Due to the impacts of Coronavirus, businesses and organisations around the world are facing unprecedented challenges as we adjust to our new normal. We have implemented social distancing measures, a phrase that was unheard of in 2019, and we have had to change how we do almost everything in our day-to-day lives. As a result, we have had to change how we do business too.
Figures show that sales are down across most sectors, which is to be expected during economic uncertainty. However, due to the range of government support measures introduced, lots of consumers are still buying. Digital marketing expert, Neil Patel, identified that organic website traffic has dropped significantly since the health crisis started. However, properly targeted digital advertising and marketing, with appropriate messaging, continues to achieve results in both getting traffic to websites and generating sales.
When the economy goes through a downturn, marketing budgets usually feel the pinch. While businesses need to ensure that their marketing spend is cost-effective and working hard for them, ceasing marketing activity will undoubtedly have negative long-term consequences.
Research from the dotcom crash in 2000 and the recession from 2008 show that during an economic downturn, there’s less competition because fewer companies advertise and market their businesses. As a result, those who do have a significant opportunity to increase brand awareness and communicate their messages to a wider audience. Evidence shows that those businesses who continue to invest in their marketing activities perform better than their counterparts both during the economic downturn and after it.
The key to successful marketing during challenging times is to adapt your messaging, think differently, and market smarter.
Adapt Your Messaging
The world looks very different right now, so your brand message should be different from the norm too. Take the lead from big brands like Cadbury and Guinness. Cadbury is no longer running its planned Easter campaign showing a grandfather setting up an Easter egg hunt for his grandchildren, because right now it isn’t safe for these two age groups to mix. To run with this ad would be highly insensitive.
Advertising genius Guinness, on the other hand, showed just how in-tune they are with what is going on and changed their planned advert for St. Patrick’s Day – using it as an opportunity to share a message of hope and positivity. This was a powerful message that associated the brand with the sense of togetherness and community the health pandemic created, as opposed to sensationalising or attempting to capitalise on sales.
Econsultancy have identified that investment in digital transformation is more crucial now than ever before due to social distancing measures and reduced footfall. Many companies are having to get more creative about how they deliver their product or service to consumers, which requires investment in digital infrastructure such as online ordering systems for restaurants that have quickly moved to home deliveries, or for gyms that have quickly developed apps to deliver workouts at home.
Businesses who can adapt should, but for those businesses that have no choice but to remain closed because it is not currently safe to continue trading, such hairdressers and beauty therapists, they should continue marketing to customers so when it does become safe to trade again, they have a business to go back to. This requires some innovative thinking and investment to engage with consumers when – for right now – you may not have a product or service to sell.
For most of these businesses, it means getting more social and engaging in conversations online. Whether creating a sense of community, running giveaways for when it is safe to open again in exchange for a review, or sponsoring prizes for keyworkers who are nominated by family and friends – there are a myriad of ways to engage with customers even when you aren’t currently able to open.
With social distancing firmly in place, you should focus on activities that build brand awareness and get you more visibility. As lockdown restrictions are slowly removed, it is likely we will see one-way systems introduced in shopping centres and restaurants opening with tables set further apart. While you have the time, your focus now should be working out what marketing activities you can safely undertake when the time comes, so you are ready and prepared.
To remain visible as a brand, consider what your customers need to hear and see right now, as opposed to the marketing and messages you think will help you to boost sales – during times of uncertainty, straight sales messages are unlikely to be welcomed.
Instead, consider how you could help or support your customers and potential customers through this challenging time and associate your brand, product, or service with this experience and feeling of positivity.
A great example of this is non-touch user experience such as a branded digital photo – where customers text their image from the venue and get it back branded and ready to post to social media. This could contain your own branding along with a message of hope, positivity, or support. Another example is a branded photo booth, activated via customer mobile or clapping to start the system. Photos captured can be sent via text or email or uploaded directly to the user’s social media account. You could even use a selection of the images to create a digital mosaic hosted on your website that helps to bring your brand to life.
This type of non-touch user experience offers brand awareness – it lets customers know you are open for business, you are operating safely, and you are here to support them. It also allows for user engagement and some welcome light-heartedness in a world that looks very different from three months ago. Finally, the systems allow for user data capture, arming you with information to support future marketing campaigns.
The business and marketing landscape has shifted beyond recognition in the past three to five months, and the current Coronavirus pandemic is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. While these are challenging times, we continue to try and raise our families, live, and work as best we can. This requires a different outlook and an innovative approach to how we do things. The most important thing to remember is that this time will pass. Your business and brand should be here for the long haul, so it is important to protect it and do what you can to secure its future.