The COVID-19 pandemic has completely taken hold of the news cycle and our attention. Regardless of your thoughts on the severity of the situation, it’s hard to deny the effect it’s already had on industries of all types. Events are being canceled, more and more people are staying home from work, and the economy is seeing a major impact.
As marketers, this can be an incredibly tricky time to navigate. The show must go on for many businesses, although daily life might look a little different for the next few weeks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally transformed the world as we know it. Consumers are living, shopping, thinking and interacting with each other in new ways. Similarly, they are looking at products & services from brands through a new lens as well.
While the Coronavirus is reshaping the global advertising & marketing industry, it is rapidly accelerating long-term underlying industry trends in a matter of weeks of the outbreak. These new aspects of consumer behavior will live beyond the immediate effects of this crisis and not only permanently change what we value, it will also affect everything from how and where we shop, how we live and work.
As a marketer who is seeing this crisis evolve, it’s crucial to explore the challenges happening right now so we can consider what your brand can do to prepare for what’s next. Here are some dos and don’t of marketing for the current crisis:
DO get to know your consumers
Most people around the world are deeply concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on our lives and livelihoods. They are responding in various ways and have adopted new attitudes, behaviors and purchasing habits as they stay home. As people are adapting to a new normal, they are in the fearful position of contemplating what this crisis means for them, but more importantly, what it means for their families & friends, and society at large.
Your brand’s consumers are also responding to this crisis in a wide variety of ways. Some are feeling anxious and worried, some must be panic-buying staples and hygiene products and so on. Similarly, some pockets of consumers may remain indifferent to the pandemic and are continuing to live their lives at home as usual. The days of one-size-fits-all marketing are over. Companies need to understand how their consumers are reacting to this crisis and develop customized marketing strategies for each of these consumer segments.
DO stay authentic in communication
Authenticity is crucial to create strong bonds with customers, especially during a crisis when you’d want to insert your brand into daily conversations. According to the Kantar COVID-19 barometer report, 64% of consumers want brands to communicate their values through their messaging. Advertisers who are able to remain true to their brand and values will gain brand equity.
DO re-assess your post-pandemic media mix
Staying at home is affecting the way people are consuming online and offline media around the world. Coupled with the shift in consumer behavior, certain segments like connected TV, desktop video and mobile video may see surges during weekdays, while certain platforms may see a flat line.
In these uncertain times, consumers are also leaning towards premium media like The Times Of India Online, Economic Times Online among others as they need trustworthy sources for news & information to stay connected over random user-generated content (UGC). This is an essential takeaway as you plan your marketing mix during this time.
DO re-look at your audience segmentation
In times of such crisis, customer attunement is crucial. If you have a broad customer base today, brainstorm about ways to segment your audience into further segments based on their behavior, demographics, psychographics so that you are able to reach the right person at the right time with the correct messaging.
Closely monitor your own online platform’s web analytics and make a note of the metrics that have shifted in terms of customer behavior. Once you segment your audience in terms of these shifts, adapt your marketing strategy, messaging and landing pages to provide the information customers are looking for, clearly and readily, for a better customer experience.
DON’T assume pre-pandemic consumer behavior
The standard media consumption patterns are transforming rapidly with box office closures, work-from-home guidelines and cancellations of sports leagues. This has obviously impacted the media consumption cycle.
Similarly, some brands are limiting their online presence from appearing on COVID-19 related content. However, given the significant mindshare and unprecedented amount of media attention that COVID-19 has rightfully garnered, blocking a brand’s ads on this content may lead to an inability to connect with potential audiences.
DON’T share insensitive or misleading content
The role of tone and messaging was backed up by the Kantar COVID-19 barometer report, which reported that more than 70% consumers believe that brands should not exploit the situation to promote their brand.
While putting out an ad it’s important to ask if the messaging is insensitive or may induce widespread panic. A good idea is to test potential ads and get feedback from potential customers before putting it out.
Don’t focus on short-term business outcomes
More than likely, your company will suffer from a decrease in revenue and an increase in expenses. And your response to that will determine how people perceive your brand, long after the pandemic passes. So, as you make the difficult decisions before you, know that today’s values-based consumers still expect you to do the right thing. Even if it affects your bottom line. Not sure how? For a more positive long-term perception, just focus on your purpose. Comcast, for example, is offering internet to low-income households (or increasing their speeds). Zoom is issuing schools its video conferencing tools for free. Restaurants are offering no-contact delivery at no charge. In such unprecedented times, these businesses will be remembered for showing their support, rather than putting profitability first. And that will have the power to promote a much faster recovery.
Don’t underestimate empathy
To show you understand the context of the crisis and you care about your customers’ concerns, avoid any defensive or legalistic language. Steer clear of self-serving statements. And cancel any campaigns or communications that contradict the current advice from health professions and government officials. In this era, brands are being challenged to put people first, because they’re craving connection. With that, WWD recommends you also consider increased online customer service and possibly even a promotion where a percentage of purchases go to furloughed store workers. Essentially, you just want to be in the business of caring for something, well, bigger than your business.
Don’t be afraid to cancel your campaigns
Say it with us: A global emergency is not a marketing opportunity. And according to Adweek, a good strategy means knowing when to stay silent, just as much as it means knowing when to say what. Take it from Coors Light, as they just stopped an ad called the “Official Beer of ‘Working’ Remotely.” Playing into the idea that “working from home” doesn’t always mean you’re working from home, the spot was set to air during March Madness. However, the brand put it on hold — ensuring they didn’t have any insensitive content across the airwaves. To make sure your brand doesn’t seem tone deaf, review the creative you have running, plus the campaigns you have planned. Is it possible anything could be misinterpreted? In the modern marketing world, you have the ability to be agile. So if you need to make split-second shifts and stops, take comfort in the fact that you can.