Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hit with founders withdrawing marketing and advertising spend due to COVID-19. Today’s rapidly changing climate has fundamentally changed the marketing and advertising landscape.
From March to June, advertising spending is expected to fall by 39%, and more than a quarter of Interactive Participants in the Advertising Bureau (IAB) reported that they had fully retired their advertising for the second quarter. Perhaps many marketers are thinking about American Apparel’s disastrous discount campaign during Hurricane Sandy and considering waiting for fear of public misperception.
And yet there is an argument to the contrary. At times like these, businesses that have access to content, services and products that help consumers in need may be in a better position to get a head start in their marketing efforts, according to Destination CRM.
According to Cone, 87% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if they know the company behind it supports the causes and beliefs they care about. I believe those feelings are heightened even more in these uncertain times where the kinds of businesses that can actually make a difference in people’s lives, like consumer packaged goods or direct-to-consumer startups, can communicate their values in a sustainable and beneficial.
Therefore, for specific tech companies and startups, this can be a good opportunity to invest in marketing if, and alone yes, you lead with the right strategy. This strategy should include: timing in creative execution, providing tangible support and relational value to your product, and a localized targeting strategy. With these tactics, marketers within these companies can best position themselves during these trying times.
Respect the moment
Marketers need to creatively respect the moment and reflect the mood of the audience in relation to their product. The key to doing this is to focus on emotional engagement: letting consumers know that a brand understands their immediate wants and needs, even without the financial benefits that come with it.
A good example of this in the current crisis is FCA’s Jeep ads. By communicating the “Stay Home” message, Jeep manages to distinguish between social responsibility and the brand’s conscious message of its off-road roots.
Another example is Dial Soap. Dial changed its messaging and provided public service messages for washing your hands, as well as guides and editorial content on how best to do so. As a result, the company is seeing its ad impressions increase by 25% per day.
Sounds simple, right? Focus all of your creative efforts on understanding the mood, channeling it into your message, and delivering genuine, honest value to other consumers. Even with these lessons, there remains a big trap in the creative toolbox.
Specifically, marketers should do all they can to avoid irresponsible “virtue signals” in the wake of a disaster. If a post doesn’t feel right or isn’t in tune with the moment, it probably isn’t and you should avoid commenting or communicating unnecessarily. This is especially true if your product or brand has no utility value in the current situation.
Lead with help and value
One of the most powerful statements a marketer can make in times like these is to lead with help and value. This means using built-in expertise or even product manufacturing capability to offer a helping hand and deliver tangible value.
Good examples of this in the current crisis include many distilleries, like Spirit of York in Toronto, Canada, turning to making hand sanitizer, and chef Jose Andres offering meals to passengers stranded on the boat Grand Princess cruise ship.
While the opportunity cost in terms of delivering support where it is needed most versus the potential for lost business when retooling may not be worth it, it is considered valuable in the long run.
For marketers, it’s easy to start this process. First, research what you think are the most urgent needs for the whole community.
Second, get together with your team to see what products or services you can easily offer. For distillers, they can easily manufacture and produce alcohol. For restaurants, the same goes for prepared meals. Find your unique contribution.
Because the impacts of a disaster, like COVID-19, can be widespread but unevenly impacted, marketers need to be extremely precise and laser-focused to target their message. For example, a shortage of critical supplies and raw materials in one part of the country may lead a direct-to-consumer startup to beef up its messaging in a marketplace to secure supply. Or, a consumer product group can tailor timed announcements to when certain items may be back in stock in specific areas.
These types of utilities provide consumers with value and, more importantly, certainty, when needed.
Marketers can use more common tools, like Google and Oracle, to enable this type of targeting, but independent platforms also offer an advantage. For example, Moz offers a suite of proximity advertising features for search, allowing marketers to further leverage user intent at the point of entry.
do the right thing
Global crises can cause startups and companies to suspend or withdraw all marketing and advertising spending. While understandable, marketers at these companies should view the present moment as an opportunity to invest in their communication strategies. To do this, they must creatively match the mood of the audience, provide utility value to their consumers, and hyper-target their messages.