Social Distancing, Yes! But Brand Distancing? NO!
Since the day before yesterday when Coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, it seems like the world is changing faster than I can type. (And that’s pretty fast.) As we are beginning to make some very significant changes to protect our health as human beings, it’s also important to consider how we can keep our businesses healthy. Smart brands know that marketing must go on: but what is the smart play when it comes to marketing in this unprecedented environment?
Tradeshows and events are canceled. In-store crowds are thinning. Fewer people are driving to work. That means many of the major avenues that brands are used to leveraging to reach their customers – whether b2b or b2c – cannot be counted on in the near future.
If you’re not working from home yet, chances are that’s about to change. The same is true for your customers and prospects. Keep the WFH individual in mind as you think about your short-term sales and marketing outreach planning. Here are a few questions to ask when making your marketing decisions:
- How can you get in front of people who are sequestered at home?
- What sort of messaging will resonate with them?
- How can you deliver your product or service to home-bound people when they do want to buy?
The answers to these questions can drive the messaging of your campaign, as well as the medium you choose to communicate that messaging. Speaking of the medium…
Different Times Call for Different Thinking
Marketers are no strangers when it comes to thinking creatively. Now’s the time to put that creative brain to work extra hard (perhaps while you’re sitting at your kitchen table instead of your desk). Because barring Lysol and hand sanitizers, the brands that thrive in the Coronavirus economy will be those who identify opportunities and act quickly.
Here are 7 ways to keep your brand healthy during the coronavirus pandemic:
1. Up Your Social Media Game
I believe we’re about to see an unprecedented usage of social media. With people confined to their homes, they’ll be relying upon their computers and phones as lifelines. It’s how we’ll go to work. It’s how we’ll go to school. And it’s how we will stay in touch with friends and family. With electronic devices constantly being accessed, the temptation of social media will be irresistible. (Plus, there will be no boss looking over our shoulders – so we’ll be scrolling through our feeds without the time-pressure and without guilt.)
People will also be going a bit stir crazy, and “connecting” via social media will be a huge way to relieve some of the loneliness. The cancelation of all major sporting events further means people will be missing out on the entertainment and very real sense of community offered by basketball, hockey, baseball, etc. For brands who recognize the special role social media will be playing in our lives and then create the right type of content and engagement, the rewards (purchases, awareness, affinity) can be monumental.
2. Dig Into Digital
If ever there was a time to make your digital footprint count, this is it. I’m not just talking about digital ads, although that’s one element. I mean everything: is your website up to snuff? Is it easy to load, user-friendly, and genuinely helpful? Do you have stellar content that fulfills Google’s EAT acronym (Expertise, Authority, and Trust), reinforcing your specific expertise in a real, meaningful way – and helping to lift your organic search ranking for that expertise? Is your email marketing personal and purposeful? Are you using marketing technology that lets customers and prospects communicate (and get answers or have orders filled) at any time of day? If not, it may be time to retool because, again, people are going to be on digital. A lot.
3. If You Build It They Will E-Com
Without question, brands whose offerings can be purchased online and delivered to their door will have an advantage during the Coronavirus outbreak. If you’re already set with e-com or digital delivery, what can you do to make it even better or more disruptive (in a good way)? If e-com isn’t already part of your brand’s offerings, how can you change that? What can you deliver online vs. in person or in store? Figuring this out now will not only boost your sales during this unusual time, it will also increase your brand health once we are all back to “business as usual.”
4. They’re Listening (And Watching)
While many brands have put broadcast media behind them, they may want to rethink that strategy now and buy up some local TV and radio space. Homebound people (which is about to be all of us) will be looking for distractions – and wanting to take a break from their digital devices.
Watching shows and listening to music and podcasts will offer welcome respite. There may even be a return to family time viewing (wouldn’t that be nice?), since families will be spending some serious time together. Now is the time to buy up some of the affordable, locally-targeted airtime…before your competitors wise up and the space is all gone. (And if you need to move budget away from something to make that happen, consider taking it from your out-of-home budget. Commuter posters, highway billboards, and bus shelters won’t be getting the eyeballs they normally do for a while. Once we are past this, however, everyone will be out in droves – so don’t forget about out-of-home.)
5. Can You Relate?
Public relations should always be part of your marketing mix, and this is no exception. Whether they’re writing from the office or from their homes, the media is still going to be publishing things – and not every story or segment can be about Coronavirus, nor is that the only thing that people want to read about. Be careful about what you are pitching; you don’t want to look like you are preying upon people during a time of crisis. Think about what sort of information an editor or producer would value – what would be interesting, newsworthy or helpful to their audiences, and what sort of expertise do you bring to that topic?
One note of caution: if you do not know what you’re doing when it comes to PR, hire an individual or agency who does. You don’t want to make a mistake when tensions are high because you may find yourself getting the wrong kind of coverage. (Yes, there IS such a thing as bad press.)
6. Offer Help
People are nervous when it comes to coronavirus. Work will be disrupted at best – and may result in salary cuts and/or job losses for many. So while they may desperately be wishing for some retail therapy, fear may prevent them from purchasing. Unless there is a really good offer that can help overcome their fear. I mean really good. Are you offering major price cuts? Can you delay payments until we’re past the health scare? Will their purchase help others in need in a big way? These are the types of added value that will give consumers and businesses a reason to consider your offering over the many others they will be encountering.
7. Refresh Your Brand
If your brand isn’t clearly differentiated in a way that has modern appeal for your target customer, take advantage of this time out of the normal office environment to rethink your positioning. In fact, you can run a virtual Brand Elevation workshop with your other team members – and you may be surprised at the different thinking that comes through! Whether it’s because people feel a bit more “free” since they are out of their offices or because they are delusional from being at home for so long, everyone’s unique POV may take your brand to an unexpected new place. Don’t know how to run a Brand Elevation workshop? Don’t let the Coronavirus stop you – Download our step-by-step guide here!