Every economic downturn is different so there is no template for handling this or the next crisis that comes along – especially when it comes to brand strategy.

However, there are patterns to human behaviour that remain the same. These patterns – which reflect the way all of us as consumers react to a downturn and how we prioritise – are a useful prompt to reviewing our brand strategy from a customer perspective.

Nearly all businesses are having to make economies and the obvious move may be to cut brand assets (talent, services, communications) and compete on price for market share.

Survival and success stories, however, often lead back to brands that look carefully at how differently people around them are behaving and realign themselves through innovation to satisfy changing needs and priorities.  Here is a simple checklist to help refocus brands in a downturn:

Behaviour types:

  • Alarmed – vulnerable and hardest hit
  • Concerned – resilient but worried
  • Secure – comfortable to ride it out
  • Live for now – worry later


How they prioritise:

Brand Strategy | Harvard business review model of customer behaviour | IM London

(based on Harvard Business Review model)


How brands can respond:

On the innovation side, there have been great examples recently from owners and managers who quickly grasped the reality of genuine needs and behaviours and have proved that innovation will create new revenue streams or enhance existing ones.

From food boxes, cooking classes and home delivery using streamlined menus to retailing food, merchandise and wine and converting restaurant space into groceries and delis; Searcys is a smart example of how innovation has been used to enhance existing products – such as afternoon tea at Blenheim Palace and other venues; these have been relaunched as high value pre-sell al fresco packages with enormous success from day one.

In a different sector altogether, The Hollies Care Centre has responded to the heightened sensitivity in the needs of applicants since the pandemic; the new Garden Suites and Apartments being introduced this year will provide a reassuring sense of safety, own space and privacy.

Taking inspiration from the above, here are a few tips from past successes to help innovate within your brand strategy and create new revenue streams.

  1. Streamline products: focus on what people need and will buy now
  2. Make your brand accessible: in the home and on site
  3. Reduce complexity: to avoid any sacrifice in quality
  4. Differentiate on price: add value in new ways; don’t race to the bottom
  5. Double efforts to build trust: no compromise on safety, hygiene and fairness
  6. Connect emotionally: be honest and show you’re on the customer’s side

Finally, be ready for your downturn exit:

Refresh your brand to reflect the change in human needs, because whilst businesses are putting customers under a microscope, their customers are looking at brand behaviour more closely than ever.

At IM London, we’re here to help you with any of your branding needs. Drop us a line or connect with us via Whatsapp if you’d like to speak about your brand strategy.

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