You can still market in a pandemic | Points of Interest April 2

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Mixed Content, Savoir Stuff | 0 comments

No one wants to appear insensitive during this global crisis. We all want to help. That doesn’t mean allowing all the efforts you’ve made in the past go to waste by letting your brand go invisible. Here are some ways to keep marketing today and come out OK on the other side of this.

What impression does this make?

The perfect message for your product and/or brand can be a challenge in the best of times, which is why it’s no surprise some marketers have pulled or postponed campaigns that could appear insensitive during the pandemic.

However, AdAge points out in a new post that companies such as Amazon Prime Video, Dial and Instacart are boosting social ads, even as others go quiet in their marketing. Those companies fall into product categories in high demand when many of us are sheltering at home. Cleaning items, streaming applications, food delivery services and virtual video conferencing are up in sales and seeing a boosted ad spend. 

Marketing technology firm 4C Insights reported a 25 percent year-over-year increase overall in ad spending on digital platforms for the first half of March. 

Some brands that have had to close down completely see no choice but to cut ad spending. In the first two weeks of March, travel brands cut ad spending by about 50 percent compared to this time last year, according to MediaRadar.

Keep calm, keep marketing

Depending on your product or service offering, your brand can remain strong and relevant even during the pandemic. Instead of halting all marketing efforts, here’s how we are advising our clients:

Message clearly and carefully: You may be closed down entirely or had to adjust how you 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.

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?”

We’ve got several more suggestions in this new blog post, including how to maintain your search relevancy in Google’s eyes.

Dangerous and fake

You might think it’s helping your customers (or friends and family members) by sharing news stories as they appear, but false information hinders and confuses things, especially during this pandemic with thousands of messages flying around.

The Los Angeles Times offers ways to verify sources, so you don’t end up causing a panic for no reason.

“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus and is just as dangerous,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Information from the supposed dangers of ibuprofen to martial law is out there already, so rather than add fuel to the fire, look at the source:

Verify the account that’s posting: Twitter and Facebook verified accounts already have credibility.

Check the account’s photo: Use a reverse Google Image search to check if the photo was pulled from somewhere else online.

Look at how long the account has been active and how many followers: A brand-new account with a dozen followers is unlikely to be the one that’s breaking major news.

Check the source of the post: A screenshot of an email, text message, Google Doc or Notes app probably isn’t solid information. Also, legitimate information will have a reputable name to back it up.

Performance during a pandemic

Performance marketing consists of online promotions that you pay when a potential customer takes some action, such as clicking a PPC ad or starting a chat with you on Facebook Messenger. Performance  marketing might be the right approach for you during this pandemic, as you’ll pay for ads only when someone is interested in what you’re saying.

Practical Ecommerce offers some steps you can take to use the performance approach to deliver positive results in the near term:

  • Review your existing messaging: Remove ads that potentially offend or are out of touch given the Coronavirus. Your social media and other online ads as well as your site messages should reflect the current context of your business, its brand and the pandemic.
  • Confirm you’re operating if you are open for business: Many online stores have temporarily shuttered, and it’s been frustrating for some customers to discover this only when they get to the check out screen. Or, if you offer curbside pick-up, make that very obvious in content. 
  • Make new or additional free shipping offers: If your physical stores are in operation make it easy for customers to click an option to collect items curbside.

Cautious branding

Attempts at humor in marketing are a risky endeavor during the current pandemic. Coors killed an ad before it launched called, “Official Beer of ‘Working’ Remotely,” a good call!

On the flip side, social media influencer Diggy Moreland passed out chocolate bars to strangers, resulting in hugs.  Hershey’s ceased sharing that online content because it included physical contact currently discouraged by the CDC. Marketing Dive looks at different brands’ precautionary measures, and offers some advice on how to message during a pandemic, instead of simply stopping all marketing.

“The Coronavirus — the challenges it brings and the fear people are feeling around it — will add some fuel to the outrage fire and cause people to take notice more,” said Kellan Terry, senior communications manager at social listening and analytics firm Brandwatch. “Brands are overly cautious in general, and you throw a global pandemic on top of that, they will be extra so.”

However, this can also be an opportunity to send a unifying or emotionally resonant message when consumers are deeply uncertain. You can be sensitive to the current climate and stay on brand. 

Don’ts and do’s

Twice-daily, sales-focused emails from a company I have bought from in the past has me sour grapes on this wine vendor. Marketers working today have never been through a pandemic like this, so there’s no rule book, but it’s better to have more don’ts than do’s in your playbook these days.

The sake of your brand’s future may depend on it, claims a new post from Women’s Wear Daily’s blog. Reminding customers that “we’re still open online” is one tactic. Filling inboxes with “SALE,” “Buy Now” and “Get It” emails is probably not the way to go.

“When people and companies start capitalizing on an opportunity like this, for the at-home shopper, it reeks of opportunism and strikes the wrong tone,” said Ellen Niven, co-founder of marketing firm NivenBreen. “People know they can shop online.”

The best case scenario is the scheduling of emails seems inappropriate and the worst case is it damages the brand once things return to normal.

“It is OK for many companies to just be quiet right now and emphasize communication with employees, and individual, directly affected customers rather than mass outreach,” Niven said.

Instead of all those emails, consider using social media for some one-on-one communication with your already-engaged customers. The WWD post has some ideas for do’s related to social media interaction (as well as some more don’ts). 

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