It's been a challenging few weeks with COVID-19's impact on the entire world, with ramifications for individuals and businesses alike. Some of the many concerns people have right now are staying informed, staying positive, staying occupied, and staying healthy. Individuals are, of course, still adapting to their new daily routines as social isolation continues. Brands, meanwhile, need to tend to the needs of their consumers to keep their business afloat during the current circumstances. To successfully get through this unprecedented situation, companies should focus on quickly adapting their marketing strategies, modifying sales tactics, and empathizing with customers by recognizing the severity of the COVID-19 crisis.
Brands should consider how they will be perceived in the aftermath of COVID-19 and make forward-thinking decisions that affect their brand positively long-term. Now is the time to build loyalty and brand love among their target audiences, who are paying close attention to brands' behavior. Right now, brands should approach consumers with empathy and offer meaningful help. Businesses must keep in mind that there have been serious – and fatal – effects, in addition to the emotional and financial toll that COVID-19 is having on society. Grasping the gravity of the situation, it's vital to avoid being capitalistic, salesy, or oblivious to the global pandemic. The goal is to be authentic about any approach: content marketing, social media, and other engagement channels allow brands to provide support and engage people in a thoughtful, human way.
Adjust your brand voice to ensure that it is genuine and fits with what your audience is going through and what they need. Avoid making false promises and virtue signaling, which is essentially speaking to brand values without actually taking action to live by them. Be authentic and approach consumers with sensitivity, rather than choosing messaging that may be perceived as overly promotional or desperate. Be as flexible as possible during these circumstances and prepare to iterate continually, as this global situation rapidly changes.
Address the situation on the homepage with an empathetic tone. Below is an example from our Steelcase client, where they are using messaging on their website to help customers adjust to working from home with a webinar. Also, they have a section dedicated to what they are doing as a brand during COVID-19.
Inventory and Delivery Transparency
Be transparent about product availability and shipping delays. Another Adlucent client, King Arthur Flour, wrote a letter to their customers to acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 and to share information about their products:
You can also grow your email list and make sure you can keep customers updated by adding a signup form on your website for news about restocked products or other relevant information as the situation continues to develop.
Sales and Promotions
It's acceptable to offer sales and promotions as long as they're not capitalistic and actually provide value to people adjusting to home life or those who need a general distraction. Some companies are providing customers with offers like free shipping on all orders or reduced order minimums. Taking these steps, while providing thoughtful and mindful messaging, is a show of faith for customers.
Social Media Recommendations
Continuously communicate any changes in your hours, availability, or services via social channels. It's crucial to update this information in a timely manner so that your customers are up-to-date on how to reach you and are aware of any product/service updates.
Check Social Schedule
Double-check any social scheduling software you may be using, and pause or change previously scheduled campaigns that may no longer be appropriate or applicable. Below is an example of a brand that still has ads running for their co-working space, which, in this situation, is irrelevant – and potentially off-putting – to their target audience:
With how quickly the landscape is changing during COVID-19, you should also consider how far out you should schedule posts. Closely monitor what is taking place and adjust your posts accordingly.
Host Livestream events to entertain and engage people who are likely spending more time on screens. Our client Fire Mountain Gems, for example, hosted a Livestream tutorial on how to make tassel earrings on Facebook live.
Social Media Groups
If you have a large customer base being affected, consider starting a Facebook or Linkedin group so people can join for ongoing updates and discussion. This is a great way to maintain community and show support for your customers. Steelcase, for example, created a Suddenly Working From Home Group on Linkedin last week, which now has over 1,700 members and was featured by Linkedin on their internal communication to their employees for tips and advice.
Leverage social listening to inform your social strategy and adjust accordingly. Track hashtags, use polls, ask fans questions, and look for mentions of your competitors to see how their approach is resonating with your target audience.
Use Good Judgement
Don’t make jokes or make light of the COVID-19 crisis. Although it should go without saying, any type of promotional messaging or communications with your customers should be carefully thought out. This brand missed the mark with their “COVID-19 Causes HUGE SALE” messaging that may be perceived as insensitive as opposed to customer-focused.
Keep health, safety, and community top-of-mind in your messaging. Provide distractions and entertainment, or offer help, and make sure you’re communicating in an authentic way. Our client, JOANN, created a “Make to Give” campaign is a great example of a brand bringing community together to support each other. Customers can pick up a kit with free fabric, elastics, and other materials at stores across the country. The initiative allows crafters to sew protective masks for medical personnel who need them and is a great way for the brand to show they care.
Revise Your Product Strategy
With many people working from home and being encouraged to stay home, their product and service needs will differ. Companies that can quickly pivot and evolve products to adapt to this rapid change in lifestyle will retain loyal customers and appeal to new audiences who now have new needs. Consider ways to convert your products into digital content. With gyms closing, for instance, an alternative would be providing free online workouts for all. Another revision could be offering buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS); if your physical locations are still open, customers will greatly appreciate this option, which is designed to keep them safer. Take it a step further to offer contactless pickup to comply with regulations and accommodate more susceptible customers.
Surprise Your Customers
Surprise and delight your customers during this time with unexpected product or media releases. Walt Disney Company decided to release Frozen 2 three months early due to COVID-19. “Frozen 2 has captivated audiences around the world through its powerful themes of perseverance and the importance of family, messages that are incredibly relevant during this time. And we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device," said Bob Chapek, the new Disney CEO.
Get creative with content and think of out-of-the-box ideas. For example, a home decorating and bedding brand can create a guide for setting up a cozy fort in your living room. If you sell gardening and outdoor supplies, create a video series about planting a home vegetable garden for beginners.
Customer Service Recommendations
Customer service channels should align with the brand tone overall during this time. Be transparent about the availability of customer service (ex: delays in response times). Engage through social, messenger, chat, email, and other channels to reduce friction for customers who are likely anxious and emotional.
Thinking About the Future
Brands that take the time to thoughtfully plan out and revise their content strategy during COVID-19 will be able to support their customers better. From maintaining effective communication channels to providing new content that helps people adjust to their current situation, if brands are genuine in their efforts, they can find success during this time.
If you are a large retail or ecommerce brand needing strategic guidance during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with your questions.