Leading in Adversity

Leading in Adversity – 10 Practical Steps to Make Your Brand Work Harder to Grow Your Sales

When leading in adversity it can be more challenging than ever to get the most from your brand, especially if your team is socially distancing and working remotely too. With so much going on, it’s easy for a brand to slow down or stop altogether. Getting the most from your brand can be challenging in ‘normal times’, let alone in a market of significantly increased anxiety and fear.

However, with the right strategy adapted to suit rapidly changing dynamics you can be unstoppable in uncertainty. A brand is an asset which you nurture over many years. One of the dividends it produces is customer loyalty and pricing power. So, when uncertain times come, a well-constructed and nurtured brand can help you grow and set you up to harness the opportunities of emerging and future trends.

Top 10 Practical Steps to Make Your Brand Work Harder for You to Grow Your Sales When Leading in Adversity

Here we outline ten proven, practical steps any brand, with a good brand strategy, can take to make the brand work harder amidst uncertainty to support sales.

1. Be Clear About Your Brand Internally When Leading in Adversity

In adverse times, there is a lot going on for people, both inside and often outside of their work. With so many distractions and fast-changing circumstances, it takes more effort than usual to stay focussed on the tasks in hand. This can negatively affect your brand and business. Some of the tools which usually help counteract this, such as a shared working environment, are not available in the same way when working remotely. So it becomes more important than ever to be clear internally about your brand purpose, vision, mission, values and more so everyone has a clear rallying point around which to centre their energy — enabling them to lead through adversity. This also ensures the business adapts and is ready to capitalise on newly emerging and future trends.

Leading in Adversity

© Asada

A case study of a brand which was clear about its brand values internally during adversity is U.K. retailer Asda. Their emphasis on thanking staff even on public advertising, not just internal branding, sent a strong message to staff and customers about their brand values.

Related: The Age Of Internal Branding And Selling It From The Inside Out

We know that sometimes it’s a struggle to lead in adversity effectively so we’ve developed three different ways of working with us to help you build your brand, depending on your preferences, so if you’d like us to:

  1. Build your brand for you – find out more here or get in touch [email protected] or ring +353 1 8322724
  2. Empower you to build your brand – check out the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind here. This is a live, interactive programme online where you work on your brand with us codifying and mapping out your brand strategy for business growth. Alternatively, join our online half-day Branding Accelerator Masterclass for a fast-injection of brand building essentials. Ask about our Personal and Corporate Leadership Brand Alignment Masterclass
  3. Want a DIY solution? Check out our how to build a brand eprogramme here and our how to audit your brand yourself eprogramme here

2. Reward Your Existing Customers When Leading in Adversity

It is easier to sell more to an existing customer than to find a new one. Although a lot of people know that, it can be forgotten in the rush to respond to a crisis. In fact, when things get tough, one of the most effective but straightforward things smart leaders do is try to secure their existing customer base. An easy way to do this is by rewarding them for their loyalty, to encourage more of it. This can be done through multiple ways whether you’re a service or product business B2B or B2C. Consider, in adversity, how can you add more value? 

For example, B2B suppliers are extending payment terms during Covid-19. Some tour operators are giving travel agents more time to pass monies to them [1]. Aer Lingus’ airline loyalty programmes offered extra points to existing members, and others extended the status of their frequent flyers for a year [2].

Leading in Adversity

© Aer Lingus

It is also possible to thank customers and remind them of your brand values even with subtle communications which capture the mood, such as Emirates’ moving commercial with the line “Emirates will fly back to the skies – and fly you better than ever before”.

3. Refocus Your Marketing Plan on The Core Fundamentals When Leading in Adversity

In ‘normal’ times, although I believe we are living in the ‘new normal’, marketing planning can be an activity which consumes a lot of time and energy. Elaborate plans match your full marketing arsenal across a range of activities, including trying out some new ones to see how effective they are.

In a crisis, effectiveness can change and execution can be difficult because lots of things aren’t working as ‘normal’. So the best way to marshal your resources is usually to focus on doing things simply but as well as possible. The bells and whistles of a marketing plan become a luxury. It’s a better use of time to strip your plan back to its essential elements and make sure that those get delivered well. For example, during the Covid-19 crisis, supermarkets cut back on many of their price promotions to focus on increasing on-shelf availability [3]. That would also help their profit margins.

Another interesting, agile example of this is the investment manager Artemis. They have spent years building brand equity around their investment managers “hunting” for returns. Instead of being distracted by the Covid-19 crisis, the perfectly timed advertisement below in the Financial Times simply reinforces their core message amid the challenging times.

Leading in Adversity

© Artemis

Related: How Leaders Drive Profitability With a Strong Brand Vision Statement

4. Make Your Brand Purpose Match the Moment when Leading in Adversity

Every brand – including yours – has a purpose whether or not it is clearly considered. Some can come into their own during a crisis, while others will seem less relevant because they risk appearing frivolous, insensitive or lacking in empathy.

Whatever your brand purpose is, your brand will be more positively received and remembered if you match it to the moment. If your brand purpose is already a good fit, then it’s easier to do.

However, where your brand purpose doesn’t chime with the mood, or potentially even conflicts with it, you need to reconsider how best to handle that challenge. Purpose is a long-term asset, so you shouldn’t necessarily change it. But you may want to zoom in on elements of it that most appropriately match the moment. 

Leading in Adversity

Image via Food Hack © Brewdog

For example, Scottish craft brewer Brewdog isn’t an obvious candidate for health products. But alcohol is a key ingredient of hand sanitiser, so in line with some other breweries, they produced hand sanitiser to distribute for free during Covid-19 in a show of brand CSR. Not only did this reflect the social nature of their brand purpose, but Brewdog’s “Punk Sanitiser” branding even matched the visual identity and tone of voice of their regular product line.

Related: Social Responsibility, How to Build a Socially Conscious Brand

5. Re-evaluate If or How Purchase Drivers Have Changed When Leading in Adversity

In adverse times, the way that users and buyers interact with your brand may change dramatically. For some brands, there may be a total use stoppage or purchase in some jurisdictions. For others, there may be a rush to stockpile or hoard – often driven by different cultural dynamics for example guns in the US, toilet paper in the UK and Ireland!

This can have a significant short-term effect on your business health. As a leader, you need to get a handle on this as soon as possible. Some such changes may show up in business results, but others take longer to filter through. So speaking to customers quickly, looking at what competitors are doing and trying to get a feel for the market status and overall sentiment is a helpful way to understand if expectations around your brand have already or will potentially shift. If you have a well-defined set of purchaser personas, it will help you understand these expectations in actionable ways and be able to flex your strategy to any shifts.

A case study is what happened after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Consumers were scared to fly and so car usage suddenly skyrocketed. In fact, the rationale was flawed: people perceived driving to be safer than flying when it was in fact more deadly. But the flawed rationale was still an important factor in people’s choices and shifted their purchase drivers for travel and cars [4].

Related: Branding in a Crisis, 5 Practical Steps so You Match to the Moment Brilliantly

Are you a business leader, manager or entrepreneur who wants to re-evaluate or build your brand strategy so you can lead in adversity to increase your sales? Are you curious about how to re-evaluate, build, adapt or scale a highly successful standout brand? Join one of our live, interactive online branding masterclasses because they empower you to build your brand, enhance customer experience, expand your market impact and create higher perceived value so you can command a premium.


In fact, the live, interactive online Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind is all about fast-tracking you, your brand and your business through the brand building, agile branding strategy process using professional big-brand know-how with proven systems that get results so you can grow your business faster and more effectively.

The programme enables you to make your brand highly visible, different, credible, trustworthy, memorable and much loved amongst your ideal customers so you can become more profitable and leave your competitors way behind. Be The One — your ideal customers’ favourite brand of preferred choice commanding a premium.

If you want a tailor-made solution specifically for your brand then we also provide inhouse bespoke Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Intensives working with you and your team so you can grow your business faster and more profitably. Contact us to discover more [email protected] or +353 1 8322724


6. Master Your Brand Tone of Voice Leading in Adversity

Every brand has a tone of voice. Sometimes this can be taken for granted and not given much thought or value because it’s happened ‘accidentally’ over time.

A crisis can call for more frequent communication. Communication can also be required on shorter timelines than normal to respond to fast-moving highly dynamic events, and the national conversation may mean that some tones of voice fare better or worse than normal. 

For your brand communication to strike the right note, you need to ensure that its tone of voice is appropriate, consistent and matches your brand – with context to your bigger brand purpose, vision, mission and values.

Related: How to Develop Your Brand Tone of Voice to Increase Sales 

A simple case study was a local butcher in Aberdeenshire, who during mad cow disease put a sign in the shop window saying “the only mad cow in here is the wife”. This was simple, playful, and consistent with the butcher’s local banterish tone of voice, but importantly it also recognized the crisis and gently reassured customers re quality.

7. Focus on Brand Colour Psychology When Leading in Adversity

For many smaller brands, colour is not something to which they give a lot of thought beyond personal aesthetic preferences. But colour psychology has a powerful subconscious influence so it’s a key element of communication. In adverse times, when people’s sensitivities are heightened, ensuring your colour isn’t too loud or inappropriate for the moment is a simple but effective way to match the moment. This is an easy thing to manage no matter where you are, without needing face-to-face interaction with your creative team.

Related: How Colour in Branding Strategy Influences the Way Customers Buy

For example, Air Asia turned its website black and white after their plane crashed. The contrast to their normal vibrant red branding was stark and immediately communicated to users a gravity to how the airline was dealing with the tragedy.


By entering your name and email address, you consent to receive the ebook and the Persona Design newsletter, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. We do our best to keep you inspired with insightful content and you can also review our Privacy Policy here and T&Cs here.

8. Consider Brand Activism When Leading in Adversity

In smooth, more commercial vibrant times, a lot of brands think that activism is not for them but is better left to voluntary organisations, charities, well-known activity brands and others. 

In a crisis, however, brand activism can be all hands on deck. Even a normally sedate, introspective brand can be called into action for higher purposes.

This can be a positive thing for the brand and its relationships with customers, stakeholders and its team, so ask yourself what could your brand do that from a brand activism perspective that would be genuinely helpful, congruent with your brand values and meaningfully engaging with your primary audiences in a crisis?

Related: How to Use Brand Activism to Mobilize Your Customers

Leading in Adversity

© Movember

A thought-provoking example is provided by men’s shaving charity movement Movember. Male suicide is an ongoing crisis which as it is in many ways hidden is not widely publicised. Often associated with fun and positivity, nonetheless, Movember tackled this head-on in a commercial which confronted the issue directly.

9. Ensure Your Customer Experience is Deliverable Even When Leading in Adversity

It can be harder to see what is going on at every touchpoint when people work remotely. That is important because a lot of perceived brand value is wrapped in the customer’s experience

This applies to not only highly experiential brands like Apple but also to more everyday brands, product and service brands whether B2B or B2C, who might not think much about the experience they create for their customers.

Related: How Apple Does It, Five Tips for Getting Your $1Tn Brand Personality Right

But if the experience changes, for example, because your distribution outlets are closed, your staff can’t travel into the contact centre or your normal brand packaging is not available, then the experience your brand creates can suddenly inform the customers’ view of your brand very differently to ‘normal’ — sometimes very negatively.

This is why it is important to understand quickly what parts of your brand and customer experience might be affected and how you can mitigate this risk or even turn it to your advantage. 

This includes, for example, reevaluating and rechecking whatever you potentially offer in upcoming advertising to ensure it will be relevant with changing needs or available, managing expectations around service levels, and thinking of the right way to deliver your product or service in a fast-changing environment with increased uncertainty or adversity.

If you’d like to discover more about building and maintaining a thriving, high performing, highly profitable standout brand so you’re unstoppable in uncertainty, then get in touch because we’d love to help you make your brand into a profit powerhouse — Be The One — leading in adversity.

  1. Schedule an appointment — we can meet in person or online
  2. Allow us to create a customised plan for you
  3. Let’s implement the plan together 
  4. Contact us [email protected] or ring +353 1 8322724 (GMT Dublin/London time 9:00 – 17:30 weekdays)

Lorraine Carter is a branding expert and international speaker delivering talks live online that inspire and motivate along with live, interactive online masterclasses and workshops that inform and support transformational outcomes fast, and consultancy expertise that solves problems — using agile branding strategy underpinned by professional big-brand know-how — so you can outshine, outperform and leave your competitors way behind.

She enables you to Be The One — your ideal customers’ favourite brand — commanding a premium with 7-figure growth.

10. Schedule a Brand Audit Even in Adversity

In the middle of a crisis, there is so much urgent firefighting to do that bigger strategic questions often get put to one side.

But any crisis throws up a wealth of new data points, insight and existential questions which help you make your brand fitter than ever before, for long term survival.

So even if you don’t have bandwidth to do it at the moment, it’s a good time to schedule a brand audit down the line to review what you learnt and incorporate it into your future brand strategy because its an essential tool and process to identify strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for innovation and growth – all of which enables you to build a stronger, more robust brand and business, increase market share and sales.

Related: Brand Audits: Why You Need Them and How to Perform One

Brand Audit Checklist

By entering your name and email address, you consent to receive the ebook and the Persona Design newsletter, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. We do our best to keep you inspired with insightful content and you can also review our Privacy Policy here and T&Cs here.

Final Thoughts

The strongest leadership in adversity involves several elements, which can be driven remotely. First, you need to be clear about what you stand for: be clear about your brand internally, recognise your existing sources of revenue and support and revisit your marketing plan to consider what is core and what potentially needs to be shelved or re-evaluated to better fit the more challenging market dynamics. 

Secondly, you lead by responding to the changing times: understand whether customer emotions and purchase drivers have changed and what that means for how you deploy your brand purpose and tone of voice. You may also need to redesign elements of your customer experience to match the changed realities. 

Thirdly, look to brighter days ahead: schedule a brand audit health check. With the right planning and approach, even in adversity, your brand could be one of your strongest assets to help you thrive.

Branding in a Crisis


By entering your name and email address, you consent to receive the ebook and the Persona Design newsletter, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. We do our best to keep you inspired with insightful content and you can also review our Privacy Policy here and T&Cs here.

Questions to Consider

  1. Does everyone in your team understand what the brand stands for and why it matters?
  2. How can you say thank you to existing customers and stakeholders?
  3. Is there one new circumstance which most lends itself to your brand helping a wider audience?
  4. How deliverable is your desired customer experience in adversity?
  5. How is your branding helping and how could it help you more in the current environment?
  6. Do you need to re-evaluate your brand in the current market using a brand audit health check so you can identify its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for innovation and growth?

Your Persona Client Satisfaction Guarantee

  1. When you work with us we’ll create a customised brand-building plan and strategy with clear investment for you tailored to your specific requirements and preferences
  2. You’ll know each step of your brand building journey before we start because we’ll discuss it, document it and agree on it with you before work commences
  3. You’ll have timelines, key milestones and deliverables to evaluate and approve for each stage and part of your brand building process
  4. Because we know the unexpected sometimes happens we can make adjustments along the way if you need it and if something extra is requested we’ll ensure you’re fully appraised about what that entails before committing
  5. As we achieve pre-agreed objectives you’ll be able to evaluate your brand building work and strategy in progress, coupled with the outcomes to ensure return on investment

Get in touch today because we’d love to enable you to re-evaluate and build your standout, powerhouse brand so you can Be The One — increase your profits and leave your competitors way behind.

Email us [email protected] or ring us +35318322724 (GMT 9:00-17:30) and ask about our VIP Brand Strategy Re-Evaluation.