6 Brand Messaging Mistakes to Avoid During the COVID-19 Pandemic

brand messaging

In the past couple of months, people around the world have been forced to stay home and away from each other to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. New norms have also been established, from work-from-home setups to grocery deliveries directly to your doorstep. But the biggest change business owners should be more concerned about is their brand messaging.

Brand messaging is defined as the language and underlying value proposition used in the content. It is what makes a brand relatable. Its primary purpose is to inspire, motivate, and persuade people to purchase your product.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies employed brand messaging strategies that were geared towards “business as usual.” Now, it seems like many will need to realign their strategy to avoid appearing insensitive or hypocritical.

In times like these where people are distressed and what was “normal” has changed, it pays to have a brand strategy as a clear guide on how you can interact with your market. Ultimately, this can help your business thrive amidst the crisis while still offering value to the community.

To help you stay on point, below are six mistakes in brand messaging you must avoid:


Mistake #1: Scare Tactics

During a crisis like the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic, people feel more stressed than they ever were. This makes scare tactics the worst possible brand messaging strategy you can implement.

Everyone has enough stressors to overcome without you adding to the fear by spreading worrisome news. Instead, make your default messaging hopeful and reassuring. Posting useful tips and offering reports about how your company is helping with the pandemic can also help your brand stay relevant to the times.


Mistake #2: Resisting the Need to Move Your Business Online

Many traditionalists find it difficult to adapt to change, especially if it means having to invest in new technology. But if it offers a way for your company to thrive, then why not do it?

This much can be said in changing your brand marketing strategy into one that is more focused online. Making your brand Internet-friendly and adjusting to physical distancing policies implemented in many countries worldwide can help you stay connected to your audience while ensuring excellent customer experience.

When doing so, you need to focus on three key areas: your website, data, and the story.

Revisit your content marketing strategy and the keywords you initially targeted and adjust it to become more relevant to the current situation. Make sure you leverage keyword research and “listen” to social media for potential topics that your audience might be seeking. It pays to reassess your PPC, too, as yesterday’s hottest keywords might already be irrelevant today.


Mistake #3: Taking the Opportunity to Go Viral

If you’re after improving your company reputation, attaching your brand to the COVID-19 threat irresponsibly may not be the best way to go. And don’t use this inopportune time to market your products as if nothing has changed.

Keep in mind that while it may be what everyone’s talking about today, the pandemic is not just some trending topic that you can use to gain a profit. If you don’t want to be viewed as capitalistic and insensitive, avoid treating COVID-19 as some hashtag to attach your brand to as this is hardly the time for using viral puns.

Rather than making it the center of your marketing campaigns, sow positivity and create content that reflects solidarity across the world. Remember to consider who your audiences are, avoid “bandwagoning,” and choose your words wisely.


Mistake #4: Not Tailoring the Message to a Specific Target Audience

Defining who will be reading your blogs or watching your social media videos helps a lot in setting the tone of your branding. During the pandemic, remember to craft messages that are appropriate for the people you’re trying to speak to.

Remember that not all messaging should be customer-centric. Others, especially during a large-scale crisis like the pandemic, should also be directed to shareholders, board members, contractors, vendors, partners, and – more importantly – your employees.


Messages for these people potentially have varying purposes and should, therefore, be approached differently.

For example, customers don’t have to hear about how the new coronavirus is affecting the company’s earnings during the second quarter of 2020, nor will they be interested in the matter. Meanwhile, shareholders have more important things they want to hear instead of the measures being taken to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

If you send out a one-size-fits-all message, you might be risking giving out too much or too little information, leaving it ineffective in achieving your aim. In some cases, data should be kept under wraps, if only to avoid panic within the company. It is also possible that your messages might be taken as overly sentimental or too down-to-business if you keep your “business hat” on at all times.

In short, prioritize the audience. Think about who you’re talking to before you decide on what to say.


Mistake #5: Aggressively Dominating the Market by Slamming Competitors

Although you should capitalize on things that can help make your brand the top choice in the market, using aggressive messaging and slamming your competitors is not the way to do it.

During these times when people are quite sensitive and more emotional than they normally are, negativity would only yield negative results. Instead, it would be best to take the high road and present a united front.


Mistake #6: Forgetting to Empathize

Another big mistake you must never commit is lacking empathy in your brand messaging. While you might still be in a “business as usual” mindset, you must never forget to show that your company has a heart.

To do so, you must make sure that your communications are injected with empathy. Whether it’s for customers or employees, people need to know that you care. This is also an effective way of preventing your campaign from being seen as capitalistic and only seeks to take advantage of the situation for a profit.

Remember that marketing technology can already provide insights on how to effectively engage people. These are available to guide you in coming up with messages by analyzing how people react as well as what they read and share online.


Go for Sensitive Brand Messaging

Brand messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic should be treated the same way you would write a letter to a friend who just lost a loved one. Stay sensitive to what people are feeling and avoid making messaging mistakes like the ones mentioned in this article.



Hasan Fadlallah is a Serial Entrepreneur – Founder & CEO of Brand Lounge, the region’s leading and award-winning branding consultancy, whose role is to help organizations align their business behind an idea that will deliver success time and again. Equipped with over 20 years of professional consulting experience, today he advises businesses throughout the Gulf and Africa on brand development and in 2014 was recognized by the World Brand Congress who awarded him the prestigious Brand Leadership award in Brand Excellence.




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