What Brands Learned from the Pandemic

A diverse mix of experts in the brand and insights landscape weighed in on their different functions and tools to showcase how brands thrive in a crisis in the webinar “Pandemic Era Brand Surge”. We are living in an age of interconnectedness, accelerated technology and hyper-narratives, where as a Top 100 Brands 2020 report from Kantar described, “In this new era, brands must benefit the public, along with the person. The era of the public means a new brand ethic. This ethic is more than purpose, more than social responsibility, and more than good over greed. It is about brands adding the public to their portfolio of product and person.” This does call for a values-shift in brand messaging and outreach across the slate of brands. Review the top 20 winners excerpted from their report below:

Loretta Eldridge kicked off the day’s lightning talks on growth. She offered three key lessons from launching a business during COVID-19 which included being agile, getting the work done, and understanding the new buyers’ realities. She also urged everyone to tap into the power of their HR departments for answers and support you may not find otherwise. Drawing from her experience as a marketing leader across a section of industries, Eldridge was able to shed light on the brand challenges that come with launching an insurance start-up in the middle of a pandemic .

Iryna Lozynska took the discussions further into the new competitive and partnerships landscape that had emerged post the pandemic, and how it had forced retail brands to adopt direct-to-consumer pathways (what she dubbed D2C versus D2C 2.0). Taking us along a timeline of the golden history of retail and through the retailpocalypse and into the bright future of new and unconventional competitive partnerships, Lozynska highlighted some of the brands that had hedged against risk well, drawing attention to the case of Casper (among others), expressing that creative differentiation goes a long way in being a brand that resonates.

There was no argument about how some categories saw greater wins than others through the crisis. The losers had to pivot or re-strategize their offerings and value even if they hadn’t had a digital presence before. In her presentation on seismic consumer behaviour shifts, Busola Akin-Olawore took on the mantle of explaining how the winners and losers in this race played out citing research from Nielsen and the Boston Consulting Group, offering recommendations as well for those categories that had suffered most.

Nadine Spencer pulled the discussions in favour of Black Equity: Challenges and Possibilities, discussing the disproportionate harms of systemic racism in the workplace and outside, addressing persisting anti-black racism in society and how it played out in corporate board rooms and why brands must rebuild their narratives with true inclusion, while explaining the difference between “equality” and “equity”. Spencer referenced the results of a survey her association conducted to understand access to capital in the pandemic by Black-owned businesses in the pandemic and talked about ways more aid and research could help. Spencer also offered examples of brands that stood out in good and bad ways and her call to action was to recruit truly diverse and equitable boards that powered your organization’s mission.

Arundati Dandapani then shared insights from the evolving legal cannabis space bringing the attention to why cannabis proved its resilience again as an essential service industry, why the health and wellness and recreational users in Canada were disruptive post the pandemic, and what product formats and forms of retail were more popular with cannabis consumers through COVID in Canada pointing to areas of growth.

She concluded the set of presentations fielding Q&A to her co-panelists and ended the lightning talks wishing everyone a great July 01st holiday. You can watch the event’s video recording below:

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