These are unprecedented times as humanity joins together to meet the very real challenges of this pandemic — and making for a unique and unprecedented marketing environment. Most companies are justifiably cautious, putting out the safest of messages carefully crafted with crisis communication at the fore to underscore their commitment to safety for both customers and employees.
And then what?
Paralyzed by fear, many marketers will opt to do nothing so as not to make the wrong move. But from history, we know brands that lean into marketing while others pull back have a great advantage. That’s why brands must seek relevant ways to participate in the current conversation in an appropriate way.
Brands are beacons of hope, making promises of better quality and improved lives. That’s why this is a moment for brands to step in as encouraging and productive leaders in our culture. We could all use a “light” right now as we huddle inside.
Can positivity be contagious? We hope so.
The Shipyard is committed to working extensively in the mental health space and as a result we have become believe communication can cure. We hear consumers’ despair and fears as we attune ourselves even more acutely to our clients’ challenges. When we see a society that is hurting, we naturally think about how we can use marketing to help. With this in mind, we share our thoughts to share from the bright side of marketing:
Be a humble hero. Consider how your brand’s values and unique skills can help with this crisis and identify a relevant role for your brand to make a genuine difference on any scale. Don’t look opportunistic; let your actions speak for themselves. The recent announcement by LVMH to repurpose their perfume factories to create hand sanitizer is a wonderful example of productive story-doing (vs. storytelling). Our food service clients are providing streamlined safe food delivery processes, while our scientific information clients are offering lower costs for access to R&D information. Our health care clients are helping rural communities have speedier access to testing. If your voice is relevant to this current situation, this is the most important time for your customers and prospects to hear from you.
Offer pragmatic optimism. In a moment when the news is sobering and scary, this is a time when our stakeholders can use some pragmatic optimism to help make the best of a horrible situation. As we all settle into the challenges of quarantine in place and social distancing, notice a resurgence of family mealtimes, nesting, gaming and reconnecting with loved ones. Marketers that can tap into this activity and provide solace and even joy for these interactions will be welcomed. This can be the centerpiece for food companies, game makers and home improvement clients, who are seeing greater engagement as people use their time to enhance their home life. Since we’re all in this together, why not make the most of being together?
Connectdirect. People with time on their hands are glued to their screens, making digital media a great place to be right now: search, programmatic, social and OTT media is already seeing higher engagement. Directing a heavier focus on direct-to consumer “owned” channels like ecommerce, organic social and eMails will drive an even stronger connection. Since increased web traffic in many categories can lead to more people visiting your site, now is a great opportunity to collect first-party data to learn more about your customers while building a remarketing pool to continue the conversation. This is also relevant for business-to-business marketers. With c-suite influencers and executives at home, general digital and social channels can be critical connection to customers and prospects, making virtual communication more important than ever.
Digital communities. With social distancing, we all crave human interaction. What can brands do to bring their communities together? As digital media consumption increases, we see people using social platforms even more to stay connectedwith friends and family. Let’s build upon that need for community interaction by leveraging technology to, ironically enough, make ourselves more human. We love that Zoom made their video conferencing service free for K-12 schools. Chipotle is also hosting a series of daily "Chipotle Together" video conference sessions with celebrity guests and as many as 3,000 fans. Humans are social animals after all, so finding innovative and rewarding ways to connect our communities is a great service.
Empathetic personalization. It is critical to be as relevant as possible with messaging right now. While we’re all experiencing similar emotions, that doesn’t mean that marketers have to revert to a time when one message works for everyone. Using your first and third-party data to deliver micro-campaigns that are more personal to specific audiences are proven to be more effective. Think about the different communities you serve and listen to their conversations happening in social to find the messages will inspire them right now. Influencers can reach smaller communities to tell (rather than sell) encouraging stories from your brand. Using definitive local hotspots of infection and geographical messaging could be extremely receptive, especially if your brand has a local presence. The personal side to communications has never been more important.
We will be affected by the pandemic for months to come, which is too long time to quarantine any business or customer relationship. While it is easy for us to freeze our communications, great brands realize that they are an important part of people’s life. If we are empathetic, timely, relevant and smart about how we connect, people will welcome our messaging into their lives.
It’s time to cure our fear of communicating and let the inspiring positivity of brands help our society.