Is it appropriate to market during a crisis? If so, should it be done differently, or is it better to stick to familiarity? Also, how can brands avoid negative press?
These questions (and many more) are being faced by companies and marketers all over the world since the emergence of Covid-19. After all, people’s behaviours and perspectives have taken a sudden shift and have become more focused on safety and containment, rather than on what products and services they may need.
For brands, this presents a unique challenge. How can they ensure that they are able to reach their audiences with the appropriate sensitivity to today’s world, while also trying to reach their marketing goals?
What do audiences really think?
Kantar, a leading global data, insights and consulting company recently carried out a survey of more than 35,000 worldwide customers to understand their thoughts about the subject. Although only 8% thought that brands should stop advertising altogether, 78% thought that brands should be helping them in their daily lives, with 74% thinking that companies should not exploit the current situation.
More importantly, consumers are looking at how brands are doing their part to help their staff, customers and the wider society. For instance, just under 80% believe that staff health should be a top priority for brands, and more than 60% agree that flexible working is important.
What can brands do?
This puts brands and marketers in a position they may be unfamiliar with. How do they maintain that fine line between being positive and helpful, while still trying to sell their products and services during a global crisis? Now, more than ever, they will be under a spotlight and if any communication is deemed to be inappropriate or opportunistic, there will be PR hell to pay.
Well, if you’re a brand or marketer, here are a few good places to start:
Just like social distancing itself, brands need to give people space and be mindful of their needs. They need to spread good messaging and positivity (whilst not ignoring the obvious) and do their part to reduce anxiety and alarm around the general population. Humour is always good (where appropriate), but try not to make light of the situation in an offensive way. Remember that many people have lost livelihoods and loved ones.
Many people are already cynical about marketing, and are likely to be even more so during the crisis. As many people are spending so much time online at the moment, your messaging is going to be amplified louder than ever – and so will any missteps. This isn’t the time to be slick; it’s the time to be clear, sensitive, empathetic and transparent.
Your marketing plans from half a year ago are no longer relevant. Now, more than ever, you’ll need to be more agile and flexible, based on the latest developments during Covid-19. People will instantly be able to spot generic marketing messages and will wonder why the messaging doesn’t reflect the times. Show that you’re active, engaged and present.
Now, more than ever is the chance to associate your brand with good things. For real, and not for advertising purposes. Ask yourself, ‘what can my business do to help’. Carry out giveaways to help people deal with home isolation, or donate toward social programmes to help out those who have been hit the hardest. Keep relevant information coming from your channels and do what you can to make sure that you’re contributing, instead of just selling.
Right now, the world is not sure when things will go back to normal, but you can be sure that they will. After the Covid-19 crisis finally passes, you’ll need to make sure that any momentum that you’ve created during this time carries over. Embrace your newly invigorated social channels, continue your work for the betterment of society and take the lessons from your new tone forward.
And, as always, look after yourselves, and your team.
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This is: Petar
The dual life of a marketing rockstar