by Caitlin McCrary
The outbreak of the unprecedented public health crisis known as Coronavirus, COVID-19, is causing brands to rethink and shift their marketing strategies to align with changing consumer behaviors all while staying relevant during this time. Brands need to be agile during the next few months as it will take time to learn how to navigate the unknown and unpredictable terrain of the future.
Above all, during these times, it is extremely important for brands to be completely transparent with their audiences and communicate the challenges they are facing. Doing so will establish a sense of trust among consumers that brands can leverage in the future.
During these times of isolation, consumers are craving entertainment and experiences that connect them with others to create a sense of human interaction and community. One way to provide entertainment and consumer engagement is through the use of online video.
An example of a brand that did this well was GymShark, when they partnered with TikTok to promote their gym clothes. Instead of simply promoting their clothing items via paid display banner ads, GymShark posted workout videos and fitness challenges on TikTok that spoke directly to their target audience. GymShark was indirectly promoting their fitness attire through the use of the participants in the videos. As a result, GymShark saw a tremendous increase in both awareness and engagement with their brand. What brands can learn from this campaign is to share content with your audience that is relevant to them, especially during these times when consumers are looking for ways to stay motivated and stick to their fitness routine schedule while at home. Doing this will promote increased engagement with your brand and products.
Another example of a brand doing this well is the food chain, Chipotle. Chipotle has shifted its marketing strategy to be focused on digital video by hosting a series of virtual lunch parties through the digital video platform, Zoom. Each lunch featured interviews with celebrities and gave participants the chance to win free food. This not only provided entertainment for Chipotle consumers but also allowed them the time to converse with both peers and celebrities, creating a sense of community. It gave consumers a chance to feel like they were having lunch with friends, just in the digital world.
Netflix is another brand that has enhanced its strategy to online video through the use of its new service, Netflix Party. Netflix Party allows users to sync up their shows or movies with friends simultaneously while having a live group chat on the side of the screen.
Think about how you can incorporate online video to engage with your consumers during this time. Not only do you want to focus on making their lives easier by having your brand be easily accessible, but also how your brand can provide entertainment as well.
Nike is one example of a brand that has shifted its media strategy from sales to community-building efforts by helping to generate awareness of the importance of social distancing at this time. Just this past weekend, Nike released its newest Instagram campaign that focused not on product sales but rather on encouraging the public to take the concept of social distancing seriously in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus. Nike leveraged its massive reach and influence to spread the crisis-specific ad that reads:
“If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance,” the ad reads. “Play inside, play for the world.”
Nike athletes, such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods, reposted the ad with their autograph included at the bottom for a personal touch. This campaign is portraying the Nike brand as standing by consumers’ sides throughout this crisis, a sentiment consumers will resonate with even after the virus is over.
‘According to Whaley, as brands focus less on brand awareness and sales campaigns during the outbreak, community building activities are a safe way to interact with consumers and remain front of mind. “When they start spending again they are going to spend with you,” he says.’
A key takeaway brands can learn from Nike is to directly communicate with your consumers during this time, showing that you are aware of the situations and are there for them. Share how your brand is addressing COVID-19 and show consumers how you will be there for them during this difficult time.
Now is the time for companies to make a difference in the community and step up to be good corporate citizens. Various companies have shifted their focus and advertising dollars from sales to focus on those who have been directly affected by COVID-19, whether it be small businesses who have shut their doors indefinitely or people who have lost their jobs and are no longer able to support themselves or their families. Companies that have participated in ‘Giving Back’ campaigns have received tremendous support from consumers.
Bumble is a great example of a brand that has used this time as an opportunity to give back. The brand has pledged to give 150 grants of up to $5,000 to small businesses around the world as part of its global initiative: The Bumble Community Grant. The Bumble Community, made up of over 90 million worldwide users, is being called on to help nominate local businesses in need. To nominate a small business, users would access one of Bumble’s apps and match with the Bumble Community Grants profile by swiping right to gain access to the application, then complete and submit. Other ways users could submit a nomination was to tag a local small business in the comments of the original Bumble post that shared the initiative or taking a screenshot of Bumble’s Instagram story cards and resharing to their personal story with a nomination. Each user is able to nominate up to five small local businesses, once a business is selected they will receive monetary assistance from Bumble immediately.
Think about how you and your brand can give back to the community during this time. Involve your consumers—people love having a platform to join to help pitch in and do their part during this time. This will also help to establish a deeper connection between your brand and target audience. While all brands may not have as big of budgets as Bumble, there are plenty of other ways to promote goodwill throughout the community. A few examples include Slack providing employees with a stipend to make their working from home arrangements comfortable, restaurants, such as Ideal Bite Community Kitchen, donating food to Food Banks and other local organizations in need. Another great example is Mark Cuban reimbursing his employees for any lunch and coffee purchases from local, independent small businesses.
It is important to remember that right now it’s less about advertising and more about being helpful and informative all while creating a positive impact on your community and customers.
In order to be successful during this time, brands need to be able to pivot strategically and adapt quickly to changing consumer priorities and lifestyles. Brands need to be genuinely compassionate, useful, timely and relevant with all messaging to the public. And most importantly, brands need to be there for their consumers above all else.