No, I’m not going to start this article with the latest on the number of people infected worldwide with COVID-19 or what the death toll stands at. Everywhere I turn these days, that’s all I get to see. But, what I will say is this – how we respond to adversity reveals our true character. Brands all over the world seem to think the same, given how they have adapted their messaging through this unprecedented pandemic.
I believe that the consumer also looks at how brands are responding to difficult times to form their opinion of the company and their offerings. So, it really doesn’t matter how creative your marketing campaigns have been in the past. How you choose to speak to your target audience during a crisis could well win more than loyal customers, it could win you raving fans.
So, what do you choose to say at this time?
Show Them You Care
Empathy works like little else to form an emotional bond. People across the world are feeling vulnerable and stressed right now. This is the time they need you to show them you understand exactly what they are going through. Mercedes Benz did it just right – thanking those who have kept going during this crisis, like the healthcare workers, police and firefighters, as well as those who have stayed home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Their message certainly tugs an emotional chord.
Of course, if you’re like me, it doesn’t need to be touchy-feely all the time. Humour works great too. Remember how people literally wiped the stores clean of toilet paper at the first whiff of a potential pandemic? Toilet paper manufacturer Cottonelle did it just right!
Do Good and Don’t Hesitate to Brag
If a tree falls in the forest where there’s no one to hear, does it still make a sound? Even if it did, would it matter? This is the time to do your bit, be socially responsible. But, there’s no point in doing good unless the world hears about it, right? Don’t be that tree in the lonely forest! Estee Lauder, for instance, is using its manufacturing facilities to produce hand sanitizers, while Tesla Motors is using its car parts to manufacture ventilators for use in hospitals, since COVID-19 leads to respiratory complications in a large number of cases.
Even Anheuser-Busch, the American beer manufacturer is being socially conscious through these difficult times. The important thing is that companies are using their assets to do good but they aren’t very silent about it. After all, your customers should know that the brand in need is a good brand indeed.
Even graphic designer Jennifer Baer has put her talents to good use to bring some humour to an otherwise stressful situation.
The reason such messages work is that they bring in a feel-good factor that relieves some of the anxiety and promotes a sense of positivity. This helps garner good will for the brand.
Agility Tempered with Creativity
Yes, it is the time for a rapid-response approach. As the situation changes in your target geography, your messaging should also change. For instance, McDonalds changed its logo to reflect social distancing in Brazil by separating its iconic arches. Audi did the same with the circles in its logo, as did Coca Cola with its lettering.
The other aspect to consider is that the channels your target audience visits also changes with developments in the pandemic. With people being homebound, video streaming has seen a huge uptick. News consumption has peaked too, as people strive to stay informed on the latest developments in their region. Social media has also seen renewed interest. BMW made the most of it.
Just like the luxury car brand, your marketing needs to be agile enough to handle every curve, adapting to the changes in the media platform mix that your target customer prefers at a particular point in time. At the same time, you need to be careful not to overdo it, since over-exposure could actually damage your brand image.
These are unprecedented times. What we do during such times will leave an indelible mark in the minds of the masses, quite similar to the iconic fearless girl who stands in front of the NYSE facing the raging bull, now wearing a mask.