We’ve seen a handful of social media posts/memes offering lighthearted commentary on the current pandemic affecting the world. While Savoir Faire is typically sassy, a little sarcastic (and perhaps a little twisted, humor-wise), on a corporate level we’re not posting this kind of stuff, because people are hurting, confused and scared. Marketing in uncertain times requires nuance and care.
Historically, some companies reduce their marketing output during uncertain times, including during recessions. We don’t advise that, and here’s one reason why: uncertain times affect different types of businesses differently. Yes, the hospitality and entertainment industries are greatly affected at the moment, but other industries continue with business as usual (aside from taking more cleanliness/disinfecting and physical distancing precautions).
The messaging we develop for our clients always comes from a good and truthful place, so that goes (almost) without saying. But here is how we’re approaching marketing with clients in different industries.
Highlighting timely or relevant services: For one client, we paused a primary message to remain sensitive to the current environment of uncertainty. And, we are highlighting a service offering that makes sense during a time when social distancing is encouraged and/or required. If you can be of service or have a timely benefit, people want to know about it.
Messaging clearly and carefully: Some of our clients are being forced to close down entirely or adjust how they do business. If you’re still open, or modifying how you operate, let people know! People are looking for information and you want yours to be found. Getting the word out about your current offerings is incredibly important. If social media is where your customers get your news, consider some paid/promoted posts to make sure they know you’re still open for business in whatever capacity.
However, be careful about your communications. We heard about one company that got a note from their landlord saying that someone who had been exposed to the virus had recently been in the building. A second message an hour later said “if you’re in the building, leave immediately and don’t come back.” A third message received later that evening from another senior official said the building would be open as usual and people could make their own decisions about whether to use their offices. We know things are moving quickly now, and we can’t always know what’s around the corner, but that company could have done a better job of coordinating their messages.
Getting communal: There’s no need to go it alone. At least in our local community, we’re seeing lots of businesses banding together and acting in solidarity. Even if you haven’t been the most community minded, now might be a good time to collaborate. Our local Chamber of Commerce and business organizations are making sure to get the word out on social media about businesses that are still open. If you’re in touch with your neighbors, your peers and local business organizations, you’re much more likely to be included in any messaging that’s getting amplified and shared.
Remain relatable with your base: Your regular customers and evangelists are loyal to your brand because they like your products or services, you’re transparent about your company and culture and they relate to your voice and message. Don’t change that just because things are unusual right now. You can relate. “Hey there, it’s Day 6 of working from the dining room table and those little things that bug you about the space keep distracting you. I’m here for you. If I look at the scratches on my countertop one more time … so, how about some free shipping on all kitchen/dining items?”
Google is still looking: Search engine algorithms are not affected by a global pandemic, meaning Google is still actively assessing the best resources for search results. If your industry is still chugging along despite the current pandemic, now is not the time to stop blogging or doing paid ad campaigns. In fact, if your competitors are slowing their marketing, now is the time to gain a little ground and generate some momentum.
When it comes to marketing in a crisis, we always point back to Taco Bell’s launch of a value menu during the recession 30 years ago, while others in the food industry trimmed their marketing. Guess what still has traction all these years later in the fast food industry: value menus.
This, too, shall pass, and you want your brand to be strong when it does. If we can help in any way, do not hesitate to reach out with questions or concerns.