Welcome Back: Post-Pandemic Brands Ready their Return to a New Normal

Smart marketing and advertising messages from brands recognize the impact of pandemic-life on consumers, even as we look to brighter days ahead

With mask mandates lifting in the U.S. for the vaccinated and states ready and reopening, brands (and consumers) are anxious to turn the page on the pandemic. But rather than a rush back to a prior “normal,” brands (and consumers) are taking a more measured approach. With marketing messages careful not to push the pandemic aside, brands are acknowledging that consumers are likely changed after a year-and-a-half of COVID life. True before the pandemic, the best brands recognize this reality and meet people where they are. 

In Forbes’ recent coverage of post-COVID brand-building, marketing executive Ryan Stoner says, “The world has just gone through one of the most significant crises of this century and many brands are still faced with a myriad of uncertainties, needing new playbooks.” Advising brands to prioritize customer needs and authentically stand for something, Stoner declares: “There is no going back to the old normal, and we must embrace new marketing truths to drive growth in a post-COVID world.” 

So, which brands are best navigating this new post-pandemic world? Ad Age’s recent roundup of brand messaging highlights a quest to successfully meet the moment. Uber’s ad showing people returning to life after lockdown is a homerun, capturing all of the excitement of being back in the (New York) groove but nodding to post-COVID safety with masking. Some ads are using their brand heft to subtly advocate for vaccination, like Budweiser showing people gathering, but reminding us that “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot.”

Video Credit: Uber, May 17, 2021

Another shining example of post-pandemic marketing that strikes just the right chord: Vrbo’s Reunions. Set to John Legend’s version of “I Can See Clearly Now,” this powerful, emotional ad features real people who were unaware that they’d be reuniting with loved ones. Vrbo’s vice president of global brand Lish Kennedy describes the approach: “Vrbo believes there’s nothing more important than being with the people you love, and we’re celebrating that it’s finally time to be reunited.” Debuting the ad with behind-the-scenes and surprise footage, this brand recognizes the personal cost of lockdowns and optimistically points us to the future. 

Video Credit: Vrbo, June 22, 2021

As these successful brand messages demonstrate, setting the right tone is critical for connecting. Stoner says, “During the pandemic, consumers got used to empathy from brands… Customers are also used to and crave an authentic tone of voice from brands” but they shouldn’t overdo it. Stretching beyond the parameters of your brand voice can feel performative. Yes, living your values out loud shows your brand commitment and an upsurge in purpose, “But purpose must be both lived and believed.” 

To see all of the recent brand ads, visit Ad Age’s article on post-COVID brand messaging. For help developing and delivering meaningful marketing for FIs, contact us at info@adrenalineagency.com.

Photo Credit: Vrbo, June 22, 2021