Flip the Script on Your Marketing: The New Narrative - Brand Messaging During a Global Crisis

brand messaging marketing May 26, 2020

Welcome to our new blog series: Flip the Script on Your Marketing. We know everything’s changed and we’re here to support you. We can help you navigate and thrive in this new world.

The New Narrative – Why brands need to rethink their messaging during this global crisis

The world has changed, and so have your customers. Uncertain times are also times of great opportunity, as long as you stay flexible and curious, and keep in close touch with your customers’ needs.

Right now, funds are tight and the future is uncertain. Customers need information, inspiration, distraction, and support, and the best way to serve them is by making sure your own messaging is strong and clear, across all your marketing channels.

What exactly is “messaging?”

Your message is your WHY. Why you get out of bed in the morning, what you stand for, and why working with you is different and better than working with your competitors. The message is the cornerstone of your promotional campaigns.

A great message can be described in just three words:

Clear, Concise, Consistent

Most marketing materials (press releases, ad slogans, social media posts, scripts, advertising copy) present the message as a tool to communicate with an audience. 

The ideal marketing message explains your core offering, resonates with your audience, and clearly shows what problem you solve for them. Make it memorable! This is your chance to shine, showcasing how you are different, letting them know why you’re the right choice to guide them.

Why it needs to be different during a crisis

There’s never been a more crucial time to ramp up your empathy skills. Your customers need to know they are being seen, heard, and valued by your brand.

The Advertising Research Foundation hosted a webinar in April, focusing on the Coronavirus’s impact on consumer trends. They analyzed a study of 45 purpose-driven campaigns and found that success is rooted in these three principles:

  1. Brand presence (an established history of championing a cause)
  2. Partnerships with people outside the organization (adding credibility)
  3. Commitments to offering tangible solutions (not quick fixes)

Many companies have been toying with this idea for years, but the pandemic has fast-tracked it. Walker Smith, Chief Knowledge Officer at Kantar Consulting says,

“Whatever personal ethic people may have for themselves, this is an ethic they are expecting brands to follow through on.”

He also says people are demanding brands deliver not just a better self, but a better society as well, and I agree.

I wanted to end this post with examples of brands doing it right and brands that aren’t.

First, the good:

Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy

“There are some wonderful, free online resources that can help children continue to build critical literacy skills while schools are closed. To help parents choose among the plethora of available options, our team of in-house literacy and education experts has curated a toolkit of trusted, high-quality online resources that can be used anytime, anywhere.”

I love that they have designed a toolkit for parents who are teaching their children at home during the pandemic. It helps people move forward with tools they can easily learn and implement while giving them confidence in the process. They have identified a new need that aligns with their brand’s mission and offers a solution. 

And now, the less good:


This may seem like low hanging fruit, but it is a good example of messaging not aligning with actions.

Their Thank You Amazon Heroes campaign offers tribute ads to their frontline employees saying, “To all of our Amazon heroes on the floor, in the air, or behind the wheel—thank you.”

With highly publicized walk-outs, protests, and strikes by those same frontline workers claiming they are underpaid and experiencing unsafe working conditions, a public Thank You seems to fall flat.

This disparity of message has created a lot of controversy, especially as consumers care more about values and ethics. Even Amnesty International weighed in, and what they said wasn’t pretty.

“Amazon is one of the world’s wealthiest companies and its profits are surging as a result of this crisis. It is repugnant that the company’s workforce feel their safety is not being taken seriously. Jeff Bezos needs to step up and address the legitimate and vital concerns raised by Amazon staff - profits should never be put above people.”

Tim Bray, a senior engineer and vice president at Amazon Web Services, quit after Amazon fired whistleblowers who were shining light on the dire conditions faced by warehouse workers. The whole blog post is amazing, but I’ll quote this line here: “Remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So, I resigned.”

Truly strong words.

We are living through extraordinary times. Our actions in a time of crisis will last beyond the moment. Bringing ethics and empathy into what has traditionally been more about profit than people is our chance to make a lasting impact. Everything is at stake now, so everything is possible.

Creative Maven is here to help you get Clear, Concise, and Consistent with your message. We’re here to be your guide and help craft your very best story for the present moment 

Stay tuned for more in the next blog post. And wash your hands.

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