Marketing through change

Marketing through change

Welcome to the year that changed marketing. Not that marketing wasn’t evolving. Ever since the first person stood on a street corner hawking their wares the way we market has continued to change. Print, radio, television and the internet all brought on more changes. But who could have predicted the huge pivot that would be the pandemic of 2020.

What have we learned so far?

We’re all in this together. Not just a catchphrase, it’s the underlying tone of all successful marketing campaigns. The sense of community and compassion that it takes to get from one day to the next is essential. People want to feel safe, they want to feel comforted. Whether you’re on your third zoom meeting of the day or you’re working from home while trying to teach your child, the need to be understood is real.

People staying at home means that they aren’t seeing the billboards or listening to commercial radio in their cars. They also don’t pick up their copy of the local or national news in print, it’s conveniently available at home online. This means that anything and everything that people need had to become accessible via mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. Some companies made the transition seamlessly, others not so much.

While we’re online virtually all day long, the reality is that our ability to focus and concentrate are at all time lows. Mental health is a huge issue when you’re trying to juggle it all: kids, work and etc. while maintaining some sense of isolation and social distance. Now is the time to make messages short, simple and to the point. People are stressed enough as it is, they don’t have time to read long copy or follow a complex story line in advertising.

Patience is in short supply as well. Any online presence must be frictionless. The customer experience is key to staying competitive in a world where online access to work, school, food, supplies, and entertainment is the way to assure continued good health. Everything from selection processes to payment systems must work in favor of the customer. Take those technical issues seriously.

If your marketing efforts are still focused on the feature/benefit model – forget it. Unless you are really helping in some way, and you’re showing that through your marketing efforts, then you will get only passing attention at best. Transparency is essential, so let people know up front how you’re handling the crisis and what you’re doing to prevent disruptions. This is the time to be authentic in every message on every channel.

For example, I just received an email from Freshly this morning explaining up front that shipping this time of year can cause orders to be delayed. They also explained what they were doing to prevent problems and how they would handle any missed deliveries.

Buying habits are largely influenced by the people in your pod. Those who you share a household or quarantine are the ones who reinforce your buying decisions. They help decide if you’ll be donating to your favorite charity or participating in that online trade show.

Brand loyalty is no longer a sure thing. As people found early on, when you can’t get your favorite toilet paper you find that the next best thing is good enough. And good enough is a standard people are willing to accept. When their favorite brand becomes available, will it still be more desirable? Not if good enough is less expensive and just as effective.

Listening to what is going on in the world is also very important. This is the year that marketing teams learned to pivot quickly. Changing plans on a moment’s notice to stay on top of trending concepts and trying hard not to offend. Who can forget Black Tuesday when all social media posted a single black square, or did you miss that one?

I keep seeing a commercial for Norweigan Cruise lines about booking with them and I remember at the beginning of the pandemic when all the cruise ships had infected passengers. To me the timing is “too soon” and the message is tone deaf.

Going Forward

Take nothing for granted, don’t assume that your message is heard the same way or seen through the same lens that you use every day. Our world will continue to evolve quickly as the pandemic continues to shape how people work and live. Your ability to pay attention and respond accordingly will be the difference between marketing success and becoming the bad example of the day.

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