If 2020 has taught marketers anything, it’s that being able to quickly pivot has become a necessity (dare we say the top priority) for brands during the coronavirus crisis. Looking back at the content we had planned during the winter months for March, April, and May is almost comical. Tell God your plans, right?
Content to promote drink deals on St. Patrick’s Day or highlight the best spring break getaways had to be scrapped or drastically transformed. We know as marketers we need to constantly be on our toes & iterating on our marketing strategy. But trying to convert copy from happy hour specials to pandemic protocols could have thrown Don Draper for a loop.
Quickly and thoughtfully pivoting your messaging to address current events (and acting in tandem with that messaging) is a non-negotiable in today’s crazy climate.
Brand marketing through social angst & uncertainty
Brand marketers might have been unsure when they paused their pre-planned content and instead started addressing the coronavirus crisis in mid-March. We think they did the right thing. Covid-19 and marketing is not a subject that marketers study in school. There’s no bible or golden rule for marketing during a pandemic but the brands who acted like nothing was wrong seemed to come across as tone-deaf and insensitive.
Unless your brand genuinely believes in what it’s marketing, putting out messaging and then being flaky on it is a bad look. It’s definitely an easy way to destroy consumer trust and brand loyalty.
If you’re brand is going to talk the talk, it better walk the walk
In late May, George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was murdered by law enforcement officials in Minnesota. His death reignited the Black Lives Matter movement & brands were given two options. Speak out or ignore the situation. While some smaller brands chose to ignore the issue with no consequence, larger brands that sidestepped the topic were slammed by consumers as being passive instead of taking action. Worse yet were brands that talked the talk but didn’t back up their words with any effort.
Nike featured Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback who lost his contract after kneeling during the national anthem, in their 30th-anniversary ad campaign. While outwardly their marketing strategy showed support for the Black Lives Matter movement their internal leadership didn’t paint the same picture.
According to Nike’s 2019 Impact Report, 4.8% of employees at a director level were Black or African American and 9.9% of VP level employees were Black or African American. In contrast, 72.7% of employees at a director level were white and 77.1% of VP level employees were white. While Nike supporters were glad to see representation in Nike’s ads, its lack of representation in senior positions left many questioning the brand’s authenticity.
Brand trust matters in marketing
Most brands have had to scrape through their budgets with a fine-tooth comb since COVID hit & marketing budgets nationwide have been slashed. Instead of spending your marketing dollars on telling your audience why your brand is the best, branding expert Denise Lee Yohn suggests taking action to bring your brand purpose to life.
“Ensure every touchpoint, every activity reinforces and interprets your brand positioning & personality.” Think of how you can turn your interactions with employees, business partners, communities as well as customers into powerful messages about your brand. Transform your company’s everyday actions into extraordinary ones and you’ll naturally attract attention and improve your brand perceptions. Tweak your brand voice to be a bit more sensitive during these insane times.
With all the talk lately about brand storytelling & brand marketing, story-doing has a lot more impact. You don’t need to run ads telling people you care about them and their communities. Take action to actually help others and you will be strengthening your brand far more effectively and sustainably.”
Brand marketers getting it right during the coronavirus pandemic
When Covid first hit the U.S., finding toilet paper at your local Walgreens was like finding a needle in a haystack. While other brands may have increased the price of their product, Cottonelle took a different approach. Some smart rebranding allowed them to rapidly take advantage of the situation & position themselves as a leader through the COVID crisis.
The brand share a message of unity through its #ShareASquare campaign, encouraging consumers to “stock up on generosity.” Cottonelle pledged $1 million and one million toilet paper rolls to United Way Worldwide’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. For every person who used the hashtag #ShareASquare, the brand pledged an additional $1 up to $100K. That’s effective and REAL marketing.
As the nights slowly become shorter & the days slowly grow colder, what should we expect next? Aside from investing in the companies that produce outdoor heating lamps and cold weather hiking gear, it’s tough to say for sure (horrible joke, sorry bout’ it). Digital-experience adoption has never been higher than it is right now. Everyone from our grandmas to the tech resistant business owner has had to tinker with digital ways to improve their sales & marketing.
Marketers constantly rely on facts, figures and data to help us decide who we should market to, which channels we should use, and when to engage. But one universal truth exists.
People want to support brands that take a stance on social issues, people want to rally around brands that practice what they preach, and people will continue to rely on and use brands they trust. As your team forges ahead despite the vast unknowns that lie ahead, remember that you’re not alone. We’re right there with you, serving our clients with integrity one website, one mobile app, & one social media campaign at a time.