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Careful, your brand is showing

By Nick Hall

If you’re the owner of a small business right now, it’s fair to say that concern for the state of your brand is probably pretty low down on the totem pole of panic.

Even so, at some point the uncertainty and chaos will subside, and it would be a shame if your brand’s equity had become an unnecessary casualty. Any missteps you make now will likely have longer-term consequences for your brand, while doing a few things right will leave you poised to slingshot out of this mess once the storm passes.

In fact, your brand could actually increase in value over the next few months if you pay it some attention, and there’s not many things you can say that about, is there?

These are emotionally charged times, and if the recent toilet paper riots are any indication, for many it feels like we’re hovering pretty close to the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs . Appearing to take advantage of people in this climate is going to damage both your business and your brand tomorrow. Count on it.

For a blatantly obvious example of what not to do, look no further than Sir Richard Branson asking the employees of Virgin Atlantic to take 8 weeks unpaid leave. You know Rich, right? He’s the billionaire hypocrite who’s responsible for this turd:

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If you need something a little closer to home, consider the local swimming pool company that dinged their customer’s credit cards for the seasonal opening and closing of their pools a few short days after the pandemic was announced here in Canada, even though their pool openings won’t happen for at least two months (if at all). Can you imagine how many customers this action will cost them next year?

Little things mean a lot right now, so we’ve put together a few branding tips to help you weather the storm and enjoy a brighter second half of the year.

1.) Run through your procedures and plans and let your people know what is expected of them at this time. Make sure any front line workers are prepared to be especially sympathetic and patient. Check and change your answering machine message, too.

2.) Communicate when you need to, and shut up if you have nothing useful or important to say. No one will mind if you don’t send an email saying that you’re here and ready to serve. People know when you’re being self-serving or just sending them a message because you have their email from 3 years ago and want to show them you care. Neither instance will do you any favours in the future.

3.) Speaking of communications, since you’ve probably paused your advertising efforts, now is a great time to revisit your marketing messaging and make sure it’s on point.

4.) Put people first. Remember that your customers and employees are actual people, with fears, hopes and aspirations just like you. Consider yourself lucky to be part of their lives, and act like it. You will be rewarded both financially and spiritually.

5.) Let your common sense, humanity and values guide your decisions during this time. Your business and your brand are intertwined, so the success of one requires the health of the other.

6.) Try and think longer term. Right now feels a bit apocalyptic, but it won’t last forever. Focus on brand building and you’ll be in better shape when the lights do come back on. Start by thinking how you want people to perceive your brand and work towards that.

7.) Avoid doing anything that looks like you’re taking advantage of the situation at the expense of others. Folks have a long memory for that sort of thing.

If you’re a small business owner and you have a question or two about how best to maintain your brand over the next few months, email me at and we’ll do our best to answer them, free of charge.

In the meantime, remember to be human, and cheers to a brighter future for us all.