By Mostafa Razzak
At a time when there’s such public distress and general anxiety, marketers are in a difficult position. Unless you’re promoting day-to-day essentials that consumers need during a pandemic, marketing activities can quickly make your brand seem insensitive to the current situation.
For some marketing departments, the solution has been to cut back. They deliver some basic communications about operations during the pandemic and limit digital marketing spend—both to avoid seeming insensitive and to free up financial resources to keep the business up and running.
But this might not be the best approach. Now is the time to get more aggressive with your digital marketing to maintain brand awareness. The real challenge is figuring out how to do that without harming your reputation.
Keeping Your Brand Front and Center Without Being Tone Deaf
Going dark in terms of digital advertising can’t be an option at this time. Even during a pandemic, your customers will be inundated with marketing messages and digital advertisements. In fact, people may be consuming even more digital advertising than before as self-isolation pushes people to embrace more screen time.
The reality is that even though we’re facing hard times economically and from a public health standpoint, people are still spending money. Studies show that e-commerce sales in the United States grew 49 percent in April 2020 compared to March 2020 before the stay-at-home orders went into effect. While this jump could be attributed largely to a 110 percent increase in online grocery purchases, there have also been significant boosts in electronics, books, and other categories.
Whether your business sells essential items or discretionary products, it’s more important than ever to ensure your brand is front and center for customers—not just to capture short-term e-commerce activity, but to maintain brand awareness as we work our way out of the pandemic and get back to some semblance of normalcy.
There are a few ways that you can do this without coming across as insensitive:
- Listen First: Now is not the time to go for the hard sell of discretionary items. First and foremost, you have to listen to your customers and understand what they need at this time. Providing transparent communications that matches the language your customers are using and offers help appropriately is essential. Your brand voice can make or break awareness right now. Get it right and you could stand out among competitors, building good will for the long term.
- Stay Flexible: Getting more aggressive with digital marketing doesn’t just mean blasting out more messages on social media or running the same ad campaign more frequently. Your messaging needs to evolve alongside the current situation. Can you build your digital marketing messages around the need for social distancing and public safety promotion?
It seems simple, but something like Nike advertising a message like “Play inside, play for the world,” can make a major difference in brand awareness at this time.
- Associate with – and Actually Do Good: Right now, your customers crave good news. Finding ways to associate your brand with positive stories can help maintain awareness during the pandemic. But this doesn’t mean manufacturing PR opportunities or shifting to some sort of news-jacking strategy. If your brand is already making efforts to help the community and your customers, make sure it comes across tastefully in your marketing. And if not, share genuine stories with your customers even if they don’t necessarily serve business goals.
This pandemic will eventually subside and the brands that are able to build trust and connect with customers now will be the ones that succeed moving forward. That’s why it’s so important to remain aggressive with digital marketing while keeping sensitivity in mind.
But no matter what you do, you’re always going to fight against the fact that consumers say they don’t trust ads. The line between effective brand marketing and pandemic sensitivity is so thin right now. Balancing the two sides will be easier said than done. However, changing the source of your marketing messages can help.
Employee Advocacy and Human Connection
One of the best things you can do to boost brand awareness—both during the pandemic and when we return to business-as-usual—is to expand your strategy beyond the marketing department. Especially now, consumers crave human connection. Even the best digital marketing still leaves consumers to engage with a faceless brand image.