In the past few months, people have shifted into survival mode, focused on themselves, their families, their employees, their customers, and their communities. Social media reflects this, with pleas for fellow citizens to follow government safety guidelines.
With stay at home orders slowly beginning to lift many people are still choosing to stay close to home, and we’re also seeing major shifts in behavioral trends. Consumers have returned to broadcast and cable television and other premium media sources for credible information. Between remote working arrangements and live-streamed workout classes, home schooling, and zoom social hour gatherings, we are testing the bandwidth of our homes, and our technology skills.
The need for physical goods is placing pressure on new channels, with demand for e-commerce rising to new levels. As we begin to venture out, grocery and convenience stores are the source for essentials, but supply is inconsistent. Health and safety concerns are driving more customers toward frictionless payment systems, such as using mobile phones to pay at check-out without touching a surface or stylus.
Some of these behavior changes may be temporary, but many may be more permanent. With so much changing so fast during this difficult time, what actions can brands take to serve and grow their customer base, mitigate risk, and take care of their people ?
1. Pivot Often
To quickly pivot creative messages as circumstances change, marketers will want to build more rapid-response operating models internally and with agencies. Access to remote production and creative capacity will become particularly important as the crisis evolves. Beyond creative, as the mix of actual media platforms used by consumers changes quickly, marketers should consider modifying their media mix.
2. Track Behaviors
Frequent tracking of human behavioral trends will help marketers gain better insights in real time. Marketers will want to measure sentiment and consumption trends on a regular basis to better adapt messaging, closely observing the conversation across social-media platforms, community sites, and e-commerce product pages to look for opportunities and identify looming crises more quickly. Companies should consider quickly building dashboards with this kind of data to fuel the right decisions.
3. Practise Empathy
People feel vulnerable right now. Empathy is critical. The nuances of brand voice are more delicate than ever. Brands that use this time to be commercially exploitative will not fare well.
4. Show Heart
People will remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis, particularly if done with true heart and generosity. This could take the form of donating to food banks, providing free products for medical personnel, or continuing to pay employees while the company’s doors are closed. Feel-good content that alleviates anxiety and promotes positive messaging will go a long way to enhancing the brand. However, companies need to show that their contributions are material and not solely for commercial benefit. Consumers recognize authenticity and true purpose.
5. Adapt to the New
It’s encouraging how quickly many companies were able to transition to remote working arrangements. Deploying collaboration technologies can seamlessly provide chat, file sharing, meeting and call capabilities, enabling teams to stay connected and remain productive. Already, virtual happy hours are emerging as the new normal to build team morale. Partners are “pitching” remotely, recognizing that an in-face sales call is unlikely to transpire for weeks to come. Leaders have to do their best to transition each element of the operating model—from marketing, to sales, to service—to this new normal. New sources of innovation and even margin improvement will emerge out of our current discomfort.
Plan for the “new normal”
We are now in the stage of the pandemic to begin building for life beyond the crisis. As we navigate what we knew, what we’ve seen in the last few months, marketing leaders must work externally to keep their brands and customer journeys as genuine as possible, while working internally to do a few key things:
- Understand the impact of business interruption and continue to triage the unexpected.
- Lean into digital ways of working and connecting with customers, knowing that this will likely have lasting effects.
- Mitigate risks to the customer experience by thinking realistically from the outside-in.
Brands are all having to think, operate, and lead in new ways during these uncertain and unprecedented circumstances, and we will all have to learn together with both confidence and humility.
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