Communicating in Times of Crisis

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There has never been a better time to reevaluate your digital marketing strategy. The global pandemic continues to affect businesses across all sectors – and it’s likely to continue well into 2021 – so it’s vital brands take this time to make the necessary adjustments to meet the future needs of the consumer.

Currently, brand marketers can typically be split into three groups. Firstly, those brands for which Covid-19 has disrupted their operations, such as hotels, airlines, and those that operated purely as brick and mortar businesses. Secondly, there are those businesses that are seeing the inverse of this, and whose businesses are thriving as a result of the current situation, including TV streaming services and certain online retailers, such as those who sell equipment for home office supplies, which has never been more in demand.

Then there are the brands that fall between these two extremes – their products may not be viable during the pandemic, but they are still available and being bought by consumers. It is these businesses, in particular, that may find they are struggling to shift resources and adjust to the major changes in consumer communication and fulfillment.

Each of these brand marketers is making levels of adjustment due to the current environment we find ourselves in. Advertising campaigns across social and mainstream media now typically draw on the pandemic to convey humanistic messaging, which appeals to consumer experiences and fears, with the aim of engaging them. For example, the University of Phoenix has responded to the current pandemic by tweaking their messaging to be empathetic to a country of people looking to learn new skills while they have more time on their hands.

Hide and hope tactics will only hurt long term recovery

Hyundai’s CMO, Angela Zepeda recently admitted that while there were cut-backs in its advertising budgets, it was also redirecting media efforts to consumer’s new consumption habits. The recent Hyundai Assurance ad is a prime example of how it is matching consumer sentiment with its communication strategy.

There are brands that have turned off advertising altogether in a bid to save money until normality resumes. However, this hide and hope tactic will only hurt recovery in the long-term, as opportunistic competitors look to fill the void. We also have no idea when, or if, consumer buying habits will ever revert back to how they were pre-coronavirus. Consumers that only ever did their grocery shopping in-store, may have become accustomed to ordering it from an app for example. So agile brands that can adapt advertising quickly in line with changing behaviors are the ones that will continue to reach eyeballs and consequently outshine the competition.

So what can marketers do as media consumption habits are changing?

By shifting efforts to light touch prospecting tactics via growing CRM files at low costs with email sign-ups and remarketing pools, many brands can achieve success with their advertising strategies. Secondly, as I’ve already touched upon, businesses that change messaging to reflect the current tone will find they are still able to connect and engage with consumers. Failing to adhere to this could risk brands wasting significant amounts in advertising dollars, as consumer frames of mind are very different from how they were at the beginning of the year.

It’s also important advertisers understand how media consumption has changed. The funnel has not gone away, it’s simply changed based on the environment the customer is in, which can be a decisive factor in the success of new digital marketing strategies.

What is interesting to see at the moment is that despite the growth of Facebook activity in lockdown, many advertisers have still cut their budgets on this channel. Since Facebook and Instagram’s advertising platform is a real-time bidding marketplace, there is an extreme supply meeting low demand. To give an example of the savings which can be had, subscription-based marketers are seeing cost per subscriptions drop from $0.75 to $0.25 in the first half of April.

Much uncertainty remains and we don’t yet have any clear indication of when, or if, we will get back to ‘business as usual’, but there are glimmers of hope, as countries across the globe begin to reopen businesses across certain sectors. To prepare for ‘back to work’ it would be beneficial to audit and structure first-party data to understand what is collected and why to inform KPIs. It’s possible to identify what valuable traits are shared by consumers and what combination of triggers identify intent or opportunity to capture prospects. As third-party cookies are phased out, first-party data is going to be a hugely valuable commodity, and play a critical role in what can be done with technology integration.

Marketing in this new environment is challenging but brands that are nimble, adapt accordingly, and speed test strategies, can easily make the success of their advertising campaigns. Key to this is utilizing clean, organized, and dynamic data to fuel marketing decisions, which allow brands to keep up with consumer habits as they change and evolve.

Ed Camargo
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