COVID-19 has rapidly changed the ecosystem in which brands and consumers exist. In the immediate aftermath of social distancing, brands have faced acute channel and supply chain disruptions while consumers have confronted a swift change in their day-to-day consumption needs and purchasing power.
As the consumer economy absorbs these ecosystem changes, supply and demand issues have given way to a new set of challenges for both brands and the customers they serve. For brands, one simple but powerful question continues to surface:
SHOULD I BE MARKETING MY BRAND IN LIGHT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC?
BCE believes two key considerations should guide brands as they pivot marketing strategies in context of COVID-19:
It’s more important than ever to know your customers. The question “Should I be marketing?” rightly stems from awareness of the risk associated with appearing tone deaf to the challenges your existing and prospective customers currently face. Understanding your customers’ needs – and whether those have recently changed – will not only answer the “if” but also the “how” for marketing in this environment.
Ford was one of the first large advertisers to appear in market with TV ads reflecting not only a COVID-19 messaging pivot but also announcing the changes they are making to support both existing and potential future customers. Through these key messages, they have continued with a strong and consistent advertising presence ever since. Two ads have featured prominently during this time:
Ensuring your marketing/messaging is grounded in this understanding of your customers’ current circumstances will ensure the message is both relevant and appropriate.
The coronavirus pandemic has created massive challenges for people all over the world. Beyond the immediate shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE) and other frontline healthcare supplies, many people throughout the world are also facing challenges related to meeting basic needs, like food and housing security.
As a result, it is more important than ever to have a clear charitable giving strategy that links the commercial value proposition of your brand’s products/services with the causes your brand supports in times like these. Sophisticated brands will be able to tie these causes to a broader Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy that demonstrates the impact of the brand’s commercial success on its diverse set of stakeholders (i.e. customers, employees, shareholders, local communities, etc.). But brands need not wait to develop this CSR in context of COVID-19 in order to be charitable and communicate these efforts to existing and prospective customers.
Giving strategies provide three enabling tactics for brands to continue actively marketing in light of COVID-19:
Questions for brands to ask themselves in considering cause marketing strategies today:
Brands x Better is a coalition of consumer brands that formed in the days following COVID-19 shutdowns to provide aid to COVID-relevant charities in a time of need.
Changes in daily life seem likely to extend at least into the summer months, carrying with them adverse effects on certain aspects of consumer spending. In the meantime, brands must continue to find ways to stay relevant in the lives of their existing and prospective customers. Driving awareness via marketing will continue to be a critical tool for maintaining brand revenue during this time. Those brands that can effectively link the relevance of their products and services to the evolving needs of their customers in light of COVID-19 – and place this value in context of the charitable work they are performing to address societal needs – will have permission to continue marketing, selling, and winning in their respective markets.