These are sensitive and emotionally fragile times for a lot of people, and how you communicate is going to be under the microscope. Job number one: don’t be tone deaf. Your customers are behaving differently now and are in a different headspace. Maybe a frequent, loyal customer has gone silent for the last four weeks. Their financial situation might be changing as we speak. How do you talk to them?
Understand the different places people are in their lives, right now, and be helpful to them. Maybe it’s sending them an offer they can redeem several months from now. Or as simple as, sending them a reassuring note showing how your brand cares, that you understand you may not be seeing them for a while, and that’s ok. People don’t want to be seen purely as customers; they want to know there’s a person behind that message, that someone’s thinking about them.
Be sensitive but think about small changes or gestures that can garner goodwill. Do it in a way that is authentic to your brand and will truly create value for your customers at this time. Humor is difficult. The general rule is stay away from it. But it’s ok to go for smiles. People need relief.
What doesn’t change?
Relevance isn’t situational. If you were already set up to deliver the right messages, to the right people at the right time, your marketing should work just the same in this current climate. The mandate doesn’t change: be surgical, be relevant.
Right now, people are still consuming, just in a different way. They’re cooking more, exercising at home, watching more TV and spending more time browsing social media — and being online is at the center of it all. They’re researching about buying cars and homes. And they’re still spending money, just not in the same ways. According to a survey conducted by Valassis in mid-March, 42% of consumers are shopping more online, 48% remain loyal to their usual/familiar brands, and 21% are purchasing a mix of usual and new brands. Brands who recognize this shift are agile and acting quickly to meet consumers where they are, and delivering the right content.
Recent ASK GALE market research on COVID-19 reports a 40%+ lift in affinity for brands who have been communicating well through digital platforms such as email, Twitter, Snapchat, Twitch, video game consoles, and streaming video services. Be a communicative brand through the channels your customers are on now — which are likely the same platforms they were a month ago, in a highly augmented volume.
Is there an opportunity for your brand to create engaging digital experiences? Could you consider sponsoring existing digital experiences? Could you create a branded experience within a game your target customers may be playing? Get creative.
Prepare a strategy for a future on the other side
This is not the time for brands to be keeping their heads in the sand. It’s not the time to be shuttering business; if you fully shut the engines down, it’s going to be much harder to reboot on the other side.
How can you use this time to plan? It’s still the right time to prepare: how will you reaccelerate marketing 4, 8, 12 weeks down the line? You’re still going to need a strategy in place in order to cut through the noise, because consumers are going to be changed.
The goal is to come out of this having built stronger, more meaningful, more relevant connections with customers: delivering products or services they need, when they need them, being able to pivot on those expectation changes when dramatic market shifts like this happen, and being there for them not just as a brand but as a partner through the hard times. Today is the moment to be human and heroic.