There's a clear message: Don't stop advertising, just change your tune...
Business owners and marketing specialists are facing a number of serious challenges to add to the concern around the Covid-19 pandemic.
All those marketing plans discussed, reviewed and finalised during 2020 planning now need to change.
And with them, most of the associated budgets, milestones and calendar dates, channels and product or sales goals have gone out of the window.
Added to this is the pressure of an increasingly irate public, who are daily expressing irritation at receiving communication from companies they haven't heard from in years...
It's a fine line between irritation and information; between profiteering and simply staying in business; between a viable online resource for customers and a non-essential that simply doesn't offer any value.
So what does marketing innovation at this point look like?
On the plus side, there has been a significant increase in the consumption of news media - that means a lot more eyeballs on screens in particular, with mobile and television the primary devices delivering increased viewership.
That does present an opportunity, but it's a minefield of its own, with the next challenge the critical question: how does one go about conveying a message that is simultaneously useful, sensitive, reassuring and non-exploitative but still serves the business's goal?
The first challenge is to identify the goal:
- Are you trying to achieve sales, brand awareness or engagement from your customers now?
- Or are you bunkering down and preparing to service your customers once the crisis has been alleviated?
- If it's about playing it cool for now and pushing planning and budgets to later in the year, take into account that many other companies may elect to do the same, and that may drive inventory prices up. It does, however, buy you some time to plan what those campaigns will look like.
Once you've settled on the approach, the next challenge is how to position the business and the campaign sensitively, given the current situation.
If you're considering a brand awareness campaign, what can you do that promotes any positive steps your company has taken to help, for example by extending offers to NHS staff, or donating sanitising products to local hospitals?
If it's the engagement you're after, how can you connect with your customers in a meaningful way, perhaps by checking in with them on how you might be able to help them get through the next month or two?
If it's a sales campaign - by far the trickiest option - are you able to demonstrate real, honest value and communicate openly about where and why you're charging what you are. For example, if you're offering delivery to mitigate the need for people to come into your shop, show your customers that you're not profiting at all on the courier charges.
What is the key takeaway?
More than ever, honest communication is the best strategy, whether you're planning a campaign for now, or one that is planning for the post-pandemic recovery period.
Make use of key channels such as social media to express clear, honest and sincere messages to your customers. And make sure more than one person is checking and signing off on messaging - it's a risky time to be pushing out messages that haven't been extensively sanity checked!
While you can adopt a light-hearted approach, be careful not to be flippant or insulting - again, it's a fine line...
Most importantly, don't panic or make knee-jerk decisions - spend time with your team on conference calls to discuss your company's marketing approach for the next few months.
Document everyone's thoughts and ideas, and ensure all ideas are considered - you never know where the next inspiration may come from!
- Don't panic - keep clarity by discussing as much as possible before acting.
- Show empathy - understand your customers and their fears, and pay heed to these in your own language and approach.
- Total honesty is an opportunity, not a detractor - in times of crisis, it is those who are most transparent who build the longest-standing affinities with customers.
And remember, all businesses are facing a similar situation, you're not alone! If you can position your business with integrity, compassion and proactiveness in the coming months, you'll emerge stronger than ever as conditions normalise.