Challenging times are opportunity disguised as problems—and brands must act fast. Brands need to be as useful as possible by combining purpose, practicality and creativity.
But first, should one even spend on marketing communication during a time like this? Many marketeers put a complete freeze on their marketing communication budgets. But that's not the most prudent strategy. This is the time to show you care and be more useful. Depending on your category and brand stature, there could be little forgiveness for inaction and underreacting.
Plus, if your competitors aren’t spending, it’s a bonus! You spend less on media buying and get a greater share of voice—hence share of mind, and eventually share of wallet.
What you really need is recalibration of your marketing content messages. This doesn’t mean that you go on a spending spree either. Limit your marketing spend to a reasonable level. But importantly, make it count.
Here are some insights and ideas that can help.
1. All brands are likely to be tested on whether they’re living up to their purpose.
We need to ask ourselves: How we can bring to life our brand purpose, promise and essence. Be an ally to your consumers. Prove that you care. Demonstrate empathy. Reinforcing an emotional connection is vital.
- Remember the Pepsi Refresh campaign? Instead of spending on Super Bowl ads, the company awarded $20 million in grants to individuals, businesses and non-profits that promoted new ideas that had a positive impact. This led to months of user-generated content, on top of the brand's own. And, of course loads of earned PR.
2. Most people are likely to get extremely careful of their spending.
While the obvious answer is to focus on rational attributes and demonstrate better value, be extremely careful of your brand voice. Be genuine. "We’re in this together" is the approach and tonality you must have.
- If you’re an automobile brand, do talk about better mileage as well as practical and hard-working features. But do it with empathy. In the past, brands in this category have also spoken about buybacks, extend warranty and services.
- If you’re in the service industry like a bank, you could focus on your contactless feature, cash-back cards and other savings schemes. But, do it with the sense of helping people. Pepper it with regular practical tips on social. Waive off charges. Remember: purpose before profit.
- Also, this isn’t the time for one-upmanship against your competitors. Help them instead, and people will remember you for that.
- If you run a loyalty program, remind people to take advantage of it. Open your hearts and wallet a bit. Share notifications of your offers, but also connect emotionally. For instance, food brands can communicate that families that eat together, stay together.
3. More people are likely to DIY, wherever they can.
We know that people tend to go to YouTube and Google for this type of content all the time. Support them with practical advice in the formats they prefer—videos and infographics.
- If you’re a fitness center, you can give tips on home exercises or perhaps do it virtually. Today there so many video and virtual tools at our disposal.
- If you are a food brand, you could give easy, practical recipes for different consumer segments, from new-to-cooking to experts.
- Similarly, how to assemble furniture or fix things in your category or troubleshoot any issue.
4. People are generally appreciative of feel good and/or entertaining content during these times.
Now more than ever, brands need to harness the mindset of a publisher and create cultural value by either entertaining or inspiring. Even minor light-hearted and entertaining content can go a long way, provided you are thoughtful with tonality and are true to your brand.
- Inspiring content in the form of thematic hero content—insight-driven or evocative, relevant to your category and mindsets.
- Web-series or daily/weekly episodes (hub content in YouTube terminology) can also be effective, such as the fitness center or recipe examples discussed earlier. Make it lighthearted, conversational and entertaining.
5. Even those who are digitally savvy may need help to adapt to your digital platform.
Today, many organizations are digitally transformed, and they’ve made huge investments in. But, what’s the point if only limited people use the new features? Both YouTube and Google advocate help content in the form of how-to videos.
- How to pay your utility bills online using an app / computer.
- How to do various banking services, if you’re a bank.
- How to make the best use of the electrical appliance / your online freelance platform.
- How to install, troubleshoot, participate in a competition, claim a prize, etc.
6. Internal communication: Your employees look to you to provide clear and consistent messaging regarding not only the day-to-day, but also what’s coming next.
Company leadership and internal communications officers have a great responsibility. Your employees can be your biggest source of advocacy and influencers. Treat them right and provide them with guidance, and they will share the love with friends and family, and on social media and beyond, strengthening brand reputation organically.
- Regular words of assurance and periodic updates from the top management—with authority, humanity and clarity.
- Tips, advice and regular encouragement.
Of course, one size doesn’t fit all, so you need to brainstorm on what is right for your brand, your category and most importantly, your customers.
And remember, as Henry Ford once said: “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops the clock to save time”.
Rohit Arora is business director and head of content strategy for Liwa Content Driven.