How Your Brand Can Withstand Disruption Adweek Webinar Q&A

by James Lanyon

Thank you for joining us on last week’s Adweek Webinar – “How Your Brand Can Withstand Disruption. Top CX Strategies to Support Long-Term Success.” 

As a reminder, you can find the downloadable executive summary at t-3.com/reports/. You can also find our Workshop 101 primer at t-3.com/workshop/.

Since our Q&A was brief, I wanted to take a moment to provide some written follow up to questions posed during the session. Some were covered quickly, others we weren’t able to get to so I am including those as well. 

Of the five things you mentioned, which are the most important or where should we start?

The five-point plan we provided—understand, communicate, act, plan and co-create—was not intended to act as a linear sequence even though that’s how it plays out in the real world. Per the suggestions in the presentation, each brand should prioritize which of these actions they should focus on first and that’s typically a function of either impact or readiness. 

Example: If your organization is already strong in areas like market-level insight and employee involvement, but has no sense of financial or impact forecasting, our advice would be to operationalize around that weakness or deficiency. Prioritize according to where the brand needs the most work. 

Does your approach and recommendation change for specific verticals or categories?

This is a great question and the answer is of course, yes. Physical retail, restaurant, grocery and other categories that have been getting better at e-commerce are at a natural disadvantage because the business model relies heavily on direct, person to person selling. The degree to which your organization’s business model depends on physical interaction increases the need to guard against customer experience disruption. 

Who inside the organization should lead each effort if we don’t have someone designated?

Each aspect of the plan should already have a leader inside the company whether it be market-level research, communications/PR/CRM or a CFO. With that in mind, use this table to think about who to lean into or which roles need to be crafted. 

Understand Head of Insights/Research
Communicate CMO, CRM Leader
Act Head of CX, CMO, VP of Digital
Plan CFO, Head of Business Intelligence
Co-Create Working team*

Since the co-creation process is organic and involves a group effort, we’ve crafted a workshop 101 guide you can download at t-3.com/workshop to help craft your approach. 

Is it really prudent to include consumer-facing employees in corporate planning?

Yes. Of course, use your best judgment but this moment represents an opportunity for all facets of the organization to shine. With that in mind, the degree of success will come from what questions you ask of them, how you frame the interaction and how well you equip them to participate in corporate or engagement planning exercises. 

How do we know what Covid-related customer shifts will last and which ones won’t?

I have three natural reactions to that question:

  1. There will be incremental, phased attempts to return to a normal way of life. Think of it as staggering our return to routine. People will be (rightly) wary of COVID for as long as there’s no vaccine. This won’t represent a shift per se, more of a middle ground between shelter in place life and the life we led before. 
  2. You should be able to see shifts almost immediately in sales data trends. A large portion of the consumer populace will have been normalized to delivery of food or meals. Not all will stick with it, but a significant portion will. Restaurants and grocers should be thinking about how to operationalize against this. 
  3. My personal theory: There will be a sense of scarcity even when things get back to normal and brands that can’t accommodate that impulse will lose out. Consumers who dealt with toilet paper shortages, medicinal scares or other challenges will seek out greater assurance that won’t happen in the future. This is a behavioral shift I believe brands should look out for. 

I liked the comment about “uncover the whole human story.” How can a professional best ask about that story when working remote? [Being] remote tends to mask efforts that support an end result, yet can impact how customers receive the results, their satisfaction, etc. (your customers can also be a manager you work with, a supplier, etc.).

Great question. The situation you describe above sounds like a great opportunity for incremental insight development. Typically, in research we strive to come to a firm set of conclusions based on rigor. In this instance, getting close and asking for constructive feedback is likely the best avenue. If you have the opportunity to survey or speak with stakeholders, it would stand to reason they’d be pleased you are looking to understand how you can be more effective on their behalf. Let them know that’s what you are doing and I think you will be pleasantly surprised. 

With today’s unprecedented challenges, how should brands reach out to “touch” potential clients/customers in a way that reflects our character, sensitivity…in a time where business in a sense is not standing still?

Most brands should have outbound comms or social platforms they can lean into to contact customers directly. If not, a rapid digital marketing effort should give you the ability to swap out in-person interaction for digital or virtual interaction. 

Now more than ever, brands should be mindful of the visual and written cues they are communicating. First and foremost, make sure your communications reflect the social norms surrounding this moment in history. Even something as seemingly innocuous as a picture of two people shaking hands might send the wrong message. 

Per the “communicate” section of the presentation, consumers aren’t looking for yet another update on your policy. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about character and sensitivity. Your brand should have a voice and that voice should guide an informed conversation about how you can accommodate their needs in an unprecedented time. 

One of your slides stated the Airline industry is the most affected category. What are the top 5?

There are numerous resources available. We’ve been tracking employment trends as a function of understanding the most impacted industries. Business Insider provided the following infographic. It’s important to track this weekly as new announcements come out so you can stay ahead by monitoring major business news. 

World Economic Forum has good coverage here.

Best communication strategy to address customers that disapprove of your business staying open (even though business type is government classified as essential)?

The best strategy recommendation for this scenario is empathy. Before you make assumptions about why they disapprove, try to get a sense in a constructive manner. It’s entirely possible they have feedback about process or procedure that, if adopted, or if they had specific concerns could be addressed. 

There will always be challenging constituencies, particularly in times like this. If you have a passionate or strong social following, getting positive feedback or mentions from the customers that use your company and need your company can also be an effective tactic. Getting the social network rooting for you can go a long way towards offsetting entrenched detractors. 

As a retailer, how do you manage the balance of: Being sensitive to the current environment and not coming off as “opportunistic,” but finding the right moments to be talking to customers about your products?

Typically when we talk about moments we envision a static or versioned customer path to purchase or journey. Media budgets, marketing technology roadmaps and other growth tools are mapped to the idea of moving a consumer or prospect through a funnel. That obviously changes to a large degree now. 

First and foremost, ask and answer the question of what your company’s job is at the moment. Getting back to restaurants, the landscape and job to be done has changed dramatically. Restaurants are less a matter of variety and more sustenance. And that affects not only what you say, but how you might update touchpoints. Local search has taken on immense value for mid-size restaurant brands. In terms of not coming off as opportunistic—tonally, that’s a matter of sensitive content creation. More importantly, if you are in service of a new role your brand plays for the customer, that will also help offset an opportunistic moment. 

James Lanyon

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a mentor of mine once said, ‘momentum is one of the hardest things to achieve and one of the easiest things to lose.’ and that is increasingly so en mass