What started as a bright year of hopes has quickly turned into a series of disjointed political campaigns, canceled sports events, postponed fairs, conferences, and trade shows, all due to the deadly COVID-19; a disease caused by a new strain of the coronavirus.
The disease has caused intense commotion and an eerie silence at the same time. Historically, too, pandemics have induced a feeling of fatalism and helplessness, and a grave need for social distancing.
The coronavirus is no different in that regard, for it has forced people to be trapped in their homes, unable to decide and act on anything, and waiting for someone to take the necessary action.
The same history has also shown people and organizations from all social classes coming together in times of pandemics. Be it the worldwide Spanish influenza outbreak or the cholera outbreak in France, small and big brands, governments, peasants, and social workers have united to fight against it.
While governments and non-governmental authorities are working to alleviate everyone’s anxiety and helplessness due to the coronavirus, your brand can also play a significant role in doing the same.
Even if you are unable to contribute to the healthcare system or the government’s relief funds, you can always show your customers that you are willing to help in other respects.
Here are some ways you can modify your usual marketing techniques to connect with your audience on a deeper emotional level and give your brand a humane image:
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1. Tweak Schedules
Most marketing campaigns run on tight schedules. Before the sudden pandemic outbreak, your brand must have planned advertisements for months ahead. Due to the government-mandated lockdowns and social distancing norms, you might have had to cancel your physical campaigns but remember that you cannot let your digital campaigns run freely either.
The coronavirus outbreak was an unforeseen event, which means that the campaigns you planned before it was designed in the oblivion of the problems that your audience is facing right now.
While you might not be able to produce quick-turn campaigns like some other big brands, you can always take a step back and cancel campaigns that seem insensitive or contextually inappropriate.
Better yet, push their timelines back instead of canceling them completely since they might work once the outbreak subsides. Similarly, move campaigns that talk about support, empathy, and your brand’s moral stand to the front. If you can urgently fit into your marketing schedule, some advertisements that talk about the current scenario and how your brand is helping the world.
2. Be Conscious of Language
The language of an advertisement can make or break it, even without a pandemic looming over it. Usually, brands try to promote interaction between customers and push their brand image to the forefront with their marketing campaigns. For example, brands like Hershey and Cadbury promote love, interaction, hugs, kisses, and handshakes in their advertisements.
In the wake of the current social distancing measures, however, these brands have eliminated all elements of physical contact or unhygienic practices from their ads. They have pulled back some ads that were already running while canceled the ones scheduled for the near future.
Guinness is another excellent example of such a brand. Around St. Patrick’s Day, it did not advertise pub gatherings or celebrations, but rather focused on social wellbeing, healthcare, and longevity.
If your brand is also running ads for physical trade shows, one-on-one client meetings, or business conferences requiring a physical presence, you should pull them back. Stay away from using language like “get in touch” or “get closer to us” in your email messages. Similarly, avoid creating animations or using imagery that depicts excessive contact.
While being mindful of your language, make sure you do not use words like “panic,” “killed,” or “death” insensitively even while communicating about the coronavirus. Some brands have also made the mistake of using “COVID” or “Coronavirus” as discount codes.
Such usage is far from innovative and ends up tainting your brand image, making it seem insensitive. You must also stay away from all humor that could be considered tasteless in the current scenario.
3. Don’t be an Opportunist
Since a large portion of the world population is staying home nowadays, digital marketing during coronavirus is gaining traction. As a brand, it might be tempting for you to run campaigns aggressively.
However, even if your campaigns are aimed at strengthening customer engagement and relationships, now is not the time to be aggressive. Remember, people are not staying home willingly and too many regulations are already being forced upon them. If in these times you force your brand onto them, they might end up getting repulsed and perceive you as an opportunist.
Avoid capitalizing on the pandemic at all costs. Running aggressive campaigns or promoting products senselessly is akin to illegal price gouging of toiletries in the current times. Focus on producing news-centric content and put it in front of your audience gradually.
Employ careful monitoring of the news and your audience’s sentiments to fix an appropriate marketing production and communication schedule. Give both your brand and its customers some time to breathe. Even while producing content for social media platforms, steer away from prompting customers to shop.
4. Positive Messaging Helps
Being empathetic does not mean you cannot put forward optimistic content. Remember, there is a difference between being sensitive and being gloomy. To make sure your brand does not look the latter, you have to adopt clever positive messaging that will work even after the pandemic subsides.
Nike did excellent positive marketing by changing its slogan to “play inside, play for the world.” By this single statement, Nike told its audience that by staying at home, they would be contributing positively to society. Many brands after the 2008 financial crisis and the Wall Street crash chose to display a picture of hope and recovery.
Any feel-good content that shows your brand’s humane side and tells your audience that you are willing to face the pandemic with hardworking spirits and smiling faces will alleviate your audience’s anxiety. It will also promote more meaningful relationships with them; make sure they remember you as the economy starts to recover.
No disaster lasts perpetually and while everyone waits for the silver lining to appear, it is your brand’s job to be proactive, sensible, and empathetic. Be emotionally reliable to both your existing and potential customers, for the one thing everyone craves right now is support. Remember, if you can support your customers through the pandemic, they will support you once it abates.