NEW YORK—Brand communication with customers was at the forefront of the Vision Monday Leadership Summit held prior to Vision Expo East. With the emergence of countless new social media tools and the increasing diversity in the way customers receive marketing messages, speakers at this year’s Summit pressed the need for brands to explore new outreach mediums.

Leading off the session titled “Brand-Building Rewired,” Davitha Tiller, EVP of social and integration at Red Havas, noted that there are many macro trends in communications that are forcing brands to create custom messages for various audiences. Red Havas is one of the country’s largest PR firms, specializing in the merged media model of creating content focusing on storytelling that is earned, social and experiential.

“There needs to be consistent branding in content,” said Tiller, adding that 48 percent of content being put out by brands is not having a meaningful impact on audiences. She noted brands are experiencing a retail renaissance where customers are wanting more than a simple click-and-buy scenario. She believes customers are interested in the “collective benefits” of brands including functional and personal.

Tiller explained that brands need to be able to convey this message in ways that target specific audiences whether it is TikTok videos or other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. She said the growing trend of live streams is forcing businesses to put a face to the name in ways they never had before. “This is a powerful new way to sell brands and products and it’s something to tap into from a marketing perspective,” she said.

She added that brands also need to examine how they can use their own teams and the power of influencers to increase their impact. “You need to think about how you are going to leverage employees and influencers,” she said, pointing out that content is now a commodity that needs to be treated with the same care and attention as the products themselves.

This is something Lisa Sun, founder and CEO of Gravitas, experienced firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic when her company was forced to pivot from selling women’s work shapewear to personal protection equipment. Sun said her company used the challenges of COVID-19 to strengthen and grow the business, noting events like the pandemic are when people discover their superpowers. “This is when you discover your unique and distinctive capabilities and know your superpowers can be deployed to business,” she said.

During the pandemic, Sun relied heavily on her team to ensure the company could survive a sudden shift to work from home and a significant drop in orders. She also worked to ensure that her manufacturing team was also kept employed by diversifying her offerings to include handbags and other accessories.

Admitting that she was the product of a “tiger mom,” she said this only served to give her the confidence to pursue her dreams. It also taught her that you have to let the people who work with you have a voice and an active role in your success.

“You have to let people own their ideas. That makes them much more committed when you launch,” she said, adding having your team on board in all facets of business makes it easier to pivot during hard times.

This message was reiterated by Whitney Fishman Zember, group client director, media innovation and consumer technology at Wavemaker. She highlighted how the pandemic led many businesses to pivot their messaging and branding, particularly in the areas of health care. Limited access to all levels of health care meant patients had to turn to virtual and online care options.

She said the pandemic created many challenges for businesses who suddenly found they couldn’t deliver their products through traditional channels, pointing to the bigger question of “How do you challenge and become a disrupter when the world is a challenge?”

“The pandemic uncovered a lot about the health care system,” she said, adding customers are now more aware of the control they have over the platforms from which they receive care. “It’s never been more important to experiment with telehealth.”

Zember pointed out that companies that want to go up against entities like Amazon and Walmart in health care need to understand that the point of sale is just one step in the health care journey. “It’s not just the point of sale. You need to be there through every step and touch the eerie part of the customer journey. You need to understand the lessons of the users and bring that back to your brand.”