There are two scenarios for your business that can result from this downturn: It survives and thrives, or it doesn’t.

Scenario 2 is terrifying, I know. I’m a business owner myself and I’m looking forward every day, trying to make sure that we’re making the right choices that will keep us in scenario 1. Rather than focus on the negative outcomes (because there’s plenty of that out there to go around) let’s shift our attention to the positive – the scenario where your business makes the right investments, the right strategic choices, and emerges on the other side stronger than ever.

The upswing from every major market downturn in the modern business era has had two things in common: The economy returned stronger than ever, and major markets were disrupted by creative businesses in a way that would not have been possible in a stable market. A few weeks ago we looked back at the lessons from the last Great Recession to pull some advice that we can all follow right now. Today, we’re going to look forward and answer the question: What can we be doing right now to give us the best possible chance to be successful?

Remember, we’re focusing on scenario 1 here. The world that we’re working towards is one where the choices that we make today pay off in the future. They position us as a leader in our market, and when the economy returns, we are rewarded in the form of greater market share and brand loyalty. When framed that way, it’s easy to see that perhaps the worst thing we can do is nothing. Whatever stage your business is in right now, losing contact with your customers and your community now means that you’ll have to rebuild all of those relationships at a time when everyone else is trying to do the same thing. Right now the competition is low, and the need is high for brands that can offer people legitimate value.

For today, we’re going to focus on the one tactic that is going to have the greatest impact during the recovery, and is the case that we should be building to protect our budgets in advertising, community, content, and any other brand-based investments we’re making.

Maintain brand equity

For the past decade, it’s been a common concept – this idea that your brand has value. We’ve even associated that value with the term “equity” to suggest that the brand has real balance-sheet-level implications for the business. Now we’re about to find out who actually believes that. Not that you need to be convinced, but brand equity is the reason why people will pay $1000 for a Supreme t-shirt and why right now, even in the midst of a run on the grocery stores, certain products are being left behind while others are wiped out. The math is simple: subtract what you could sell without brand equity from the volume that your brand enables you to sell, and the difference is that brand’s equity.

In most cases brand equity doesn’t allow us all to charge a 20x premium versus our competition, it simply allows us to be competitive. The difference for most businesses between a strong and a weak brand is that when the customer is considering their options, a weak brand wouldn’t even make it into their consideration set, no matter what price we charged. But many CFOs don’t think that way. Instead, they see all marketing costs as being directly attributed to revenue right now. They think that the ads we buy, content we create, or communities we invest in should have a direct response that can be correlated to this quarter’s sales.

Our role as leaders inside organizations is not to blindly execute on the priorities that are handed to us. We are in our roles because we are experts in our fields – it’s our responsibility to defend key sources of value, like brand equity, and ensure that our organizations continue to invest and maintain the things that will make it possible for our organizations to survive and thrive.

A brand that I’ve been particularly impressed with lately has been Destination BC. Their mandate is to promote our province as a travel destination to the world, so when the world stops travelling, what can it do? Instead of retreating, DBC sprung into action, producing a micro-campaign that doubles down on all of the things that make up the British Columbia brand: Natural beauty, respect for nature, sustainability, and a sense of adventure. It’s called “Explore BC… Later” and not only did they partner with their agency (well done 123 West) to turn around this video spot in incredibly restrictive times, they also equipped their partners and stakeholders across the province to be telling the same story, thereby collectively presenting a strong, united, and consistent brand to the world.

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For now we pause, stay in, and dream of later. The more we do today, the sooner we can all #exploreBC again. . This video was created from existing footage and with a remotely recorded voiceover, to support physical distancing. . #explorebclater #stayhome #stayathome #stayhomesavelives #plankthespread #stopthespread

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Since the initial brand video, the @HelloBC accounts have continued to post beautiful videos from around the Province with the message “Dream now, and explore BC later — our nature will still be here. Since we’re not travelling, we’ll bring BC to you.”

That’s a very specific solution for a specific challenge, but the idea of investing in your brand in order to maintain its equity is universal. The people who are focused on saving the business and cutting costs in order to survive are absolutely right to be doing that. However, it just makes good business sense to maintain, and even build on, the equity that exists within our brands at a time when competition is low and opportunity is high.


In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more specific lessons, tactics, and recommendations to help businesses maintain, build, and recover during this difficult time. To receive them each week in your inbox, sign up for The Brief below.