must invest in driving engagement mapped to customer needs.
- Rethinking brick and mortar module of doing business
Just as the lockdown phase of the COVID outbreak led to schools, offices, churches and all social gatherings being put on hold, that was a wakeup call for clients to revise their strategy beyond physical structures.
Brands today should rethink accolades of having the biggest branch network in a sector or wider on-ground reach to implementing agile and innovation platforms to reach a wider market, evolve with their customers and not get left behind. After two years of living with the COVID pandemic, brands have no place going back to the old ways of doing business. It’s innovation or nothing.
- Hoping unto impactful platforms
In a post-pandemic world, it’s important to promote togetherness online and offline to forge a closer bond with your customers at different levels. Available data shows that virtual connections skyrocketed during the pandemic where people were no longer able to meet up in person due to quarantines, travel restrictions and social distancing guidelines.
To promote togetherness online, brands can host virtual events to engage with customers. For example, banks can host virtual session to build the capacity of its SME, premium, youth and other segments. It’s about time brands take advantage of platforms like Clubhouse to connect on a deeper level with customers by providing helpful advice and interviewing industry leaders and even celebrities.
A plane was flying through the clouds and suddenly lost balance. Everyone started shouting in fear. But a small boy kept playing with his toy. When the flight landed safely after one hour, a man asked the boy, “How could you play with your toy when everyone was afraid?”
The boy smiled and said… “My dad is the pilot and I know he will land safely.”
That is the kind of smooth experience the team at Global Media Alliance brings to current and potential clients. We believe the pandemic has been an extremely challenging time for most brands but innovation can help brands get back on track and even start engaging with customers at higher levels than ever before.
>>>the writer is Public Relations (PR) lead at Global Media Alliance, one of the oldest and locally owned PR firms in West Africa. He brings over ten years of PR, Marketing, Media Management and Strategy to the fore, working with notable international and local brands—Vodafone, Tullow, eni, OCP Africa, among others—in sectors such as Agriculture, Arts, Beverage, Education, Energy, Government Relations, Health, ICT, Real Estate, Sports, Telecommunications, etc.
He works with a team of skilled PR professionals to conceptualise solutions, advise both retainer and project clients, and execute projects in line with KPIs for local and affiliate—Weber Shandwick, Fleishman-Hillard, etc.—projects. He is passionate about mentoring the young generation to grow in their chosen career fields, especially in communications. Aside PR, he blogs on everything Ghana at https://paakwesiforson.com/. Email: [email protected]
social media handles: paakwesiforson