In a time when trends, expectations, and regulations are shifting daily, it can be difficult to know how to keep your brand—and business—moving forward successfully. What can you do to ensure long-term brand health? Does your messaging still reach your audience effectively? And is your tone still resonating with them?
In order to help you and your brand better navigate this uncertain landscape with more confidence, here are three simple rules to keep you on-track through—and well after—the pandemic.
- Plan for long-term success
While the general instinct might be to play it safe and reel in the marketing efforts during times of financial stress and crisis, it’s been proven that increased advertising yields higher long-term returns and is the key to maintaining momentum.
A previous analysis of advertising during a recession found that companies that substantially increased their advertising spending saw an increase in ROI of 2.7%, as opposed to the average 1.6% increase seen by companies that decreased their efforts.
Why, you ask?
Consistent brand awareness efforts.
While every industry varies, all brands have an “awareness half-life,” meaning the amount of time it takes for any brand to lose about half of its public awareness. For example, the average half-life of most consumer packaged goods brands is only about 2.5 weeks.
The bottom line here is that it’s much easier to maintain—or even increase—than it is to completely re-build from scratch (as anyone who’s ever dieted knows to be frustratingly true).
Keep in mind that every industry will experience the pandemic differently; some (such as online shopping, WFH tools, and food delivery) will experience growth, while others (like travel, automotive, and live sports) decline. It’s important to do a self-assessment of where you stand on this spectrum, and audit your current marketing behaviors.
A great example of this in action is the Downtown Burbank Partnership (LINK to the DtnBur case study). In a time when most people are hesitant to even leave their homes, Downtown Burbank has ramped up marketing efforts and successfully pivoted to promoting local businesses and activities that support pandemic-related regulations and procedures: restaurants open for takeout/delivery and outdoor dining; hotels and fitness centers with heightened cleaning protocols; and the weekly open air farmers market. (LINK to DtnBur Insta?)
In quickly changing their approach and focus, and in making clear through their messaging that public health and safety come first, Downtown Burbank has been able to effectively continue to promote and increase their brand awareness, in addition to the local businesses it supports.
- Connect with your audience
With a large percentage of Americans now spending the majority of their work and play time at home, it stands to reason that our media habits have also changed. In fact, the GlobalWebIndex (GWI) shows that 95% of us are spending significantly more time on in-home media content consumption, which is projected by Nielsen to be up about 60% (you’re welcome, Netflix).
It’s important for your brand to remain nimble by being responsive to the social channels, streaming services, and app usage dominating public attention, especially with traditional cinema, radio, and outdoor advertising in decline.
In one of the hardest-hit industries, the Hollywood Burbank Airport (LINK to HBA case study) decided to reach out to their Instagram followers and pose a simple challenge: Let’s see you smize. This #smizefortheskies social campaign not only promoted the use of in-flight face masks, it also encouraged their audience to connect and interact with their brand via their personal Instagram pages.
And while airport business understandably remains slow for the present, HBA has successfully positioned themselves as a friendly, down-to-earth, and trustworthy brand through their social interactions and campaigns, leaving an important impression on future travelers.
- Use your words
HOW you speak to your audience is just as important as WHEN and WHERE you say it. Your brand’s tone and messaging are under constant scrutiny from the public (and believe us, people are paying very close attention right now).
Consumers are increasingly identifying as belief-driven buyers, meaning they will exhibit brand loyalty based on its stand on social issues. With their constant gaze on social and streaming media, consumers are frequently choosing to avoid, switch from, boycott, and call out brands with voices that do not reflect public sentiment and the changing times.
So what does this mean for your brand?
Take cues from your audience’s reactions and expectations (in other words: read the room).
With this prolonged time of social distancing and quarantine, people are craving and seeking out social connection. They want to see that we’re all in this together—and that also means not taking advantage of the situation for personal profit. As Cheuk Chiang, CEO at DAN remarked, “We cannot forget that this situation is first a humanitarian issue. In this context, brands must be sensitive and responsive to avoid reputational damage.”
Beyond the pandemic uncertainty and ongoing social isolation, we Americans are in a particularly volatile sociopolitical environment leading up to the 2020 election, with so many important issues gaining much-deserved traction and attention—from Black Lives Matter (LINK to the blog post) to the environmental crisis to universal healthcare and income, and so much more.
And while it’s certainly not necessary to politicize all marketing—in fact, sometimes it’s better not to—the main takeaway here is that your audience wants to know you’re there for them. They want to hear from you and they want to know you’re on their side.
Egan, B. How Brands Should Respond During the COVID-19 Crisis. Accessed via Mower.
King, S. (1999). Advertising during a recession.