Brand experiences during lockdown

When the nation went into lockdown it seemed life as we knew it was over. And in some ways it was. Supermarket shelves were stripped bare, you couldn’t get a home grocery delivery for weeks, and things you never thought you needed (resistance bands, trampolines, yeast) were suddenly must haves, if you could get them.
As society tries to get to grips with the ‘new normal’ we’re living through, brands have been quick to try and adapt. While a lot of the COVID-19 driven marketing has been very samey, to the point where many ads feel the same as this video highlights, it’s yielded some interesting changes in brand experience.

Empty promises

First, a quick thought on the ads. Do you know we’re all in this together? Good. The message has landed then. What’s interesting is the fact that many brands pumping out these messages of solidarity are not showing that solidarity to their employees. Which makes me wonder: just how important are these values, promises, and purposes that brands spend a lot of time talking about when times are good? 

If COVID-19 has shown us anything about brands it’s how quickly many of them will consign values, promises, purposes and all the rest to the flames when the chips are down. But isn’t this the exact time when they matter most? When, if they were really at the core of the brand and the business, they would enact them?
Some brands have come up to scratch (witness Brew Dog making hand sanitiser and distributing it for free, while others have failed miserably. Will this have any impact after the fact? Maybe. If people decide to think more about where they put their money, there could be serious repercussions for brands who have shown their true colours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The relaxed instore experience

What’s interested me the most has been how instore experiences have changed, and feel more like something from the past. And it doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing. 

Now, I can’t say I’m a fan of queueing outside for 45 minutes to get in and do my food shop, but once I’m inside? It feels like this is what shopping should be like. 

There’s plenty of space. I don’t feel rushed. And yes, while maintaining the social distancing rules leads to the odd awkward moment navigating an aisle (especially when the trolley wheels decide to be disobedient), on the whole it’s a more pleasant experience to the usual stress and mania of the weekly shop. I felt like I’d stepped back in time.

And, what I’ve noticed everywhere is that the social distancing has made many interactions more personal. It sounds odd, but I’ve chatted with more staff in shops than I have ever done before. Distancing regulations were observed of course, and perhaps it’s the feeling of us ’all being in this together’, but I think there’s something else at play here: we’ve actually got time on our hands.

Good digital experiences

In a time where people can’t move about as usual digital technology has been a huge benefit to us all. We can keep in contact with loved ones, do our shopping, keep ourselves entertained (imagine surviving lockdown with a handful of VHS tapes!), and for those of us not on furlough we’ve been able to keep working. All thanks to digital.

Brands that have focused on their digital experience will be seeing the benefits during this time. For those that haven’t all is not lost. Digital by its very nature is agile and adaptable, and so brands can look to leverage digital during this time and get their online house in order to meet their customers’ needs. And even in lockdown, it’s that blending of the digital and the physical that will deliver the best quality experiences. How does your online experience blend with the offline? 

With the lockdown in place I’ve been able to dedicate spare time to making some improvements around the home and in the garden, and my experience buying some DIY kit from B&Q was excellent. 

With the huge amount of traffic going to their website they have introduced an online queuing system which, while it goes against the immediacy we expect from Amazon, was handled tactfully and realistically. Once I had access to the site the click and collect ordering was smooth, and was followed by a phone call from a team member to let me know when I could go to my local store to collect. A great example of a brand adapting to the shockwave of COVID-19 and doing the best they can with their digital and physical presence to deliver a quality brand experience.

The COVID-19 pandemic might be a turning point for brands, where they take a hard look at not just how they communicate but what they actually do. It’s easy to spew out some platitudes and fall short on delivering on your promise and purpose, and during business as usual brands get away with it all the time. Put together some glossy comms, pump it out there, and don’t worry about the contradictions. After all nobody has got time to think about their own lives let alone your ads. 

But now we’re seeing the brands that actually deliver on what they promise succeeding, while the rest who were so keen to let us know just how great they are get left behind. 

Perhaps in the future it won’t be the squeaky hinge that gets the oil, but the hinge that does its job and does it well.