In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers across the globe are adapting to the “new normal” of advertising by pulling commercials created pre-virus that may now be seen as insensitive. The focus has shifted to brand-building, with new campaigns that highlight how brands are helping during this crisis.
Given the circumstances, many marketers are doing a great job of pivoting during this global crisis. However, as marketers rethink their campaign strategies, it is worth repeating that cultural relevance is still important, and is more critical now than ever.
Culture Shapes Our Crisis Response
We all react differently in times of crisis. We can see that happening in real time across the globe as each country responds to the crisis through the filter of its culture, from Italians serenading each other off balconies to virtual DJ sessions in the U.S.
Our cultural background shapes our individual responses. And we see that here in the U.S., for example, as we drill down to how different subcultures respond to the pandemic.
Let’s look at the three cultural factors within the U.S. that marketers should pay attention to:
Collectivism vs. individualism. Some cultures, such as Asian and Latino, tend to be more collectivist as societies. That is, they typically think about the “group” at large vs. themselves.
Others, such as the general American culture, tend to be more individualistic, putting the needs of oneself at the forefront.
Collectivist cultures within the U.S. experience a push and pull between these philosophies, and the distinction is never clear-cut. However, marketers should keep this in mind while marketing during this pandemic. Messaging should consider the collectivist vs. individualistic viewpoint of the intended person consuming the media. A message that skews individualistic could be off-putting to cultures that value collectivism, especially at times of crisis.
Work-from-home messaging not for everyone. Many brands have shifted their messaging to include working from home images and references. Portraying this as an idyllic time when families hover over laptops working or homeschooling, then spend the rest of the day enjoying activities outside may work for some brands, but not all.
In fact, this messaging runs the risk of alienating large, influential minority consumer groups. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, less than one in five black workers and roughly one in six Hispanic workers are able to work from home.
In-language key to engagement. As many older Latinos, who are more likely to be Spanish-dominant, stay at home, their network of family and friends are no longer easily accessible. So digital sherpas are not in the house to interpret marketing messages for their abuelos. Thus, companies and brands looking to make meaningful connections with this audience should consider making social content in-language. This doesn’t have to be as daunting as translating an entire website. Starting with social media posts is an easy way to begin cultivating these relationships.
This is a challenging time for all of us in the industry. Marketers are trying to continue to do their jobs while being sensitive to the grim reality we find ourselves in. However, marketers play an integral role in getting us back to some sense of normalcy or new normalcy. Being culturally sensitive during this time is key to ensuring that brands and companies have multicultural consumers on their side when the country opens back up.