Preparing your brand for the recovery.

A few months ago, we published our blog; “Your Expert Insights. Your Brand Views”. It shared the results of a survey of our clients on their priorities for 2020 and the key issues their brands were facing.

A few short months, but of course, so much has happened. Many of you have found a way to push through the shutdown, some have had no choice but to suspend operations to protect staff and customers, all of us have had to adapt to fundamentally different ways of working.

Now, after a period of sudden and profound global disruption – what we do next could redefine our brands for years to come.

A renewed 2020 focus

Profound disruption – but at TOTEM our focus is unchanged. We exist to help brands find and live their meaning, to help our clients become the best, most successful versions of themselves.

Like many of our clients, we were compelled to quickly adapt over the past two months, depending on the tremendous commitment of our talented creatives to keep delivering on our clients’ projects.

Now we have a renewed focus for 2020.

A complete commitment to our clients – especially to those of you who have had to close your doors during this time – to help your brands recover, reconnect and thrive.

That commitment starts here, with this guide that shares some of the key tools and techniques we use in our workshops to help brands gain clarity and move forward with absolute focus and understanding and to prepare for recovery.

What's your why?

It has been a period of disruption but also re-evaluation. Many of us have used the enforced pause to ask some big questions of ourselves personally, of our goals and our working lives.

In life as in business, few of us will have the luxury of just picking up where we left off. The experience of this pandemic will have changed us, changed our customers – we will have grown, adapted and evolved. Our perspectives will be altered. What we will value, what we look for, will have changed in many small and not so small ways.

As a business owner, now is the time to take one final pause and ask yourself how you enter the ‘new normal’.

What’s your brand’s purpose, your why? When you set up your business what did you want it to achieve? And does that still hold true today? All businesses exist to make money – that’s a given. But what is your passion? What gets you out of bed in the morning? That is what will drive you and your business forward in the next months and years.

It’s not an easy process, it shouldn’t be. In fact, simply answering those questions can be one of the most complicated processes you and your business will ever go through.

Walk in your customers shoes, commit to their perspective – ultimately they are your brand.

TOTEM Meaningful Branding - Empathy Map

What's happening for your customers?

Right now, your biggest asset is your empathy. You don’t need a big market research budget or reams of data to understand where your customers are at right now..

You need empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

To start with, think of all the different types of customers and potential customers you have. Do a big brain-dump and then try and build up detailed personas of each. Give them names, hobbies, ages and interests.

And then try and walk in each of their shoes…

… How has this pandemic affected your customers?

… How are their needs likely to have changed in a post Covid-19 world?

Really try to understand them – beyond just how they interact with you. Create a detailed pciture of their lives, interests and what makes them tick. Try and understand what this crisis has been like for them.

What they are going to want and need in the ‘new normal’’?.

When we’re facilitating brand essence workshops, we like to use these empathy maps, to really help get into the different customer mindsets. Why not try it yourself for your own audience?

TOTEM Meaningful Branding - Brand Ideal Zone

What can you offer that competitors cannot?

When you really understand your customers, the next step is to start looking at what they want that you can uniquely offer.

First – make a list of your competitors and their strengths – what do they do better than you? Positioning your brand in that space could be a risky strategy. You’ll never win on that.

Be honest with yourself about your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. Try and find what you can uniquely offer – how you can give customers something they value, in a way that your competitors just cannot.

And be creative. Adopt a New Year, New Me attitude. There’s never been a better time.

There will be a new normal coming out of this crisis. Just because it’s not what you do best right now, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be.

If you spot a genuine gap – something your customers want, competitors can’t offer and with a bit of a change in approach you could be best at – go for it. Now is the time to set a new course, with a new vision. A new strategy.

TOTEM Meaningful Branding - Brand Archetype

Help your brand connect emotionally.

So, by now you should know the ideal zone – the key things your brand uniquely offers customers. How does that change how your brand looks and sounds? How do you tell that story?

At TOTEM, when we’re building brands, we love to use Character Archetypes. Branding is about building emotional connections with your customers. And the best way of doing that is through storytelling.

Carl Jung, a psychoanalyst who worked with Freud, identified 12 different character archetypes that come through time and time again in storytelling. We all know them, even if it’s only subconsciously. From the Hero, to the Sage to the Rebel – these are the classic character types we instantly relate to.

By understanding what makes you unique, and what customer need you’re meeting, you can start to grasp your brand’s primary character archetype in the story. By getting this right, you can create and shape a brand that will resonate and connect with your audience.

You can create a richer, deeper and clearer personality for your brand which your entire team can understand and communicate. The stories we relate to most are clear, concise, consistent.

TOTEM Meaningful Branding - Brand Essence Wheel

Your brand essence wheel.

Which leads us onto the final tool we want to share with you – your brand essence wheel. At TOTEM we believe in creating clarity through simplicity.

This final tool – one diagram, one slide – can be your superpower.

The Brand Essence Wheel simplifies and captures the intrinsic nature of your brand, which determines its character. It is the true-North of your brand. The compass-needle to guide all decisions and communications.

Firstly, you’ll see a section for your 5-6 brand truths – defining what your brand is best at and will be famous for. Your pre-work on identifying what you’re best at – for your ideal zone – will help feed into this.

Then, you’ll see a section where you can add 5 to 6 words to describe how your brand is going to make your customers feel. Your empathy work should really feed into this, as well as your new brand character archetype. Are you offering safety, freedom, love or acceptance? Be specific and emotional. Don’t censor yourself.

In the third section you’ll see space for 5-6 words that will describe your brand’s personality. This is where all that thinking around your character archetype will come in. Imagine when you’re describing your brand, that you’re describing your best friend….

They are your typical ; they are always so _____, _____, ______, ______ and ________.

And finally – that hard part! You need to define your essence. What your brand uniquely offers your customer – your USP.

The good news is that even though you may go back and forth a few times to get the wording just right, you’ve already broadly defined this when you identified your ideal zone. You just need to tie it together with your brand archetype and effect.

The recovery will be a journey.

We’ve thrown a lot of different tools at you in this blog. Take your time with them. When we’re facilitating brand essence and brand refresh workshops, we might do a brainstorm on all of these in a day – but our creative team spend days then going over and over the outputs.

Distilling down all the information and cutting through all the complexity, takes time and plenty of thought. Don’t rush yourself.

Doing this work now will be worth it. You can gain absolute clarity on what your brand stands for, what it uniquely offers customers and where you are going so you can step forward with confidence.

And remember that recovery is a journey – for you and your customers. It will rarely, if ever, follow a straight line. Maybe you’ll bounce back far better than you could have ever expected.

More likely, there will be small setbacks along the way. That’s okay – just be prepared for it.


And remember – when you need to, reach out to us. Nothing would make us happier than to see your brands not just survive, but to thrive in the post Covid-19 world.