By Seraj Bharwani, Chief of Strategy, AcuityAds
A trifecta of health, economic and political crises has resulted in a major shift in consumer behavior rendering many aspects of the traditional buying journey obsolete. Visits to physical establishments (restaurants, cinema, and stores) are down by 75% eliminating most of the touch, feel and impulse- aspects of the omnichannel journey.
The distancing era has pushed over 60% of the population to be ‘socially distant,’ working remotely and living virtually. Average screen time has spiked with actual consumption crisscrossing many different devices, screens, and media platforms, which introduces a new jigsaw puzzle of reach, frequency, engagement and effectiveness at various stages of the journey.
The question top-of-mind for marketers now is, how can brands stay relevant to the new and evolving consumer lifestyle? While there are no easy answers, three main strategies have emerged, which are producing real results for brands who are ready to act quickly and digitally.
Recraft the Brand Narrative
Find ways to modify existing messaging so it corresponds with your customer’s reality. Nike wasted no time here, recrafting its ever-evolving story to encourage customers to “Play Inside,” and “Play for the World”. This immediate messaging rework, as well as a number of other quick response initiatives, helped Nike’s stock to soar 11% in the latest earnings announcement, while other brands in the consumer and fashion industries have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vanquish, a lesser-known brand in the pain-relief category, managed to score a spot on the Ad Age Top 10 Most Viewed Video Ads chart, outpacing OTC counterparts such as Flonase. This noteworthy accomplishment came about because its message spoke to a real concern. Vanquish repositioned its brand as Vanquish “Digital Headache,” the solution to stress-induced headaches and pains from increased exposure to devices and screens.
Expand the Brand Use Case and/or Product Portfolio
Introduce new access points, products, or services that contemporize the brand. Many fitness companies, including ClassPass, have expanded membership benefits by launching virtual options such as live workouts. SoulCycle is launching at-home bikes, currently for pre-order, and the company will release on-demand virtual classes later this year.
Walmart is repurposing its store parking lots as Drive-In theatres (in partnership with Tribeca Enterprises) starting in August. The makeshift theatres add an alternate touchpoint in the journey for popcorn, candy, soda and related snack brands with advertising and co-promotion opportunities, not to mention, a completely new, wide-release outlet (with potential distribution across 4,700 locations) for Hollywood until cinemas figure out their socially distanced, viewing experience.
Finally, Lululemon’s recent acquisition of Mirror catapults the brand into an entirely new line of business with a unique, in-home technology offering to complement its core product offering, fitness clothing. Mirror alone is forecast to represent 10% of Lululemon’s annual total revenue by 2023.
Consolidate the Value-Chain with a Seamless Digital Journey
For many brands, reinvention is possible across the entirety of the consumer journey including the product/service, distribution partners, and consumer outreach to make the offering easily accessible and compatible with the post-crisis lifestyle, read: digital. Genomind, a genetic testing service that helps doctors diagnose patients for specific mental health conditions rethought every touchpoint along its consumer journey to fully digitize the experience. Given the limitations on physical appointments, the company partnered with physician practices and clinics for end-to-end digital delivery of testing, diagnosis, consultation, and telepsychotherapy, eliminating the need for physical visits, and with it accelerating the growth trajectory of the company and the telepsychiatry category.
When behavior shifts happen swiftly and en masse, they have implications for just about every aspect of the way a consumer learns, perceives, buys, and uses what any brand has to offer. As a result, the new normal requires brands to redesign and restructure every aspect of the consumer journey, from value propositions, product selection, and partnerships all the way to messaging, communication touchpoints, and the point of sale.