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Yes, this is bad. Yes, this affects everybody. Yes, social distancing, cancelled events, and closed Apple and Starbucks stores are a source of discomfort, isolation, and inconvenience. And, yes, there’s likely a recession on the horizon. But no, this is not the time to stop supporting your brand.

How do we know? Well, contrary to what some of our younger associates might suggest, I was not around for the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Brand Keys was, however, around and conducting research and consulting for brands, during other epidemics – both viral and economic. So, we know that both memory and history confirm that brands that continued to advertise did better than brands that cut their budgets or went on hiatus.

Following the 1973 year-and-a-half energy-crisis, automotive brands that resisted the temptation to cut budgets and let the brand shelter-in-place, increased advertising and marketing efforts and found themselves sales leaders, branding to the adage, “When times are good, you should advertise. When times are bad, you must advertise.” But. . .

In 1991 the shock of immense oil price increases led to a loss of jobs and for some brands a loss of confidence in the economy and the effects of advertising. Brands that cut advertising saw sales decrease by 25+ percent. Brands that increased advertising saw better-than-comparable sales increases in the +40% to 60% range. But. . .

The SARS crisis (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2002 and 2003 cost the world economy $40 billion. The disease infected the global economy related to business and leisure travelers dramatically. Tourism and entertainment – even the cosmetic category – took a beating. Companies that supported their brands saw sales increases of 28% to 35%. But. . .

One last marketing-history episode. In the aftermath of the financial collapse of 2008 and the massive recession that followed, overall brand support dropped nearly 15%. Brands that increased their brand efforts saw sales grow upwards of 30%. But. . .

Those “buts” mean that in addition to continuing to promote their brands, successful brands recognized  – by planning or providence – that not only had the marketplace changed, but consumers had changed too. Anyone out there telling you it’s too soon to tell whether consumers and their brand relationships have changed either don’t have to the tools sensitive enough to measure the changes or are hedging their bets!

And according to a survey Brand Keys conducted last week, they absolutely have changed –dramatically. The pandemic has changed consumers’ world-views and brand views. Their decision processes – more emotional than rational before this epidemic struck – now show that emotions run higher than ever before and are likely to continue to do so. Views and values consumers use to assess brands are wildly different than they were four months ago. That’s the bad news from the world of brands.

The good news is, brands able meet consumer expectations and resonate with the changed values consumers actually revere right now will see long-term boosts in consumer engagement, loyalty, sales, market share, and profits. That means brands need to adapt. That means brands need to identify new strategies to accommodate a vastly changed marketplace. That’s marketing history too.

What’s also part of marketing history is that 35 years of experience has shown up that real engagement and loyalty metrics ­– psychological inquiry & higher-order statistical analyses ­– are able to identify emotional & rational aspects of real consumer decision-making as they exist now, and predictively, 12 to 18 months from now.

With a test-re-test reliability of 93%, successfully used in B2C, B2B, and D2C product & service categories in 35 countries around the world and with the most independent validations of any methodology anywhere, it provides a roadmap of where your brand should be heading, standing for, and doing! We collect insights that correlate very, very highly (0.85+) with consumer behavior and sales, your brand’s raison d’etre in both good times and bad.

It was playwright George Bernard Shaw who noted, “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.” But it was marketer, Sam Walton, when asked about a coming recession who responded, “I thought about it and decided not to participate.”

If you have any questions about how real loyalty and engagement applications in your category or for your brand can help ameliorate this crisis, please feel free to reach out. Be well, be safe, keep calm. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this global crisis.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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