There are few instances in a brand's lifetime when it encounters a real litmus test. A test to see if the brand values it professes and communicates time and again to its audience are genuine or just marketing fluff. Today, we see ourselves right in the midst of this test. As the Covid-19 coronavirus spreads rapidly across the world with a complete disregard for national borders, class or gender, communities everywhere are seeing a complete overhaul of 'life as we know it'. In this time, marketing, which has always focused on staying relevant by leveraging trending topics, sees itself in a conflict. Not creating posts around the coronavirus might make the brand sound out of touch, but talking about the virus for the sake of it can come across as insensitive.
So how does a brand stay true to its values and build equity during these challenging times? Here are some essential points every brand should keep in mind.
It's clear that the overall public health crisis and the drastic changes in buying behaviour caused by the Coronavirus have led the economy to go into a slowdown. In fact, the economic impact of the Coronavirus is expected to continue long after the last patient is treated. While companies across sectors have been hit, the biggest blow has undoubtedly been to the travel and hospitality industry. The chart below illustrates this best.
If you are noticing a steep fall in your organic and paid traffic, it might be tempting to pause all activities until the situation stabilizes. However, sustaining marketing during the Coronavirus period is important because it ensures that you don't lose brand visibility and recall among your target audience. Pausing your campaigns could mean that you will have to work twice as hard to regain your brand presence once the Coronavirus disappears. We recommend that brands continue to invest in brand marketing, even if it’s at a minimal level.
While marketing your products and services might not result in any impact at a time like this, you can start posting positive and informative content that can help your consumers. Posts that create public health awareness or uplift your audience's spirits during this time can be the best way forward.
With so much false information making the rounds, it's important that brands stay true to official facts stated by the world's leading health organizations. Given the immense reach and power to influence that every brand has, it's crucial that we evaluate every piece of information we put out. Brands should also keep a close eye on the tone of their communications. Doomsday-esque messages might bring in the shares and engagement, but our responsibility as brands is greater than that. Always include credible sources whenever you share a post on Coronavirus facts or safety tips. This could go a long way in ensuring every person takes the necessary safety precautions to combat the virus.
In one survey of what customers expect from brands during the coronavirus period, 28% said that brands should be a trusted source of information, while 27% said that brands should attack the crisis and show that it can be fought and 15% said that brands should offer practical advice that can help consumers face their new normal. Achieving these three goals can help your brand far more than sending out negative messages can.
You can learn more about the survey and other strategies to build a strong marketing plan in times of crisis through this video.
The onset of the Coronavirus pandemic doesn't necessarily mean that brands have to go into damage control mode. This could be one of the best times for a brand to create a lasting positive impression on their audience by providing something of genuine value. LinkedIn is one of the best examples of this, having come out with a number of complementary courses and resources on working from home and maintaining productivity to help those in self-quarantine. You can also use this time to branch into new techniques like influencer marketing and vernacular content, or a combination of the two, to reach your audience and build credibility. For instance, influencers can spread social awareness messages in the various regional languages your audience is most comfortable with to get the word across.
Of course, brands in the healthcare space are best positioned to launch medical marketing strategies during this time. A hospital specializing in the treatment of diabetes can provide content specifically designed to help at-risk diabetes patients protect themselves from the virus. Below is an awareness video created by Dr. V Mohan, which exemplifies this:
But virtually any sector can offer content of value during this time. For instance, an early learning education brand can start offering online webinars to continue a child's education despite schools being closed. These strategies can help users build a positive association with your brand that will outlast the pandemic.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown us that empathy is one of the most powerful ways to connect with your audience. Brands need to listen closely to what their audience is saying and sharing on different platforms and then respond accordingly in a way that builds solidarity. It will also be useful to take a step back and audit your new marketing campaigns and messaging to check if they are having the intended effect. All too often, a well-meaning ad can be downplayed by an insensitive 'Subscribe Now' button that pops up at the end of it.
This presentation covers the blueprint that brands should follow to engage with their customers during the coronavirus crisis and examples of some of the brands who have been most successful at it.
Are there any existing evergreen brand assets like ebooks and whitepapers on your website that need to be updated and improved? Or perhaps, there have been long-standing plans to create new guides, a new video or webinar series or new pages on your website. Most companies have ideas in the pipeline which never go live because of a lack of time or organizational bandwidth. The relative slowdown due to the Coronavirus could often translate into a lesser workload. This means you can finally take all of those ideas off the backburner and actually start bringing them to life! You can approach this time as an opportunity to revamp your existing brand assets and create new ones that will rake in results once the Coronavirus clears up.
Just as important as spreading accurate information about the virus is spreading accurate information about your brand itself. Since most physical outlets are shut, you should ensure that the most accurate information about your working hours is updated on your GMB listings and on social platforms. Change your working hours to 'Closed' if you have a physical presence and are not operational. If you are an e-commerce brand and are unable to ship products, make sure that your database of consumers receives a notification about it and that this information is displayed on your website.
While the situation might be grim now, there's no doubt that it will pass eventually. Brands need to gear up for when this happens by putting in place a contingency plan. This is especially true of the travel, hospitality and entertainment industry. Once the pandemic clears, the world isn't going to go back to normal overnight. Post-Coronavirus consumers are very likely to still be fearful of travel or of visiting crowded locations like malls and movie theatres. Experts postulate that there will be ten major shifts even once the coronavirus pandemic clears up:
This presentation goes into the above ten factors and breaks down how brands can navigate through them to increase their ROI on post-COVID-19 marketing.
In this scenario, brands need to put in place a holistic full-funnel marketing plan to instil confidence in their audience and reassure them of the safety of their safety. Special promotional activities and offers might be required to help brands gain traction.
The sudden spread of the Coronavirus has certainly come as a shock to consumers and brands everywhere. But with the right strategies, brands can emerge from this trying period with greater brand equity, more engaged audiences and powerful new assets. The most important thing to focus on now, of course, is to stay safe until this tides over!