BOSTON — Facing a slate of next-level challenges, brands’ ability to adapt to changing consumer wants and needs is key to maintaining relevance, even as world attention is being consumed by the coronavirus outbreak, according to research from 360+PR.

The firm’s survey of 300 marketing leaders, conducted in early March, found that consumers are still paying attention to brands, and those that are able to change in accordance with the times could come out of the crisis just as relevant — or even more so — than before.

Respondents, who work across sectors, cited brands’ relatability (52%), interest (49%) and awareness (48%) as the key drivers of their relevance, most notably in the content and experience they provide.

On average, participants ranked their brands’ relevance 8.2 on a 10-point scale, based on sales, customer feedback and brand awareness/recall. More marketers in finance (40%), fashion (40%) and food & beverage (39%) ranked their businesses completely relevant (10 out of 10) than in other sectors.

Half of the marketers polled said understanding customers’ needs is an essential component of accomplishing that. Making customers happy (44%) and speaking to customers in a way they like (34%) are the other top factors, they said.

In turn, brands across sectors plan to increase their use of targeting to reach new and current audiences, according to the survey. That tactic is favored by 43% of marketers in the automotive industry, 30% in travel, 22% in food & beverage and entertainment, and 17% in finance.

Sustaining relevance, however, is harder on small companies than large ones. When asked to identify the biggest barriers to achieving that goal, 16% of respondents said limited resources, 15% said competition from other brands, 11% said raising awareness and another 11% said trying to be all things to all people.