Managing Brand Saliency and Perceived Value Amidst Covid-19

We offer 3 reasons why brand managers must adapt their strategy to align with the new drivers of perceived value and fence off competition from private labels.

The author(s)

  • Emmanuel Probst Senior Vice President, Brand Health Tracking
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The rules of perceived value are changing amidst COVID-19. The pandemic has brought to light new drivers of perceived value, threats to named brands, and ways to protect and grow your brand through this crisis and beyond.

Some brands survived and thrived after the 2008 recession by reinforcing their value proposition, delivering unique benefits, and fostering an intimate relationship with their customers.

Target, for example, expanded its footprint and built out its food offering by promoting its own budget-friendly private labels. The brand also began partnering with top end designers to create unique, affordable designs that were only available at Target.

Other brands broke through in 2008 by delivering a new, salient, value proposition: Airbnb offered up a new and unique travel option as an alternative to the traditional hotel stay. Credit Karma capitalized on consumers’ desire for a quick, easy, and free way to monitor their credit score without having to deal with the bureaucracy of the major credit rating agencies. Uber was introduced to provide easy, convenient, and affordable travel to consumers.

The new drivers of perceived value

The Ipsos Brand Health database contains more than 30,000 equity studies and shows that in normal times innovation, quality and relevance drive perception of value across most product categories. But Covid-19 establishes new rules. The key functional attributes that drive perceived value are now convenience (40%) and physical availability (52%), along with emotional benefits, and in particular social responsibility and brand closeness, according to an Ipsos study conducted in April. Indeed, brands must deliver on their purpose by helping their customers, supporting the community and protecting their employees. A related survey showed that people want brands to feel close to them in this difficult time and expect ads to make them feel safe, positive, and optimistic.

Private Labels are threatening named brands

The rise of private labels further underscores the importance of brand value. Data from the Ipsos Covid-19 Consumer Tracker shows that 42% of participants intend to purchase private labels more often, across household products, food and beverages, health supplements, and even beauty products. Private labels had already began disrupting categories prior to Covid-19. But initial shortages in store assortment led consumers to bring new private labels into their routine, as these were often the only brands left on the shelves. Private label brands continue to gain traction, even beyond CPG. Amazon has launched numerous private labels including Amazon Basics, Rivet (home furnishing), and Mountain Falls (personal care). So has The Home Depot with HDX and Best Buy with Insignia, to name but a few examples.

How to protect and grow your brand amidst COVID-19

Brand managers must adapt their strategy to align with the new drivers of perceived value and fence off competition from private labels.

  • Build closeness by demonstrating empathy and adopting the right tone of voice

The pandemic forced most major cities to cancel their St Patrick’s Day parades, which is normally a key event in Guinness’s calendar. But Guinness made the most of this situation by releasing an ad that encouraged people to celebrate St Patrick’s Day safely at home. “Don’t worry, we’ll march again” and “when you raise a pint of Guinness, also remember to raise each other up,” says the Irish-accented voiceover, touching our citizen soul rather than trying to sell us beer.

  • Invest in advertising

Historical Ipsos MMA benchmarks show that brands that advertise during recessionary times tend to gain share of voice and market share. These brands also recover faster and tend to outperform the competition over the following one to two years. On the other hand, brands that “go dark” suffer losses in brand equity in the long-term and face increased costs in the short term, as they often jump to promotion and discounts to drive purchases.  

  • From attention salience to memory salience

Brands must shift from attention salience to memory salience notes Benoit Tranzer, global brand expert at Ipsos. Attention salience is about saturating the mind of consumers at the moment of choice by maximizing frequency of exposure. In contrast, memory salience is about creating new positive mental associations for the brand. Memory salience emphasizes reach over repetition and creates a rich network of interconnected memories.

In its “Courage is beautiful” campaign, Dove shows faces of healthcare workers marked by the protective mask they have been wearing. Realizing that talking about beauty seem superficial in times of COVID-19, Dove’s campaign celebrates “Real Beauty” by eliciting memories and brand associations in a timely and relevant manner.

The pandemic has brought to light new drivers of perceived value, threats to named brands, and ways to protect and grow your brand through this crisis and beyond. In particular, brands must shift from attention salience to memory salience by creating new positive mental associations rather than saturating consumers’ minds with repetitive advertising. Brands must also build closeness by demonstrating empathy and adopting the right tone of voice. Finally, brands must maintain media investments during and after the crisis to recover faster, gain share of voice and market share.

The author(s)

  • Emmanuel Probst Senior Vice President, Brand Health Tracking

Media & Brand Communication