Coronavirus and Your Brand: 3 Ways to Navigate a Global Crisis
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Coronavirus and Your Brand: 3 Ways to Navigate a Global Crisis

February 20, 2020

Coronavirus fears are increasing and the stock market is tumbling. We've put together 3 smart ways to help guide your organization through turbulence.

Coronavirus and your brand: how to navigate a global crisis

A few cases quickly grew to more than 1,800 fatalities in mainland China — and the rapid global spread is sounding alarm bells. The world’s second-largest economy has shuddered to a halt, the stock market is plunging, and understandably brands and the humans who work for them, remain cautious. Marketers and insights professionals across the world are being urged to press pause on spending. However, history has shown that when a global crisis threatens to impact revenue, there are several steps you can take to navigate.

According to PwC’s most recent Global Crisis Survey, among organizations that came out of a crisis stronger than they entered it, 75% understood the importance of establishing facts accurately during the crisis. Research can give you a fast and informed view of your market and customers in a changing world. The right methodologies can help you prioritize sensitivity and empathy at times when they’re sorely needed. And if your competitors decide to scale back on insights initiatives during a crisis, it can give you a unique advantage.

3 ways to navigate a global crisis:

#1: Understand short term needs

Research is a great way to understand your short-term needs and to ascertain the immediate impact a crisis like the coronavirus outbreak could have on your brand. Specific methodologies that can help you do this include:

  • Omnibus Surveys: When you need information fast, a consumer omnibus survey provides data in real time and can be conducted quickly. Omnibus studies allow for quick pulse checks, which can either be fielded once or more regularly to gauge initial reactions to crisis.
  • Qualitative Research: Focus groups, online smart communities, and in-depth interviews — staples of qualitative research — are also great ways to gather some gut reactions about how a crisis could impact your brand.
  • Online Anthropology: During any crisis, whether a PR misstep or a pandemic, it’s essential to carefully monitor social networks. Firms like LRWMotiveQuest — one of Kelton’s partner companies — use online anthropology to mine publicly available data for rich behavioral insights. Online anthropology is an arts-meets-science method that combines data, AI tech, and human direction to monitor online chatter. You’ll be able to keep close tabs on how conversations are escalating online and ascertain the impact on your brand.

#2: Address logistical concerns

You probably have legitimate concerns about how research findings and insights could be impacted during significant cultural moments or outbreaks. Other concerns might center around travel. We get it. But postponing research comes with its own risks, especially during a crisis such as coronavirus, whose duration and economic impact is still uncertain.

Instead of delaying research and putting your brand at risk, pinpoint what needs to be measured immediately to preserve brand health — and consider using an online smart community to get deep insights from the safety of your computer.

  • Our SmartCommunity platform, which yields rich qualitative insights, is an ideal solution during a crisis. A SmartCommunity environment is interactive: respondents interact both with each other and the moderator, which often results in deeper conversations.
  • A SmartCommunity runs over multiple days and allows moderators to monitor respondents for viewpoints that might change fast as a crisis evolves.

#3: Already committed to research when a crisis occurs? Consider unique mindsets

If your brand is already committed to a tracking study when a crisis happens, make sure to consider how respondents’ mindsets could be affected by the news. This will help explain and contextualize unexpected changes. In addition:

  • Keep detailed notes of when big events like outbreaks occurred during the fielding process, both to couch results and provide clarifying documentation for future teams.
  • When comparing or analyzing shifts across markets in global trackers, remember to consider the bigger picture and wider cultural contexts.
  • If results feel skewed, frame questions through a “before crisis” lens or ask for a follow-up. This will enable you to better understand if and how the crisis has impacted respondents’ point of view.
  • Ask questions that will highlight awareness and attitudes towards the crisis. Data can then be analyzed through the lens of both “hyper aware/concerned” and “less concerned” respondents. This will facilitate an understanding of whether the impact is as big as hypothesized.
  • For topics that feel urgent — like coronavirus — ask open-ended questions to determine if the issues you’re worried about are actually top of mind for respondents. Sometimes the things that seem like a big deal to marketers aren’t as worrisome for consumers.

In any crisis, it’s natural to want to avoid taking risks. But it’s important to remember that investing in research is not the risk. The danger lies in trying to ride out a crisis without taking the time to fully understand the potential impact on your brand.

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