Sound Practices for Brand Marketing During a Pandemic

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Photo Courtesy: Branding & Buzzing

We’re in the midst of constant change and unpredictability and marketers are having to take already planned-out strategies and start almost completely over. What’s our new approach? How will brands and their agencies respond?

Prepare to be nimble, flexible and socially minded, continue to move forward and plan for the possibility of a different future for your brand. Here are 12 tips for brand marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Audit your Current Calls to Action

In social posts and advertising, be sure to look over all copy, especially any- call-to-action (CTA) items. Keep an eye out for anything that doesn’t align with government/health recommendations, travel capabilities and the overall mood and tone of the general public.

Example: If you’re marketing a product sold in brick-and-mortar shops, especially big-box stores such as grocers and Walmart, recall how busy and out of supply many of them are already. Plus, remember social distancing calls for essentials-only excursions.

Consider product marketing without public-facing CTAs. Push online ordering or delivery availability (if possible). Otherwise, keep it simple and informative, if not postponed.

2. Be Mindful of Insensitive or Irresponsible Imagery

Current events call for preventative actions, including intensive handwashing, isolation measures and avoidance of gatherings. Review and remove any visuals which feature or promote:

Large or small group events and outings such as eating at a restaurant, going to a party or attending a meeting, conference, sport, concert or festival.

Documentation or encouragement of travel, international or domestic.

Images that depict casual person-to-person touching via handshakes, arm links or hugs. Hand-to-food touching imagery is also a big no-no during this time, with or without gloves.

Content showing health-and-wellness scenarios in which illness, death, hunger or other issues of humanity may be a theme.

3. No Virtue Signalling

When speaking about changes made to your brand’s marketing or business strategies due to the pandemic, tell your audiences more than just being “aware of the current situation,” and similar messaging. 

The key to your audience caring about an announcement is what you’re doing about it. 

Employees are safe? Great! You’re all washing your hands? Also great! But everyone would like to assume both of these go without saying and were being done before.
If everything is business as usual and you’re not experiencing a shutdown or increased closure of any kind, reconsider whether you need to signal anything to the public about how you’re dealing with the pandemic.

4. Remember, Illness and Isolation of the Public is Not a Sales Opportunity

Do not market your product or service as a virus solution or preventative measure. No #Coronavirus hashtags either.

5. Avoid Too Many Lane Changes

Whether you’re able to stick to your current voice, or need to change your messaging, examine how many changes could be required tomorrow or in the future as situations change. If the pandemic gets better, how much pivoting would be required, if any? Reflect on the same question if the pandemic becomes worse for your audiences.

“Imagine the worst coronavirus news is sitting right next to your post on Twitter or Facebook. Does your messaging sound awkward?” – Jason Keith, Social Fresh.

6. Stash Away for a Healthy Day

All the work completed before isolation arose does not need to go to waste. Scale back your content and save unused posts for future deployment when more people can positively appreciate them.

7. Postpone, Don’t Cancel / Pivot to Virtual Events

If you had any events or activations on the go, it doesn’t do any good to abandon stakeholders, brands, suppliers, attendees, staff, freelancers and vendors. Pandemics aren’t forever, but losing all opportunities at once could be devastating to at-risk industries and the self-employed. Take this time to strategize how you can simply push, not permanently erase. Prepare to move your real-life experiential-marketing campaigns online with virtual events.

8. While It’s Not the Time to Speak, Listen

There’s no better time to see and read the core values of other businesses, communities and customers than during conversations currently happening in real-time. Take a moment to gauge the reactions, needs and aspirations of those online as they deal with the pandemic in their own lives.

7. Support your Community, and Brand, with a Trust Campaign

Contemplate creating a long-term content campaign consisting of entertainment pieces, videos, long-form written documents, training, webinars, et cetera. This campaign can be your brand’s way of connecting to your audiences with timeless, no-change-needed messaging, while also providing investments in the people around you. Offer on-the-spot deposits to partnering creators and influencers and have them invoice the rest later.

10. Give your Community Opportunities to Support your Brand for Future Benefits

No matter where people live, there are always groups rallying around ways to support local brands and businesses, even if their benefits and perks won’t come until later.

During this pandemic, it’s highly recommended companies offer gift cards or certificates, whether brick-and-mortar doors are open or temporarily closed. Each gift-card purchase is income for your brand now and a guaranteed product or service purchase by your customers later.

11. Prepare for the Future

During a pandemic, you’re not expected to push a hustle-culture lifestyle of long hours and a productivity-only mindset. Self-care and proper familial precautions are very important at this time, as they should be even without the presence of a wide-ranging crisis.

Because there’s no set calendar date for when normalcy returns, you need to have a plan in place. How will you ease your staff, clients and campaigns back into the public? What should remain on pause and what should kick off right from the start of the lifts of such restrictions?

Keep in mind, when you go back to business as usual, others will be thinking and doing the same, which could cause extreme oversaturation in events and content in your industry or niche. Recognize this when planning, scheduling and (eventually) launching.

12. Ask for Help

Even in isolative times, you’re not expected to go at any of this alone or to know exactly what to do, regardless of your department position. At the same time, you shouldn’t wait until it’s all over to figure it out. Ask for a consultation and get your brand on the right track.

Marketers plan ahead, and marketers must now change to this new normal. Don’t panic, frantically deleting or cancelling everything you’ve been working on.

Brands’ campaigns and content have the opportunity to reflect the good in their brand(s) and the good in the world, with authenticity, sensitivity and purpose.

By Marian Staresinic, Partner at Branding & Buzzing

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