As I write this, 223 million Americans have been ordered to stay home; by the time you read this, many more are likely to be sheltering in place.
In an amazingly short period of time, our work and home lives have been transformed. Home must now serve myriad purposes — including refuge, office, daycare center, school and university lecture room. At the moment, most people are so focused on adjusting to a profoundly different reality that they’ve haven’t noticed the ways in which the pandemic may change society forever.
From a business and marketing perspective, any massive upheaval means consumers have the potential to radically change their habits. These upheavals can be a positive development or an existential threat to a brand’s existing customer base. The outcome will depend on how you, as a marketer, respond to the circumstances imposed by the crisis.
It’s never been more important for brands to stay top of mind with consumers. Now that everyone, out of necessity, is spending more time online, you have the opportunity to engage them in important ways. At the same time, COVID-19 has evoked a range of emotions, from anxiety and boredom, to a fear of contracting the disease. The brands that will resonate with consumers are those who help alleviate those emotions through emotional support, entertainment, and health tips.
Everybody is worried about COVID-19 and its potential impact on their health and livelihood. With school and daycare centers shuttered, many parents are adding the job of full-time caretaker to their already busy workload. It’s easy to see why so many people are under stress.
We’ve already seen some of the largest brands in the world lend their support in important ways. GM is building much-needed ventilators, and fashion brands are sewing masks and hospital gowns. These brands are using their voices and dollars to support healthcare workers and small businesses in important ways.
As a marketer, you can help alleviate some of the stress your customers feel, even if it’s in a small way. For instance, explain how you will help them weather this crisis, whether that’s offering more affordable product bundles, exclusive access to hard to find products, or a pause in payment terms. If your sector has been especially hard hit, explain how your company intends to return to service once the disease has been conquered.
Let’s say you work in the travel sector. Your customers may be afraid to get on a plane or a cruise right now, which is understandable. You can send a message that essentially says: “Remember all those good times we had? We look forward to seeing you again. Here’s what we’ve learned from the crisis, and here’s how we’ll keep you safe in the future.”
Emotionally supportive messages absolutely have a role in your marketing today because they tell your customers that you value this relationship.
Now that people are sequestered at home, they’re spending a lot more time online in search of entertainment. That can work in your favor. Messages that are fun, engaging, and relevant will go a long way in capturing new customers. Some options:
Ask your audience to vote, show them how others are voting in real time, and then follow up with results later. Let’s say you’re an apparel brand, you can ask, “Are you following Jimmy Kimmel’s advice for Formal Fridays? Vote ‘Yes’ if you are dressing up for family dinner this Friday.”
Everyone enjoys testing how much they know on a given topic and seeing their results (as long as it’s private). If you’re a CPG brand, this is a terrific tactic to ask consumers about the finer points of hand washing or whether soap is more effective than hand sanitizer at killing germs. Plus, you can ask an additional question about a preference that will help you remarket more relevantly.
Personality quizzes are one of the most popular ways to engage consumers because they make the consumer the hero of the experience. They’re also terrific at identifying a consumers’ interests and motivations. And as for lead capture, well, everyone wants to see their results.
The best thing you can do for your customers at the moment is to remind them to wash their hands and encourage social distancing. The more we hear these messages the more we’ll adopt those practices. This is precisely why Jebbit works with the Ad Council to push health-related messages out about COVID-19. The Ad Council is working with a range of solution providers to create videos and social graphics that inform the general public, and high-risk populations in particular, about steps they can take to stay healthy and safe.
There’s no doubt that these are trying times, but they don’t need to be end times for brands. All of humanity has been hit with a pandemic, and it’s remarkable how we’ve mobilized and adapted. However, this crisis has permanently changed the rules of the road. Post-pandemic, speaking to people with sincerity and authentically addressing their emotions will be an essential part of every brand’s marketing.