4 essentials for marketing through coronavirus.
As lockdowns ease across many countries and the initial volatility in consumer behavior subsides, pockets of the world are glimpsing what could be next. Unfortunately, what comes after coronavirus is still uncertain, and for marketing teams it raises fundamental questions: who are our customers now? How will consumers behave after coronavirus and how long for? Are we spending marketing dollars in the right place? To make things a little trickier, the answers are always changing.
So, whilst the last few months saw the vast majority of marketing campaigns delayed and businesses address their immediate survival needs, marketers are now having to formulate forward-thinking strategies from the ground up, taking into account the behaviors that are likely to stick around: deflated consumer optimism, a shift to online solutions, a heightened sensitivity to health and safety and increased time spent on digital platforms for leisure. For marketers, the implications are immense. Here are four essential ideas for marketing through coronavirus.
1. Authentic Empathy
In difficult times, empathy is mandatory. Consumers and colleagues alike are worrying about their jobs, health, family and more, and marketing strategies should radiate positivity and reassurance. Tone deaf marketing is the worst whilst genuine empathy is powerful, and there have been countless examples from businesses around the world. Insincere efforts to do so for commercial gain, however, won’t be received well, and consumers are receptive to authenticity. So, marketing efforts should have a genuine intent to alleviate consumer anxieties and should also aim to sharpen relevant areas of the business to help both loyal customers and those further afield. Doing so will play an important role in retaining existing customer bases and appealing to new ones.
Also, whilst many businesses have embraced transparency as a means to strengthen relationships with customers, sharing their trials and tribulations as core marketing content, it would be easy to let off the gas as markets align to a new normal. But maintaining visibility is crucial. Integrating low-cost, regularly released content that keeps up the connection between business and consumer will be invaluable in the coming months, and as brand awareness becomes ever-more contested in the accelerated digital world, visibility and familiarity are paramount.
2. Track and Adapt
Now is the time double-down on tracking. With smaller budgets, less consumer spending and changing behaviors, it’s necessary to know what consumers are doing. The clarity that comes from tracking will allow for a better allocation of marketing spends and better ROIs as well an improved ability to refocus your brand and prioritize relevant products and services.
And as online usage surges, the opportunity to gather robust data only grows, also enabling more accountability for spends and helping to ramp up your agile marketing. Ensure you have the right infrastructure, tools and people to manage constant tracking, and engage fully with social media channels to assess how your customers are feeling.
3. Hyper Agile
Using agile marketing is an effective way to be in tune with changing circumstances. Nike, for example, launched a digital campaign earlier in the pandemic whose message included “Play inside, play for the world” – an astute reflection of their support for the pressing issues at the time. Also, not only is agility a tool that allows marketing efforts to align with current conversations, but as the foreseeable future remains unclear, being able to rapidly adapt marketing messages, media mixes and brand focuses as we come out of the fog will be key. Whilst some behavioral trends will stay, others such as remote learning for children, mental telehealth and restaurant pick up are likely to wane, and nimble, cost-effective experiments to continuously test the relevance of marketing strategies will be indispensable.
4. Get Digital
Coronavirus has accelerated worldwide digital transformation at an unprecedented rate. And, amongst all the shifts caused by the pandemic, the adoption rates for digital channels are unlikely to revert back to pre-corona times, as millions of people are being introduced to new online ways of buying and experiencing. Even when lockdowns are gone, positive encounters with digital goods and services will linger in consumers’ minds as well as offering a non-contact lifeline for those with long-term sensitivity to health and travel.
For marketers, moving selected offline marketing resources to online in the short term is a necessity. In the long term, marketing strategies should align with the trends that are being exacerbated by coronavirus. E-commerce was already on the rise pre-coronavirus, but now spurred on by the outbreak and younger generations with increasing spending power, increasing investment in direct-response advertising on social media is one digital strategy worth considering. In one study, 60% of Gen-Z and Millennial respondents said that an advertisement on social media influenced their purchase decisions during COVID-19, and 80% of Gen-Z parents asked said their children influenced household spending. The digital world has been propelled forwards, and for marketers the opportunities are ripe.