Marketing in uncertain times

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During these unique set of circumstances and uncertainty, it can be difficult to know whether you should be continuing your usual marketing practises, halting them entirely or devising new ways to communicate and support your customers or users. 

The answer is really all three –  for some brands it makes sense to continue as normal – this includes evergreen and everyday products – so in this case, essentials including food, drink and sanitary products. By altering brand messaging, this could result in encouraging more panic buying. A ‘business as normal’ approach is typically needed for FMCG brands in this climate which encourages more normal shopping habits to reduce shoppers desire for stripping the shelves.

Ceasing communications entirely and stepping away from posting online or distributing new messaging is the right move for some brands. Of course, you want your customers to remember you, but the current situation may be so far afield from your offering that by continuing your comms, you could appear tone-deaf. This includes non-essential services typically, such as holiday and travel providers, luxury items and expensive non-essentials.

Altering your messaging is likely the most difficult. With essentially no previous situation to base expectations or community reactions on, designing new messaging to fit the current global pandemic can be a minefield. Where clothing brands, such as ASOS and Missguided, are concerned, they have focussed on site-wide discounts, sales and comfort and exercise pieces. Messaging touches on ‘staying at home’ but does not aim to induce fear or caution.

Local approach

Although a global issue, the pandemic is affecting local communities in different ways. If your business operates across the globe or even just across the nation, it’s wise to keep an eye on emerging news stories in core areas of the country. 

This will help with regional social accounts and ensuring that the information and content you put out is aligned with the local attitudes. Equally, it can determine how your paid ad strategy moves forward. This could be anything from amending language and tone to developing alternative creative, including the video and imagery you use. 

Google recommends following the guiding question: Is this campaign right, given the current context in a local market?

Consumer mindset

Think like a consumer in this climate and consider how you would feel in relation to the messaging. You should consider a range of situations such as those working on the frontline in the health services, people who have lost loved ones and the huge amount of people who are most likely feeling anxious.

A considerate and tested approach is definitely the correct course here. But if unsure, the best type of messaging to display is to relay the Governments and World Health Organisation hygiene and safety procedures. 

Evaluate pre-planned material

Now is the time to comb through your content calendar, strategy and any other pre-planned material and ensure that the context is still right. 

Google has advised brands to consider: Though we greenlit this campaign last month/last week/yesterday, is it still right for the context and moment?

This means all of your messaging and creative assets should be scrutinised for any elements which may appear tone-deaf. Typically inoffensive messaging that might reference getting outside, meeting friends or spending time with family could now be considered highly inappropriate in the current climate.

Your usual media spend may need to be adjusted to meet the demands of users online. For example, you may want to invest more heavily in video content and helpful resources, where you may have previously been more focussed on other areas of marketing.

Be helpful

One of the key things to consider is; how can my brand be helpful? Are you an FMCG brand who can create recipes and tips for no waste meals? Are you a sports brand who can create a range of video workouts for the home? There are endless ways to be helpful in the current climate, and all you need is the internet, a smartphone and a little ingenuity.

Also published on Medium.


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