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Tomorrow thinking – marketing during Covid

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Kym Vercoe, General Manager, Engine Group
03/04/2020

We’ve had some clients who are in the fortunate position of still being able to trade wondering how and if they should be marketing at a time when they genuinely don’t know what’s next. For those of us in the position to trade on, it’s a question of not so much thinking about today, but more so, what about tomorrow? How can we bolster our brand so that we are here, and our customers with us, when we hopefully pop out the other side?

In times of uncertainty, and especially when it’s as uncertain as it is right now, the brands who will be better placed to prosper will be the ones who seek to be empathetic and authentic. To be human, to have a heart. To be about connection, rather than collection.

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs he noted that you can’t motivate people at the higher end of the hierarchy (in things like ego and self-development – where brands usually play when wanting to connect and engineer a sale) – if their fundamental physiological (food, health) and safety (shelter, stability) needs are not met.

Right now, consumers are hyper-focused on their basic needs and are looking to brands to either provide assistance with those basics or help meet their need for social connection (being loved, belonging, inclusion) – not to sell them.

Emotional connection

Brands who can share their truth and their hearts will be the ones to whom consumers gravitate. More attuned than ever, today’s hyper-sensitive consumer will see straight through a veiled attempt at selling them something under the guise of ‘doing good’. What they’ll appreciate is a business trying to keep its doors open and in doing so, being real. Being vulnerable. Being honest. And still finding a way to genuinely connect in the way they expect their favourite brands to do.

In a time where people are losing their jobs, not sure of how they’ll pay the rent/ the mortgage, the messages need to be mindful, respectful, conscious. But they still need to be there. People are seeking good news, wanting to feel safe, and still connected to their known community. And brands form part of that community.

So if it’s within your reach, now is the time to ask – what are your customers feeling right now and how might you help them through that time? How can you be a positive, proactive member of their community, that is seen as being helpful rather than opportunistic? Or worse, not heard from at all.

In times like these, of course there’s the option of shutting communication down to either the bare minimum or turning it off completely. To hunker down and stop any ‘unnecessary’ spend. And that’s true – if it will mean further hardship, then staying afloat is paramount. But know that if you choose not to (or can’t) keep communicating with your customers, the risk is they might not be there when you are able to eventually talk to them – that in leaving them to fend for themselves, they may learn to live without you.

This is about going back to your fundamentals of why you are in businesses – what your actual purpose is – and being true to that.

Finding your why

The interesting thing is, this is what strategic marketers have been saying for some time – only now it really, really matters that companies actually begin to live this. Author Simon Sinek suggests, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. It’s connecting consumers with you emotionally that brings them along your journey. Not your what, not your how. Not your sales spiel, not being clever for the sake of it, or ‘hurry now 50% off’. Right now it’s your why, and it’s never mattered more.

It’s moved beyond just selling your offer. Now more than ever, it’s about being human, being real, being respectful, and undeniably being conscious of the impact you do and can make as a brand at a time like this.

This is about your long game.

When the dust has settled and we return back to whatever ‘normal’ might look like in a few months’ time, where will your brand be? Will it be coming out of the darkness and essentially starting from scratch in trying to connect again with your audience? Or will it be continuing the respectful, humble conversation you’ve kept going through our collective time of trouble?

This is not about being ‘seen’ to be a good corporate citizen, it’s about actually being one.

How to navigate ‘what next’

You don’t have to speak directly to the crisis, but still being mindful and conscious of how your audience is feeling right now means you can remain connected to them in their time of need.

  • What pain points do your customers have right now you could genuinely help with? (Woolworths opening early for older Australians)
  • Can you keep connecting by bringing a smile? (our client Vanuatu Tourism are receiving a wonderful response from their audience in sharing images of their fabulous island noting they’re keeping it safe for when you can come visit)
  • Are you able to be helpful in a way that truly connects with your brand? (XXXX beer asking us to swap a beer with mates to stay home)
  • Can you be generous and show some true empathy? (like Adobe Creative Cloud have done with free subscriptions for students until May so they can keep working while at home)

This is about protecting your brand and preparing for life beyond the immediate crisis we are facing. There is historical proof that brands who keep talking and connecting in appropriate ways will emerge more successfully from an economic crisis than competitors who don’t (Kantar research showed strong brands recovered nine times faster than weaker brands in the 2008 financial crash). So if you are able, now is the time to foster your brand, not deep freeze it.

Brands that can keep the communication fire burning, (even if only through continuing the conversation through social channels at very little or no expense), and bring warmth and compassion to their tribe, will be the ones consumers are most likely to return to when this is all just a memory.

So, tomorrow thinking is about asking how you can keep your brand alive in your customers hearts so you’re still top of mind, and still connected, when we emerge on the other side. It’s your long game and it’s never been more important.

Want to know more? We’d love to chat with you about the ‘what next’ for you.

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