While there have been many articles recently published that share the best practices for marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, very few seem to address the fact that each business is facing its own unique struggle. What may work for one company might not be plausible for another. For this reason, we reached out to a handful of diverse agencies to get you the inside scoop.
To Continue or Cease Communication
There’s no denying that communicating during a crisis is a form of art in itself. While there are guidelines on how to appropriately communicate during a crisis, there isn’t one correct answer. The perfect solution for each business is going to differ based on a number of various factors.
“Bottom line: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing communications during a global crisis. Each brand must prioritize what is best for their business.”
– Shantelle Wasag, Account Director, E29 Marketing
Shantelle Wasag, Account Director at E29 Marketing further elaborated, “Bottom line: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing communications during a global crisis. Each brand must prioritize what is best for their business.”
Communicating with customers is extremely important. And, during a crisis, there is an extra emphasis placed on that communication.
Carolyn Walker, CEO/Managing Partner at Response recommended that if able, brands should continue to market themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic. She mentioned, “When you cut back it not only sends a signal of instability, it also creates an opening for competitors to take a share of voice.”
However, this is easier said than done. The problem is, some brands are in situations where cash flow has completely ceased. Walker expanded, “…they are struggling with payroll, and may not have access to capital, so in the short term it can be really difficult, maybe impossible, to put any budget towards media.”
The solution? Stay active on your brand’s owned media. This includes social media accounts, blog posts, and email.
Ceasing Communication…Not An Option
Completely ending communication during this time honestly isn’t an option. As Jessica Hennessey, Director of Digital Marketing at 3 Media Web stated, “Silence is a slow death.”
Hennessey added, “If brands go silent, customers may think you went out of business or simply don’t care. The long term effect of that could be staggering.”
“Silence is a slow death. If brands go silent, customers may think you went out of business or simply don’t care.”
– Jessica Hennessey, Director of Digital Marketing, 3 Media Web
Rather than going silent, get creative! Response Media’s VP of Client Strategy, Jennifer Streck, strongly believes that this is the time for non-essential brands to get creative. Consider what your company can offer in a time when your audience may not feel comfortable spending money on wants.
Streck said, “We’ve seen great things with theme parks offering up digital experiences and brands providing ideas or content to make time at home more fun.”
Now is NOT the time to go silent. Your audience needs you at this time now more than ever before. In fact, research shows that brands that remain visible during times like these are more likely to recover earlier.
Addie Palin, General Manager, and Troy Alfke, VP/Management Supervisor, of Hoffman York mentioned,”Those that remain visible to their customers seem to benefit from a perception of durability and strength during times like these.”
Think of this as your opportunity to step up and be there to serve your customers. As an opportunity to further build the relationship with your consumers.
Streck commented, “This entire pandemic is a very human experience and provides an opportunity for brands to make good on the idea of building relationships with consumers beyond their products or services. Brands that successfully nurture those relationships now will be the winners as the new normal emerges.”
Adjusting Marketing Spend
Over the past few weeks, companies have taken a deep look into how they are allocating their marketing budget during this time. Some brands have trimmed nonessential spend, while others have completely slashed it.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer in handling this situation. When asked if Response Media is recommending clients to shift their marketing spend and Streck explained how it really depends upon the client.
Streck responded, “This varies by client and continues to evolve as the situation changes. It’s important for each brand to consider what value they can offer their audience at this time and where they can best meet them to deliver on that value.”
Industry Plays An Important Factor
There’s no denying that some industries are struggling more than others. The hospitality, food, and beverage industry are just a few areas being hit the hardest.
Flint Finlinson, Principal, Agency Director at Propaganda mentioned how they advised their clients at the beginning of the outbreak, “With our clients that are in retail and restaurant, we recommended a complete halt to their marketing spend for the first couple of weeks while they adjusted to a new normal under very challenging circumstances.”
However, as innovative ways to provide food and services emerged, Finlinson and his team began to recommended shifting to digital for the bulk of their spend to allow for maximum flexibility.
Marketing Spend Shifts To Digital
Many agencies are recommending that their clients shift their spend to a place where bang for the buck is better guaranteed. One of those places is social media.
Keith Kakadia founder/CEO of Sociallyin revealed, “We have made recommendations to our clients that they shift from traditional to social advertising as this is a time when a lot of people are passing their time scrolling through social media or otherwise trying to stay connected.”
He also mentioned that there has been an uptick in advertisers pulling from networks. And with fewer people advertising, the rates are getting better and better.
In addition to the huge spike in digital media consumption, E29 Marketing is reminding their clients that online shopping is also on the rise.
Wasag explained, “Many brands are hoping to boost sales and/or stave off declines by focusing more heavily on digital advertising and social media advertising as a way to raise awareness, inspire engagement and drive more online sales.”
Altering Your Marketing Strategy
Months upon months were spent developing the perfect marketing strategy for clients. However, COVID-19 has forced many brands to scrape their original marketing plans. Now companies are having to remain flexible in order to communicate with their audiences in the most effective way possible.
Aligning Marketing With Reality
The restaurant industry is just one example of companies having to completely adjust their marketing strategy. Walker from Response discussed how they had to work with their client, Uncle Julio’s, to shift their marketing from making memories from scratch in their restaurants to strategy around a limited menu available as curbside takeout.
Thanks to the power of social media, Uncle Julio’s has been able to effectively communicate with their customers.
However, one of the most difficult things to communicate to any audience during this time is how a brand is being safe. Walker added, “They also are doing everything they can to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their team and guests, which is a critical component to the communication as well.”
Encouraging A Different Service
The implementation of social distancing has led to the halt of quite a few marketing services. Rather than lose time in their marketing efforts some are suggesting that clients take advantage of a different marketing service. Founder of Brass Ideas Advertising, Andrew Clarke, is one of these individuals as he is encouraging clients towards animation.
Clarke explained, “We are shifting clients towards animation, which gives them a process that yields great work, a completely virtual process and often, lower costs.
Because of its virtual process and typically lower costs, Clarke expects that there will be a trend towards video animation. He went on to elaborate how this is a unique opportunity, “Great animation, such as what we see in other markets in the world, is unusual in the US and offers a breakthrough opportunity.”
Carefully Analyzing Tone
This is the time to double-check and triple check your tone. The world is expecting brands to be more empathetic during this time. This is why it is so extremely important that companies are aware of how they are communicating.
People are looking for an empathetic tone. Hennessey at 3 Media Web said it best, “Customers are looking for leadership and they need to know that things are alright now and will be in the future.”
The Exception To The Rule
The one place where brands can forgo an empathetic tone would be Twitter. Keep in mind this only applies to companies that have branded themselves with a strong sarcastic personality. Two of the most well-known examples being Wendy’s and MoonPie. Both of which have remained their sassy-authentic selves during this very unusual time. Learn more about establishing a social media persona here.
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