We’re living through a time of unprecedented shake-ups.
Collectively, we have faced countless challenges and fast-changing rules of the game. The year saw much grief and loss, but also a myriad of surprising successes and reasons for optimism.
This year, we’ve watched American landmark companies with decades-long—and even century-long—legacies go under. We’ve watched businesses with incredibly deep pockets file for bankruptcy. And we’ve seen really smart companies struggle to remain viable.
This has led many of us to some deep soul-searching on how businesses can survive turbulent times.
We contend that the answer is Brand Positioning.
What is brand positioning, you ask, and how can one position a brand? Simply put, brand positioning is the process of optimally positioning your brand in the mind of your customers. A well-positioned brand will be perfectly placed to connect with the needs of its target audience, in the same way as an outfielder would position himself in the field to catch the ball on a pop fly.
Agility is a superpower
This year cemented the idea that “survival of the agile” trumps “survival of the fittest.” This indicates that remaining successful in the long-term is about more than being strong enough to weather the storm. Turns out, it is about the ability to adapt on the fly. We learned:
- Deep pockets don’t matter
- Legacy doesn’t matter
- Being smart isn’t enough
As we mentioned, the old pillars of success seem shakier than ever. Companies with longstanding American legacies have folded and shuttered their doors, businesses with deep pockets go bankrupt and incredibly intelligent businesses struggle. The takeaway is that across the board – turbulent times nail everybody somewhere.
That said, how can brands remain fresh, agile, and responsive when the world has been turned upside down? How exactly does a brand position itself for maximum impact in hard times?
Thriving in Tough Times
Conversely, the machinations of recent times have confirmed that during periods of upheaval, businesses can do more than just stay in the game. They can thrive. We have watched unsuspected companies and ‘underdogs’ succeed wildly—businesses that few would have bet would come out on top in a global pandemic. And they all have one thing in common:
Agility. Brands that succeeded this year were those who were able to position themselves in a way that made their brand accessible and relevant in dynamic circumstances. These companies:
- Adapted their product
- Adapted how they delivered that product
- Adapted how they served their clients
- Positioned their product for maximum exposure and relevance
Companies that succeeded in the year’s shifting circumstances not only found ways to serve their clients virtually, but also created business structures to support new operating modes. They then followed up with brand messaging and brand marketing that put those adaptations out in front of people.
For most businesses, it will be insufficient to say, “We do COVID testing when you walk in the door” or “We offer virtual consultations and touch-free service.” Clients need more than that during scary times. Leading with a narrative that demonstrates your brands’ awareness, responsiveness, and responsibility is essential. Succinctly put by Verum founder Eric Owen, “There may be a pot of gold in the desert, but no one is going take it if they don’t know it is there.”
Owning Your Brand’s Narrative
Challenging times demand brands be responsive and proactive in order to succeed. Brands may need to change their business structures and potentially their business models, and will be called to intelligently communicate with their audiences. It will require finding your targets where they are, and getting your messaging out with a sense of immediacy. That may mean updating websites, modifying Google and Yelp listings, sending email and text campaigns, and having an active social media presence. It will require knowing where your clients are, and that not all of them are on any one of those channels.
The need for agility comes in when brands need to keep their messaging responsive to shifting circumstances – for example, what began as shocking upheaval now has an air of “the new normal.” Staying ahead of the public temperature on events and modifying brand messaging accordingly is essential for success.
Case Study 1: California Pools and Landscape
California Pools and Landscape is a family-owned and operated, upscale pool and backyard builder. When the pandemic and ensuing economic crisis hit, man businesses in the pool industry shuttered their doors or paused their offerings. Many others sent out a steady stream of reactive content about the virus and associated risks.
California Pools reacted with equilibrium and agility:
- They adopted the CDC’s and local government’s health and safety guidelines
- Read the pulse of the client base and immediately began offering virtual appointments
- Pivoted to touch-free services and pool planning
- Liaised with Verum to mindfully craft messaging to communicate with their audience
By this point, more information about the nature of the virus had emerged. The Verum team worked alongside CP&L to support and evolve their approach as the crisis became “the new normal.” We moved away from the urgent health and safety messaging and shifted our focus to highlighting the comfort and opportunity that the brand could offer. CP&L was positioned as Arizona’s Ultimate Stay-cation builder, and the company that could help people make the most of their quarantine. This messaging hit all the marks: it served the brand, their clients, and the ground truth.
What happened next was groundbreaking. California Pools and Landscape was one of the pandemic’s legendary success stories.
- Broke every sales record spanning 33 years in business
- Organic traffic to the website spiked dramatically and remains high
- Sales were so significant they pivoted to organic in-house marketing instead of Pay-Per-Click advertising
The well-timed shift from crisis-focused messaging to content surrounding opportunity and service drove their business to new heights. Their sales team is inundated with leads and their project managers are booked out well into next year.
This is what smashing 30 year records looks like.
Case Study 2: Scottsdale Providence Recovery Center
Scottsdale Providence is a plush substance abuse and mental health treatment center with a long track record of success. When the pandemic arrived in force, most people were suddenly afraid to leave their homes. People were particularly hesitant about visiting any kind of public health environment—doctors and hospitals saw a noticeable downtick in scheduled procedures, routine visits, and essential care. Throughout the country, many people strenuously avoided healthcare facilities, doctors, and anywhere else they might engage the virus.
Scottsdale Providence reacted proactively:
- They implemented intake polices and caregiving standards to maintain control of the environment
- Implemented CDC guidelines and robust operating procedures
- Offered calm and reassurance to clients through clear messaging about these procedures that served to counter the concern about visiting healthcare facilities
- Worked with Verum to craft a narrative about how a 30-day treatment facility might be the safest place one could be
The Verum team worked with Scottsdale Providence to create messaging that countered the panic surrounding the virus. We led with the concept that being in a 30-day treatment facility might indeed be the safest place possible. As Scottsdale Providence had strict intake procedures and limited client exposure to the outside world, they offered those who needed a fresh start a safe place to find one. As the pandemic led to huge spikes in overdose deaths, and isolation had devastating consequences for those with substance abuse disorder and mental health issues, SPRC offered a safe haven and a unique opportunity to step away from the world to get well.
We supported this brand positioning by creating a series of blogs that spoke to the pulse of what was happening. We also created robust messaging that we shared via email, social media and on the website. Verum helped Scottsdale Providence’s messaging remain responsive: COVID-related messaging was front and center through the initial months of the virus, and then shifted to the background as the worlds’ experience with the virus changed. We noted what gave people confidence shifted over time and we responded to that.
As a result, Scottsdale Providence continues to thrive:
- They’ve remained at capacity while other centers have closed their doors
- Elevated brand credibility and confidence
- Created an opportunity to offer their services to people in need without jeopardizing safety and integrity
TELL YOUR STORY
We know many are still facing uncertain futures. We are still crafting narratives to help people position themselves best in the shifting circumstances.
Let us help you tell your story. After all, agility will be the key to your business’ evolution – in good times and bad.