The world of marketing is currently at an impasse. A cloud of uncertainty hovers over the marketplace, leaving marketers in a unique situation. They have an obligation to drive awareness and sales for their company, but what does that message even look like in today’s climate?
There is industry-wide confusion about what the right move should be. Do you pause all marketing plans until we are back to normal, change your messaging or even pivot your business model? While the answer will be different depending on the type of company, brands need some clarity on what they should do next.
Silence Is No Longer Golden
What’s clear is that deciding to stop marketing and communication efforts is not the ideal solution. While brands should be sensitive to the situation, they should not go completely quiet and off the grid. Business is still being conducted and consumers and businesses are still in need of goods and services, albeit potentially for different reasons and uses than before.
With all of the confusion and anxiety present, the last thing a brand needs is their audience concerned that they are struggling and will not make it out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Silence does not convey the look of a healthy brand, and perception is paramount during these trying times. This does not mean blast the masses with promotional material, but rather be intentional with your communications. Find the role that your product fills in our new normal and share consistent messaging around this. Silence can be mistaken for weakness in the current landscape, so brands need to strike the right balance with their communications. Below, I’ll cover three tips to help companies navigate these murky waters we find ourselves in.
While brands should not halt their marketing efforts, they certainly need to pause and reevaluate. Any plans and strategies in place prior to COVID-19 need to be replaced as they are not likely to be as impactful right now, and will likely do more harm than good. Companies do not want to appear tone-deaf, so any pre-existing PR plans, ad creative and marketing tactics need to be looked at through a new lens before given the green light.
B2B brands have to realize that now is not the time to push products and services through regular marketing programs, but instead, take action by helping to solve bigger problems and support the community. LinkedIn is a testament to this by opening up 16 of its learning courses for free that focus on productivity and relationship building. In fact, the pandemic has become a point in time when a B2B brand can actually stand for something beyond features and benefits by getting involved and displaying compassion.
Brands need to correlate their value proposition to the new needs of the market. This is turning a negative into a positive and seeing what unique gaps your product or service can help fill. For some companies, this could be a slight change; for others, it could involve completely pivoting their business model.
Tip 2: Understand That Content Is Back In Demand
People are stuck indoors and have more time on their hands than usual. This has led to an explosion in the time they are spending online and, as such, content marketing has never been more valuable. Consumers want fresh perspectives from experts where they can find them. If you keep this in mind, you can build trust with consumers through content so that your business becomes more top of mind for purchasing when things get back to normal.
Is there a gap in your industry you can fill with engaging and informative educational content? Rather than focusing on empty sales pitches and promotional ads, home in on engaging content — ebooks, infographics, videos and articles. Brands that do this well are more likely to have a larger and more captivated audience than typical, posing a unique situation for marketers.
Tip 3: Stop Selling And Start Helping
While brands should not stop their marketing efforts, the last thing people want right now is to be sold to. Essential workers are sacrificing their lives on the frontlines, so a promo code for new hair gel can appear insensitive. Rather, brands need to craft messaging not around their product, but around the problem it solves. For example, Lipton does not sell hot tea. Rather they sell comfort and warmth. They sell something that can energize you in the morning to take on the day or something that can calm your mind at night. Brands are selling a feeling, an experience, and this is what the focus needs to be on currently.
Companies can even take this a step further to showcase what they are doing to help the cause. For example, the fashion industry stepped in to produce masks at the onset of the virus. Many beauty brands converted their factories to churn out hand sanitizers, and Ford applied this to manufacturing ventilators. Brands leveraged their expertise to help the common good, which consumers will not soon forget.
Regardless of the variables surrounding COVID-19, it’s evident brands are still able to conduct business and market their offerings. However, the tone and frequency of these communications are subject to change in our ever-changing world. Silence is not the answer, and neither is inconvenient noise. Brands need to find a balance in their messaging that strikes a chord with their audience and is relevant within the context of the current global landscape.