Speaking to Consumers in the Midst of a Global Pandemic
We are currently living through a moment of societal upheaval the likes of which most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. Since the Coronavirus crisis began to grow in scope and severity beginning in January, the pandemic has become the dominant news story to the exclusion of nearly everything else. People concerned for their health and livelihoods have been focused on little else.
Yet, in spite of all the chaos, fear, and disruption, brands must still manage to connect with audiences. Some have found effective ways to offer small moments of joy and hope to consumers who are otherwise facing tremendous anxiety for the future.
Today we’re highlighting some inspiring examples of brands that are continuing to spread positive messages in times of trouble.
Brands that are meeting the challenge
The current moment is a challenging one for brands. Not only do canceled events and closed stores mean lost revenues, but consumer anxiety about the near and long-term economic impact of the crisis will undoubtedly lead to less discretionary spending.
It’s also a challenge to know how to talk to consumers during such a difficult and sensitive time. At times it simply doesn’t feel appropriate to carry on with our planned marketing campaigns without acknowledging the larger forces impacting the world.
Below are three examples of brands that we think have done a good job of meeting this challenging moment.
Guinness – Guinness is an Irish favorite, and a brand that does particularly well around St. Patrick Day’s, but with parades and celebrations canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Guinness recognized that this year would be different.
The brand leaned in to the moment, however, by producing an inspiring spot promising to “march again”. The ad highlights the brand’s storied history and unifying nature. Though the ad doesn’t specifically mention Coronavirus, it does a good job of presenting a positive, hopeful message while acknowledging the difficulty of the current moment.
Everlane – This direct-to-consumer clothing retailer has never shied away from speaking honestly and directly to their customers, so much so that they made their motto “radical transparency”. The brand also rarely offers discounts, but in an email sent out on Monday night Everlane announced it would be rolling out weekly promotions as a means of offering “meaningful value in uncertain times.”
The email also included a photo of Everlane employees on a Zoom call, with the headline “We’re all in this together”, and it distinguished itself as a uniquely positive message in inboxes otherwise flooded with emails about store closures and service disruptions.
Local fitness boutiques – With millions of Americans making the move to self-isolate, a natural question many have is how to stay active when the gym is closed and you’re stuck indoors. Boutique fitness studios, in particular, are feeling squeezed financially as the virus forces them to close their doors.
In an effort to stay connected with their communities and support their audiences through the loneliness and physical inactivity that self-isolation can prompt, many boutiques are bringing classes and tutorials into the home. Harnessing the power of live streaming, boutiques like Pure Barre, Barry’s, and Misfits Studio are broadcasting at-home workouts audiences can enjoy while still practicing social distancing.
It’s a move that benefits both the consumer and the brand. Consumers are able to boost endorphins, stay fit, and connect with their community online, while brands are able to provide a true benefit to audiences and stay relevant even while brick-and-mortar locations are closed.
Top takeaways: what brands can learn from these examples
Here are a few good lessons to keep in mind as brands and marketers forge ahead into this new, uncertain reality we’re facing.
Openness and transparency are key – There’s no sense ignoring what’s going on. In fact, it’s more likely to hurt your brand image than anything else. Failing to be straightforward about the situation will make your brand look untrustworthy, out-of-touch, or even outright deceptive. Being transparent, on the other hand, shows that your brand takes yourself and your customers seriously.
Supporting customers makes them feel valued – Consumers are facing a very harsh reality. Many will get sick, and still more will suffer the financial fallout of this pandemic. The best brands can do right now is to find whatever ways they can to support their customers. Small things count! Support the community through a small donation, or offer additional value to customers who have the means to continue supporting your brand. Consumers who feel valued will also be inclined to continue to support your business in the future.
Don’t go dark – Even though the news is dire and we, as a global community, are facing a momentous crisis, people are still online seeking solace, entertainment, and information. Be there for your audiences. Stay present and stay active so you don’t lose the connections you’ve fought hard to build.