Every day consumers tell us what they want and need. We see it through search behavior, TV ratings and trending topics on social and video platforms. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for brands to be valuable; a source of support and inspiration.
To successfully weather the COVID-19 storm, brands need to lean into shared experiences and human connection. According to a special Edelman Trust Barometer report:
Over 80% of consumers want brands to offer solutions to pandemic-related life challenges and include messaging that communicates empathy.
65% also say a brand’s response to the COVID-19 crisis will have a huge impact on their future purchases.
This is not the time to shy away from openly communicating with your customers or to pull back on advertising. Many studies have shown that companies that continue to spend during downturns do much better in the recovery period that follows. Analytic Partners found that brands that increased media spend during the last recession saw 17% growth in incremental sales whereas brands that stopped spending suffered an 18% loss.
The memory structures consumers form now are critical to the future health of your business. Showing up with empathy during COVID-19 requires a tuned-in messaging and distribution strategy. Our 5-step framework and free team discussion guide challenge teams to consider what they have to offer and how to tell their story.
1 . Realign on Your Brand’s Core Values: Everything you do should stay true to these
2. Take Inventory of What You Have to Offer: Think beyond core products and current audiences
3. Set your Message in Context: Focus on solutions, not on selling
4. Rethink Your Creative Canvas: Now is the time to try new production techniques
5. Meet People Where They Are: Even if you have to pay for an ad to do it
Realign on Your Brand’s Core Values
You know what your brand stands for, but when was the last time your team intentionally regrouped to reflect on these values? To ensure a thoughtful, authentic crisis response, it is critical that your every step aligns to these already established values.
Seventh Generation CEO, Joey Bergstein describes the importance of this in an interview with Forbes saying, “We have a really clear mission and we use that as a North star, in good times and in challenging times. Our name is inspired by the Great Law of the Iroquois, that...we must take into account the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations, and that makes it really clear how we want to approach the crisis that's in front of us”. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the company’s current messaging and response efforts.
This principle of consistency also applies to your brand’s tone. For brands who haven’t previously applied humor to their messaging strategy, now is not the time to try. Nearly 60% of consumers prefer that brands do not use humor in messaging right now. But what does that mean if your brand is, well, funny? Burger King has stayed true to its playful brand by providing some laughs about 'couch potatriots' while also supporting and raising funds for nurses.
Take Inventory of What You Have to Offer
89% of consumers want businesses to focus their resources on products that can help meet today’s challenges. The key word here is resources - and your core product may not be your most valuable resource right now. In addition to what you sell, take stock of your access to: raw materials, information, expertise, capabilities, or a unique perspective.
While Shapermint was previously focused on marketing shapewear, they pivoted their messaging and channels to promoting a more helpful product for sheltering-in-place: loungewear.
Mucinex recognized the amount of misinformation around COVID-19 safety and used their unique perspective to “Spread Facts, Not Fear”.
Like the many brands lending raw materials to mask production, family-owned Hanson of Sonoma is providing alcohol and facilities to create hand sanitizer.
Set Your Message in Context
You may have come up with a great solution, but don’t skip over properly setting your message in today’s context. 77% of consumers only want brands to speak in ways that show their awareness of the current challenges that people are facing as people (not as consumers). Context means:
Who is this resource helping? Keep in mind that this may not be your typical target market. At-home hair coloring supplier DpHue expanded beyond DIY hair color customers by offering 50% commission to stylists and colorists selling their products to clients to use at home.
What challenge are you specifically addressing? Are you helpful because consumers can’t leave their homes? Because of scarce supply of protective gear? The Dop - a phone mount to let you go hands-free - created a timely video to show how their product can make sheltering-in-place a little easier for the influx of Zoom happy hour goers, TikTok enthusiasts, and living room yogis.
Focus on solutions, NOT on selling. While discounting may be part of your brand’s strategy to help, remember that creating a sense of community with your customer base (or future customers) will do more for your brand in the long-term than temporary price cuts.
Rethink Your Creative Canvas
With social distancing measures in place, brands are limited in their ability to shoot new photo or video assets. But this shouldn’t stop you from producing content:
Go Back To Basics: Consumers aren’t looking for overly produced masterpieces right now. Even brands like Nike who have previously produced Oscar-worthy video spots are sharing their voice with equally powerful static text assets (Nike later built on this campaign with imagery shot at home).
Stand Out On Social: Leon and George refreshed the superimposed text on their existing product images. (Pro tip: Superimposed text should be BIG for mobile screens).
Take Us Along The Journey: Rothy’s used their Instagram to show every step of their journey to process, understand, and help during COVID-19, from early brainstorms, to forming partnerships, to producing masks and even sharing a misstep along the way. It doesn’t have to be fully baked to communicate updates.
Broaden Your Canvas: Consider every consumer touchpoint. Use channel art, bios, and captions to reflect service changes or show livestream schedules.
Not sure how to get this done? Try one of these creative platforms:
Animoto provides large libraries of stock images and video, as well as ready-to-use video templates.
Tribe is home to a creator network capable of shooting social-friendly pictures and short video clips from the safety of their home (and even with your own product if they have it handy or you send it to them!)
VidMob’s curated pool of creators can adapt all forms of existing assets into platform-specific content (Also check out their Creative Intelligence tool!)
Genero has an extensive global network of creatives who can create brand new assets using animation or even shoot individual live action content while in isolation.
Ready Set helps with creative ideation then develop assets using animation, user generated content or net-new footage from their network of in-home studios.
Meet People Where They Are (Even if You Have to Pay for It)
Lots of brands are doing Instagram Live right now. But that doesn’t mean it is right for YOU. Think critically about where your audience will be most receptive to your brand’s message. Use of digital platforms has increased, but brands should consider where their target audience is spending the most time (Hint: digital & traditional video).
West Elm and The Infatuation met the rest of the world on Zoom by creating gorgeous living rooms and mouth-watering food backgrounds for video chatting.
Verizon is texting customers directly providing access to free data and to drive awareness for their music live streams benefitting SMBs.
Dermstore is meeting increased interest in at-home skincare routines with paid ads on Instagram & Facebook and with YouTube TrueView & Discovery Ads.
While showing up with empathy during a crisis looks different from company to company, the most important thing to remember is that your customers want to hear from you. Lean into the creative constraints required by today’s environment to build human connection and brand equity that will support the future health of your business.
We expect to see more innovation and challenges as brands embrace this time of change. Follow us on LinkedIn where we’ll continue to monitor this fast-changing space and highlight evolving brand strategies.
Ready to get started? Download our free toolkit to lead a virtual discussion with your team. You can also watch a recording of our webinar on this topic, hosted by The Riveter. (You'll need to create a free Riveter login to watch!)
Looking for help with your brand? We’d love to lead a virtual brainstorming session with your team! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.