How Has the Pandemic Affected Brand Copy?

KFC® is a brand that truly understands effective messaging. They started using their slogan “It’s Finger Lickin’ Good” before the company’s fast-food competitors Taco Bell®, Wendy’s®, Arby’s®, and Subway® were even founded. It’s a testament to the craziness of this year that KFC® is now pausing its veteran slogan after more than six decades of use, because it feels awkward and out of touch with new hygiene concerns stemming from life in a pandemic.

KFC® isn’t the only brand to update their slogan to better reflect the new world we’re living in. Back in March, Nike® unveiled a new slogan “Play inside, play for the world” in campaigns across social media. Nike’s® image has been strongly associated with activities like playing team sports and going to the gym, actions that are currently controversial at best and unfeasible at worst. Nike® needed this new slogan to help push their brand perception towards general exercise and play, making them more resilient against changes in lockdown rules and guidelines.

One brand that did not change their ad campaign copy to respond to coronavirus was actually the beer manufacturer Corona®. In a case of extremely unfortunate timing, Corona® started promoting their new hard seltzer line in February with a social media campaign promising that these products would be “coming ashore soon” – only days before the novel coronavirus really did reach American soil. According to Ad Age, the initial tweet inspired “multiple critical replies with people questioning the language choice as fears rise about the spread of coronavirus.”

Brands aimed at children and young adults are also tasked with the tricky job of navigating effective messaging strategies at such a sensitive time. The backpack brand JanSport® has chosen to directly address some of the most stressful issues facing young people today with their #LightenTheLoad campaign, with the mission to draw attention to the fact that “7 out of 10 young people say mental health is weighing them down.” The brand also engaged real therapists on Instagram to help answer burning questions about mental health. This campaign is a great example of how brands can use campaign messaging to add value and help solve external issues for consumers, which is a skill that is likely to become even more important as the pandemic continues.

Brands have to be especially careful with their copy in the coming weeks and months. While some may see KFC’s® move to temporarily discontinue their slogan as overkill and unnecessary, the backlash that Corona® faced demonstrates that consumers are paying close attention to how brands are speaking to them. At the very least, it shows a commitment to trying to understand the ways in which shoppers’ lives are changing, which makes it easier to connect with them. If brands fail to do this, they risk coming off as out of sync with reality. In addition, brands like JanSport® are proving that ad campaigns can do more than play lip service to “these unprecedented times” – they can use messaging to work with consumers towards real solutions to their evolving problems, sparking lasting impressions and shopper loyalty.

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