There is little doubt that there are some difficult times ahead for the advertising industry and for some brands, at least in the short-term. Work stoppages along with quarantines are changing the landscape for marketers. In this new environment, connecting with consumers digitally can be challenging. Yet, it is especially important for both brands experiencing hard times as well as those experiencing booms to communicate effectively.
According to a Berlin Cameron/Perksy study, a high proportion of millennials believe that marketers can play an important role during the COVID-19 crisis and want to see communications that address the situation in their tone and/or focus on brand initiatives. With this in mind, marketers need to be innovative and creative in their communications with consumers.
Here are four insights on how firms should interact with customers during the COVID-19 crisis:
1) Social media channels currently offer special opportunity for innovative engagement
With so many people spending more time at home, internet usage is even higher than normal. In this vein, we are seeing some brands engage in innovative engagement. For example the Mondavi Sisters of CK Mondavi wines and are running virtual educational tastings for their Aloft and Dark Matter wine brands. Co-proprietor and winemaker Angelina Mondavi notes that they were considering this strategy prior to COVID-19, but realized they needed to implement the tastings earlier than usual. She states, “Our goal from the beginning was to connect with people that may not have the opportunity to visit us in the Napa Valley and continue to grow a stronger and closer relationship with our Aloft and Dark Matter members.”
The ability to interact with the proprietor in addition to learning about the product and/or simply having fun has been a big hit with the company’s members.
Another example in this vein is the virtual concerts by musical acts who cannot currently perform live shows put on by everyone from the Dropkick Murphy’s to the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms and Scott Blasey of the Clarks. While these shows have generally been free and focused on fundraising, they surely build up goodwill. In addition, they keep the act top of mind, and likely have the potential to spur online purchases of albums and merchandise, especially if scheduled regularly. These innovative types of strategies can be especially valuable in some industries that are heavily impacted by the virus.
2) Influencer marketing strategies may need to be changed to target “homefluencers”
As with everyone else, the lives of social media influencers have been impacted by COVID-19. There is a major opportunity for brands who have capitalized on influencers from Instagram, Youtube or other social media channels. Influencers are suddenly facing a moment where the cocktail dress they’ve been trying to sell is no longer for a night out, but for a mirror selfie or a virtual happy hour.
These influencers tend to instinctively understand where they fit into a consumer’s life during a crisis and many are good at adapting to new situations. As a result, influencers can be highly effective in educating audiences on social impact initiatives or simply entertaining customers while promoting a brand that they use.
3) Strong consumer brands should deliver simple messages that address COVID-19 and social responsibility
Bigger brands that have influence within consumer communities are keeping their messages simple, obvious, and informative. Coca Cola’s recent out of home ad in Times Square that delivered an effective social distancing message is an example to follow.
“Recently, Coca-Cola featured their impossible to miss logo with the letters spread out in Times Square. The vital marketing campaign was a testament to the success that can be derived from keeping the messaging light — yet powerful — all while spreading a message about the importance of social distancing.”
Given that young consumers are especially prone to reward a brand that they believe shares their values, this is a good time for large brands to address COVID-19 and deliver socially responsible messages.
4) Tone and human-centric messages are especially important for companies experience an uptick or shift in distribution channels during the crisis
The public is well aware that this crisis has hit many individuals very hard. As a result, messages that focus on the human element are likely to enhance effectiveness. Hyundai’s recent television ad campaign in which the company puts out the offer that for those affected by COVID-19 the company will cover six months of payments is a good example. This approach will likely build strong loyalty for those who happen to need to take advantage of it.
For companies making products for which there is an increase in consumption, such as alcohol or grocery retail, sensitivity is especially important. Diageo’s (owner of the Guinness and Johnnie Walker brands) promise of over $1 million to support bartenders and other affected groups around the world of a good example of incorporating the human element into marketing messages. While some companies may even achieve sales gains, remaining sensitive to the human side of things, and especially job displacements and hardship is important to consumers and resonates.