Don't Leave Your Audience Guessing: Now is a Time for Bold, Clear Brand Messaging

Author: Steve Sturges
Posted: Mar 30, 2020

We are living in a very strange time. People are functioning the best that they can in the comfort we call ‘home’. My situation is no different.

What is different is how everyone views this event. Little things to me are big things to others and vice-versa.  

Take, for instance, my family. I have a family member who is immunocompromised. Which is a fancy way of saying, my wife suffers from Lupus (an autoimmune disease).

So, while necessary trips out since the outbreak for some are probably no big deal, for me they can be a little nerve racking. Last week, I decided to go to the grocery store to pick up some necessities. (Since no one’s hand in my family raised up when I asked for volunteers, I was elected to go, 3-1).

I woke up bright and early, drove to the grocery and waited for it to open at 7am.

As the lights flickered on, I reached for a surgical mask in the passenger seat.

Funny story about my surgical mask. From the beginning of this pandemic, word spread about how, unless a mask was rated ‘N95’, it would not protect you from the invasion of COVID-19. I don’t know about you, but I don’t keep a stockpile of ‘N95’ masks around in case of emergency. Initially, I was prepared to brave my errands without one. One morning, shortly before we started isolating, I was rooting around in the garage for an extension cord and, wouldn’t you know it? I discovered an old box of 4 ‘N95’ masks in a cabinet – one for each of us. As far as I can tell, these things have no expiration date.

Back to the grocery store. I grabbed my N95 respirator, wrapped the rubber band straps around my head and pinched the metal bar securely around my nose for a snug fit. Then, I walked in the store. I thought I would feel a little weird, but what I ended up feeling was much different. Trust me, there was no problem with others exercising the proper amount of social distance. I had shopping carts swerving out of my way, customers avoiding my aisle and some who refused to even look at me. Not everyone was freaked out. Some were very kind and gave me a nice “how’s it going?” or “good morning!”, especially the cashier, but most were a little spooked. After cashing out, I went to my car and removed the mask. I sat there stunned for a moment processing what just happened. It kind of freaked me out. I felt like a dangerous animal in a zoo that people want to see, but stay a safe distance from the enclosure. I didn’t expect others to stare. I thought people would appreciate my extra health measure – attempting to stay safe. It didn’t occur to me that others would think that “I” have COVID-19.

Back at home I told my family what had happened. I told them how I felt, and my wife – understanding – made a brilliant suggestion: “why not write a message on the front of our masks? That way, people will know why we need to wear one”.

Marketing 101.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

medical face mask

And, you know what? People started looking at me (us) differently once they understood the intent. I even had a server at a local restaurant comment favorably on my mask message as I picked up some dinner. It’s a great lesson in branding: if people know what you stand for, they will see you more favorably and be more likely to engage. And it’s one lesson I will never forget.

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