April 28, 2020
No one has all the answers right now, but that didn’t stop us from asking a ton of questions to our CEO, David Foy. Here are just a few of his answers.
Given that we’ve never experienced anything quite like this in our lifetime, there is no playbook to refer to. Therefore, we’re all trying to find our way through this. It’s easy for advertisers to make mistakes.
Back in March, we saw companies do things that were cute, but also lacked meaning. McDonald’s Brazil, for example, separated its golden arches in a nod to physical distancing but later reversed the decision after facing criticism.
Companies are now trying to do something meaningful by trying to help people feel safe and secure. Therefore, many brands have stopped pushing products, which is the right move as a shockingly sad number of people applied for emergency government assistance.
To go out with messaging that is blind to that, I think, is a mistake.
So, where do we start? Well, here’s what we know:
Marketers need to know where people are coming from and what they are focused on, because their needs have understandably changed. For the time being, people are rightly concerned about their health and the health of their families, and everything else is taking a back seat.
There will be plenty of time to sell products when the COVID-19 crisis has passed, but for now, a more understanding tone is the right approach.
Even as people worry about their personal health and that of their loved ones, they’re also stressed about their finances – from credit card bills, to rent and taxes.
Advertisers should respond to these concerns by offering special pricing, new financing deals and other incentives designed to set people’s minds at ease. Empathy and transparency is key.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to dominate our daily news and the markets fall, consumers are pulling back on luxury items. Shoppers are focused on the basics – the items they need to sustain themselves and their families in this time of travel restrictions and social distancing. We first saw the hoarding of toilet paper and disinfectant products. Now, people are looking to find basic personal grooming products as hair salons are closed longer than anticipated.
You can respond to this new reality by focusing your marketing efforts on the products in highest demand. Prioritize your online shopping channels to serve customers who are staying in. You might be surprised as sales for your products might actually improve during these challenging financial times.
Despite a softer demand for certain products during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, it doesn’t mean the need for those products is going away. In fact, marketers expect a spike in shopping and product demand once a vaccine is developed or a solid treatment is found.
Therefore, we should prepare for that pent-up interest by building our brands and creating bonds with our community. From helping out with local needs to being visible and active on social media and other online channels, there are things we can do to enhance our brand’s awareness and be ready for the shopping spree to come.
But for now, during the crisis our brands must participate by leading with empathy, which means:
It’s important to remember, long before COVID-19, consumer trust in both government and large brands began to erode. People now align more closely with family, friends and local businesses. Therefore, we need to understand that and establish credible content and an empathetic tone.
The most important thing is for marketers to suspend their own viewpoint and put themselves in the consumer’s shoes.
Whatever the strategy, it is, of course, critical that it is seen as authentic… the brand must not be seen as taking advantage of the situation.