Businesses are walking on thin ice with regards to their advertising and marketing messaging.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviour overnight, throwing carefully planned, year-long campaigns out the window. Making the situation more precarious is the fact that consumers have started to scrutinise brands even more since the start of the pandemic.
According to a survey conducted by Edelman, 71% of consumers will now stop patronising a brand if they see it placing profit over people. Additionally, 57% say they dislike brands that have a humorous or light-hearted tone in their advertising during these stressful times.
What, then, should your marketing messaging be like during this COVID-19 pandemic to help your brand stay relatable?
There is no one-size-fits-all formula, as every company and customer profile is different, but here are some general tips to guide as you plan content for your upcoming campaigns:
Highlight Your Human Side
The pandemic has brought a lot of negativity into people’s lives this year, from unemployment and uncertainty about the country’s economic future, to dealing with sickness or the loss of loved ones.
Coronavirus has affected each and every one of us in some way, and it affects everybody differently.
Don’t be an added stressor to your customers by bombarding them with ads just for the sake of it. Although it’s important to keep your brand front-of-mind during the crisis to continue building audience and customer relationships, it does more harm than good to be tone-deaf and insensitive to the current climate.
Instead, show empathy and compassion in your marketing messaging by letting the human side of your company shine through.
Be transparent on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected your company, and communicate clearly regarding what you’re doing to meet these challenges. Illustrate your crisis response, how you’re protecting the wellbeing of your employees and what you are doing to meet customer’s needs in these unprecedented times.
In doing so, you’ll retain your online visibility, while also helping to strengthen customer relationships and build brand loyalty.
Reinforce Core Company Values
While blatant sales messages are an audience turn-off right now, it is definitely the right time to highlight your company’s values in your online marketing messaging.
Harvard Businesses reports that 90% of consumers expect companies to compensate their suppliers and employees properly and do right by their customers, even if it results in significant financial losses.
Similarly, AAAA.org recently found that 84% of consumers want businesses to help in whatever capacity they can during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Doing good deeds that resonate with your vision and mission is a powerful way to strengthen your brand’s public image. Consumers will remember the good you do now long after the pandemic is over, so don’t miss out on the chance to set yourself apart by proactively responding to the situation, and to let your audience know that you care.
This doesn’t mean you should treat it like a publicity stunt, as savvy consumers are more ready than ever to see through these tactics in the current environment. Instead, show people new ways in which your brand can help people who have been affected by the lockdown: it may be shifting your operations to help medical frontliners, or presenting how your product brings joy to people stuck at home. Whatever it is, make sure it’s consistent with your company values overall, and that you find an authentic way to highlight your contribution with your marketing messaging.
Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd, for instance, recently signed a partnership with McDonald’s Germany, where employees from temporarily-closed McDonald’s branches are being given the option to work in Aldi stores until business resumes as usual. The agreement shows both companies working together to create work for dislocated employees, while at the same time fulfilling the increased customer demand for grocery stores – but it also doesn’t come off as gimmicky or go against the grain of what we’d expect from these brands.
Update Imagery and Language
Not all commercials and ads need to be about COVID-19, but it is essential to acknowledge that our definition of normal has changed, probably for good.
Words like ‘touch’, ‘sanitation’ and ‘plague’ now evoke a different set of meanings and emotions than they did pre-pandemic. The same goes for images of crowded places and people showing physical affection.
For example, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority criticised KFC for being inappropriate and insensitive when they continued to use their slogan ‘Finger lickin’ good.’
So it’s now more important than ever to choose your marketing messaging and images carefully and craft your copy with the new normal in mind. You can do this by avoiding phrases such as ‘get in touch’, ‘work hand in hand’ and other phrases or words related to physical touch.
There’s currently somewhat of a lack of stock photos that reflect the reality of the new normal, but one workaround for this problem is to use images of people waving at each other instead of shaking hands, and photos of small, intimate family moments instead of crowded gatherings.
With these details in mind, you can still make use of a previously-planned campaign by tweaking it to the demands of the present times, rather than looking out of touch (pardon the pun) by sticking to your business-as-usual imagery.
Practice Social Listening
Community quarantines have radically changed consumer behaviour virtually overnight.
McKinsey reports that there was a 15-20% uptake in overall online penetration in China, while in Italy, e-commerce for consumer goods skyrocketed by 81%. Another study also found that buyer sentiments are now constantly shifting, depending on the state of lockdown within their immediate community.
As a result, businesses need to be on their toes and keep an ear to the ground to stay on top of these shifts. They must also be able to quickly adapt their marketing messaging to reflect sudden changes in customer behaviours.
Social listening involves spending time on forums, groups and platforms where your target audience congregates online, and taking note of the questions, concerns and even particular phrases which people use when talking about your brand or industry right now. This will help you track emerging trends and adjust the copy of your marketing messaging to appeal to customers’ current needs.
Adopt Predictive Analytics
Alongside social listening, you should also track broader online trends. This is where having a business intelligence (BI) dashboard and using predictive analytics will benefit your business the most. 53% of companies that are well-known for providing an excellent customer experience are investing in customer data platforms during the pandemic.
BI Dashboards collect data from various social media and digital platforms, allowing businesses to track consumer behaviour patterns in real-time. Doing this also sheds light on the types of campaigns that will work best for attracting your ideal customer.
Furthermore, with the combined use of AI and predictive analytics, dashboards allow for better customer personalisation. For example, you can suggest products that customers may be interested in based on their search history, helping to increase conversion rates.
Customer personalisation also makes consumers feel that the brand sincerely cares for them, deepening customer engagement and loyalty.
By making the best out of social listening and following trends using predictive analytics, you can help your company stand out in social media and digital spaces that are overcrowded with advertisements and promotions.
Final Thoughts: Deliver a Message of Hope
We’re now almost a year into the pandemic.
It’s easy for people to lose heart as the situation proves to be more challenging than any of us initially expected, so make your brand part of the solution.
The best marketing messaging to use during COVID-19 pandemic is something that highlights the human side of your company, stays true to your core values, is relevant to the world we live in now, and is tailored to address the unique problems your customers are grapping with in the era of the new normal.
Use this time to build brand awareness, rather than push for direct sales, and send out a message of hope that reminds people that we’re all in this together – your brand included. If consumers see your company as positive, relatable and genuinely helpful during this crisis, it will reap major rewards in terms of brand loyalty, even after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.