COVID-19: Customer needs have changed. What now



Author —Auteur — Michelle Bell

By all accounts, working through COVID-19 is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

We have all watched the news unfold with stories of tremendous human loss, and also bravery. As a nation, we are taking aggressive action to “flatten the curve”. As we round out the early weeks of social distancing, businesses are starting to look at the short and long term impact. In the coming months, we will see stories of layoffs and business closures. Admittedly, some will be inevitable. But, many aren’t. In fact, some businesses may not only endure, but they may come out stronger.

Side note: It is ok to think about your business. Second to public health, Canadians are worried about the economy. We all need some good news stories and market success right now. 

Where do we start?

Start at the beginning and ask yourself the basic questions of branding: 

  1. What customer need do you solve?
  2. How do you solve it?
  3. Why should people believe you?
  4. How do you do it differently and better than others?


Remember, you are not the hero of your brand story, your customer is (see previous blog).

Let’s look at each of those questions in more detail. 

What customer need do you solve?

This is actually a big question, and chances are you will answer it wrong, or at least not completely at first. Let us explain. 

Sell clothes? Some may think you sell fashion. We think you sell self-expression and confidence. 

Sell cars? Some may think you sell transportation. We think you sell freedom. Perhaps status. Perhaps social glue if your car is a carpool machine like some of ours. 

Now ask yourself, how has that need changed due to the pandemic? The evolution of pasta over the past 7days has been mind-blowing. Not long ago, it was the evil enemy of Keto. Now, it offers security.

How do you solve it?

If we keep thinking about pasta, they have now shifted to a must-have item that makes people feel safe. The security blanket of non-perishable food. Let’s take that solution even further – what if pasta companies double down on recipes for families? Online cooking classes for kids to master culinary schools in the absence of school?  

Why should they believe you?

This is extremely important. For pasta it is simple. They are here, always have been, and will start communicating with you in a way that is useful. People need to see the proof of how a brand delivers and in this climate, need to know what you are not being opportunistic.   Remember – actions over words. 

How do you do it differently?

First, you need to realize who your competitors are.  Who would your customer swap you out for? Who is solving similar problems? In the case of pasta, it is not just other brands – it is other non-perishables, make from scratch, etc. Now, walk through every step of your customer’s journey and give your organization a rating on how you meet your customer’s needs, and do it with excellence. 

We realize pasta is a very simple example. But, with empty shelves, it is easy for all of us to relate to. Where do we see other examples?

Hotels – what if they now solve a need to get a break from crowded homes, or even self-isolate? 

Cars – it may be a while until they get us to and from the office. What if they solve a need to escape the city and find a place to have some social distanced fun?

Food Delivery – no longer just for convenience, it provides a lifeline for people. 

Recreation Programs – they were always in the business of social connections and fitness – and still can be, but they will need to deliver your services differently now.  (shout out to Dovercourt, my local recreation centre, that is offering activities remotely in lieu of March break camps)

It is time to revisit how brands fit in this new world. For most, the need is still there – but don’t assume it will be business as usual. It is time to adapt. 


So, what now? What should your specific business do? Good question. Give us a call. We are helping our community in best way we can right now, and offering free consults to get you started.  

Michelle Bell

Chief Marketing Officer

Michelle has over 18 years of experience in marketing and operations. She has worked in traditional brand management for global consumer packaged good brands. In addition, she has worked in marketing and business strategy for the public sector, including Canada 150 for the Royal Canadian Mint.

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