Address the Situation and be transparent
In a time as uncertain as this, it is important for brands to address how their company is handling this pandemic and be as open and honest with consumers as possible. Many companies have sent eblasts or updated their website to address how they are responding to COVID-19 and what actions they are taking to protect their employees and customers. This is especially important for restaurants, as many consumers have avoided eating takeout for fear of contaminated food. In fact, according to consumer research from Suzy, “49% of consumers want to hear more from food and beverage brands”. This shows that consumers take comfort in hearing from companies and communicating honestly with consumers can go a long way in gaining their trust.
Taco Bell, among many other restaurants, has made frequent posts and updates about how they are adapting to keep consumers safe. They have even posted videos of all the steps their employees take to ensure safety for their customers.
Large brands aren’t the only ones who can benefit from transparency with consumers. A smaller customer base means that small businesses can have more personal conversations with customers on social media.
Being upfront about any changes to your business due to COVID-19, such as shipping delays, product shortages, or adjusted hours is the first step your brand can take to market during COVID-19. This is a trying time for us all, and being transparent about how the pandemic has affected your company can go a long way with consumers.
Today’s consumers expect more from brands than just selling products or providing services. What consumers are looking for from brands during this pandemic is to see them take action to help. If it’s possible for your brand to do this, it can be a great way to show that we are in this situation together and that you are doing your part.
Some distilleries, like Anheuser-Busch, have started producing bottles of hand sanitizer to help with shortages across the US. Anheuser-Busch isn’t the only distillery to take action, see a more complete list of all the distilleries helping to make hand sanitizer during the pandemic.
There are also companies that have donated and/or started making masks, gowns, and even ventilators, in addition to hand sanitizer. These are excellent and heartwarming examples of a company putting people’s interests before their own, however steps as drastic as these may not be an option to all businesses.
One brand that may not have the ability to create masks or gowns, but is still doing their part to help is Zoom, the video conferencing company that has skyrocketed since the beginning of this situation. The education system has been one of the industries impacted the most by COVID-19, with many states already stating students will not be returning to school until the fall. This impact is heightened with the fact that many k-12 schools do not have remote teaching strategies in place. Zoom has announced that they are removing the 40 minute meeting limit for free accounts used by teachers to help schools adjust to remote learning.
One thing to keep in mind when strategizing how your brand can take action, is that what you do here can have a lasting effect on how consumers view your brand, be it positive or negative; you don’t want to seem disingenuous. This can lead consumers to have a negative opinion of your brand that could continue well past this pandemic.
With most people spending significantly more time at home, time spent online has increased drastically. In particular, a recent Conviva report found that streaming viewing has shot up 26% in the US from March 9 to March 23. Daytime viewing hours were highest, with a 39% increase between 10 a.m and 5 p.m. Consumers’ need for entertainment has risen, and this presents an opportunity for brands to interact with their consumers in new ways.
Many brands have already started finding creative ways to keep their consumers entertained. Wendy’s, which is well known to the Twitterverse as the sassiest brand account, has done multiple streams on Twitch, including Animal Crossing streams and digital painting streams.
April 18th, Global CItizen and sponsors like Pepsi, Johnson & Johnson, Target, and Verizon just to name a few, teamed up to bring a live concert to viewers at home with the largest (online) gathering of artists in decades. “One World: Together at Home” aired on multiple TV networks and streaming services to bring much needed joy & entertainment to viewers, in addition to raising funds for pandemic aid.
Streaming services like twitch and mixer are still viable options, but small businesses might find that social media is where they can have the most impact with entertaining their customers. Small businesses typically have a loyal audience already built on social media, so there is no need to try to grow an audience on a different platform. Take for example Dog Patch Pet & Feed, a pet store located in the Chicago suburbs. They started a “Dog Patch Quarantine Chronicles” video series where followers sent them videos of their pets dealing with the quarantine and they combined them into one video to share with their Facebook followers.
Streaming services are everywhere, and even though Netflix has the market share of streaming viewers, consumers are still looking for new forms of entertainment.
As you know, most businesses are not running as usual. During this pandemic, some brands may have an opportunity to get creative with their products & services to still meet their consumers’ needs. Many sit down restaurants, for example, have adapted to deliver or provide takeout to their customers when they have not before.
This opportunity may not apply to all industries, but reaches far beyond just restaurant services. The health and fitness sector has seen a rise in demand for online workout videos, yoga sessions, and more as many gyms are closed across the US and consumers are looking for ways to stay active indoors. The fashion industry has already begun with putting together chic work from home looks for customers. Video game giants like Blizzard, are adding bonus events to their popular online games as video games see a rise in activity.
Think outside the box to see if there are ways your brand could meet your consumers’ needs and deliver positive experiences during the pandemic.
Online business is more important now than ever before with most nonessential businesses in the US forced to close their storefronts. Online orders have increased 56% year over year for mainly store-based retailers in the US and Canada between March 22 and April 4.
Advertising during this pandemic is tricky. Brands should be careful not to come off as pushy since consumers can react negatively to aggressive advertising and that will likely leave a lasting impression. Brands should be aware of the situation and make sure that their advertising messaging doesn’t come off as trying to take advantage of this situation to increase sales.
One way brands can reach consumers online is by creating events to motivate customers to visit their online store. By running a promotional event or a giveaway, brands can generate much needed excitement with consumers and also increase engagement with their brand. Before running a promotion, brands should first identify what will resonate best with their customers during this time. Right now many consumers want to give back and contribute to something positive, so partnering with a charity for your promotion, or giving back to the healthcare community for example, will likely create a more positive brand experience with your customers versus just running a sales promotion.
With the five insights above, we hope both small businesses and brands feel more confident in their marketing strategy moving forward. Stay safe everyone, and remember we are all in this together.