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Marketing in a COVID World – Don’t go Dark!

It is safe to say that we are all adjusting to our new world, fast! Both personally and professionally. And we are juggling these two things in one place … home!

We would like to caution against what is often the immediate reaction to challenging circumstances – shutting down all marketing activity.

It would be good to take just a couple of minutes to think about some things that could work in your brand’s favour across this time.

People are waiting for brand leadership.

People around the world are waiting for brands to step up, to lead with an authentic and empathetic approach, pivot to adjust to new consumer needs, and provide a positive message.

It is essential not to appear opportunistic, capitalising on vulnerability. But you can be there, in various ways, with various messages to support your customer base. But you need to speak to them and show them what you are doing.

Do not go dark! Do not do nothing.

Be present, be helpful and play a relevant role. Think about how your brand can help people in their new day to day. Consider their needs. No one is trying to shoot the lights out right now. Everyone is trying to survive, at home, cooped up in situations they do not usually find themselves in. Ask, what can my brand do to help?

This might be in the form of a product pivot, a price adjustment or contractual change, advice or support – in terms of activities, health and wellness, education and learning, financial management, energy or water saving tips and so on. What can your brand do to offer genuine assistance to people.

Thus far, most brands that have pivoted have adjusted their production facilities to offer medical equipment. But not all brands can do this. It simply isn’t relevant for all brands to play this role.

While there are obvious advantages of being present and helpful in a time like this, there are risks in going dark too:

  • Loss of brand salience, understanding and knowledge of your brand – loss of brand equity
  • The need to rebuild at a later date in a more cluttered market with a more disengaged audience
  • Loss of association with key brand characteristics

Think about the role you can play – what can you do to bring a benefit to people who are anxious, unsure, financially restricted and physically confined. Recognise this tension and adjust product and service offers as well as pricing and contractual conditions.

People are engaged with media

Never before has there been such a captive audience! Whether linear TV or streaming services across a range of devices, people are devouring content. Minute by minute, hour by hour. Information consumption has sky rocketed.

Your brand can be there too, heard more effectively than ever before.

TV was always the mainstay of communication channels, certainly among the older cohorts. But now it is on constantly, with younger audiences engaging in this way as well.

Radio is ever present – throughout the bushfire season and now into this health crisis. Even though people are traveling less, radio continues to be a great medium to complement TV’s messages.

And digital is experiencing avid consumption. Social media use has picked up even further, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat seeing usage highs, off an existing high base.

Not only are people consuming more content, but they are also contributing more content. There is a live stream of content directly from people’s homes – their activities, their pets, their loved ones, their pursuit of new hobbies and interests, a renewal of traditional past times such as cooking, baking and gardening, their online purchases. It is easy to see what is keeping people amused as it is everywhere. A plethora of easily accessible content to tap into consumer psyche.

It is relatively simple to align with their new normal.

We understand that you business is under pressure too. So the reality is that you probably need to reduce spend. If this is your situation, there are ways to do so:

  • Ensure you have the best quality creative on air. Test it before you air it.
  • Change your 30s TVCs to 15s – and your online video to have more 15s and 6s in the mix.
  • Blink your flighting – have every other week off air. The goal is to minimise the ad decay / downside.
  • In short: keep advertising with strong creative and efficient media.

Think about how to connect, with what messages, that will add support and build on what’s happening in the market. Think about how your brand can improve health and wellness, both physically and mentally, and shift people from survival mode, back into the more rewarding achievement mode.

People are engaged with research

The research industry is seeing higher response rates and better survey engagement. Again, there is a captive audience, looking to increase earning capabilities. Suddenly a survey doesn’t seem so bad after all. It is now not competing with people’s social lives for attention, but with puzzle building and bread baking.

This resurgence of interest in contributing opinions means that now is not the time to stop or pause surveys either. Particularly if you are active in market. It is essential to keep an eye on how your material is performing to assess whether or not it is hitting the mark at a sensitive time.

With limited budgets, it is essential to get messaging right and therefore business intelligence is critical right now.

It is important to assess not only how to align with consumers now, but to understand what the world will look like and how brands need to perform when this is all over. What will have changed? How will consumers’ perspectives have adapted? What will their new priorities be?

Less consumerism? More local focus? Less globalisation? Less waste? More environmental concern? A step closer to home? Tighter family structures and networks? Greater appreciation for the simpler things in life? A less demanding attitude? Less need for immediate gratification?

These behaviours have been forming quietly in the background for some time, but COVID-19 has accelerated their impact.

Our message has 4 key takeouts:

  1. Think about your role and how to be relevant and helpful to your consumers right now.
  2. Talk to them. Do not go silent. Be present to avoid loss of brand equity.
  3. You have a captive audience. Use this wisely.
  4. Consult with your audience. Know how they want you to adapt to be relevant both now and in a new world.

There are great examples of relevant marketing below …

Our views are consistent with many other marketing experts in the world. Mark Ritson supplies the numbers to prove the above points here:

And here are a few brands that have made a commitment to keep up their presence and reinforce their relevance:

Birds Eye:

Skyscanner (yes an airline brand!):

Giffgaff (mobile network):



Stay safe, stay healthy and stay present!

Author: Veronica Mayne, Managing Director, Faster Horses Consulting

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
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