The COVID-19 pandemic, with corresponding political and public health responses, has disrupted commerce and life in a way that hasn’t been seen in generations, if ever. Rising tensions and uncertainty have encouraged companies to venture outside of their comfort zones.
Big brands like Nike, Walmart and PepsiCo have donated large sums of money to help address these systemic challenges and even crafted public statements addressing controversial issues that confront our society.
Companies such as Publix, Costco and Starbucks have been subjected to both praise and scorn for implementing mandatory mask-wearing policies. Other companies have planted their flag far further. Consider, the call from Ben & Jerry’s to defund the police and reallocate the funds toward education, job training and affordable housing.
Some have done or said nothing different in the past few months… operating as if everything is business-as-usual.
While still other companies — not wishing to offend customers or appear to be capitalizing off of a tragedy — have chosen to go radio silent. Waiting as patiently as possible for the coast to clear.
During cyclical economic downturns (which many of us have experienced together), leadership has learned how to take measured steps to minimize the financial impact of rising interest rates, for example. In a full blown crisis, however, brands may be tempted to pull back on their marketing efforts. Slashing budgets, suspending campaigns and “laying low” when it comes to messaging. Despite dry powder for some this year, stored from trade show and business travel cancellations.
Avoid a Lapse in Continuity
Anyone who has watched a low-budget film has experienced continuity errors. Two characters are sitting at a table drinking coffee and — all of a sudden — one character is drinking tea or wearing a shirt they didn’t have on at the beginning of the scene. Or the shiny, keepsake necklace one character was prominently wearing throughout the movie suddenly phases out of existence. Not to be seen again. With no explanation as to where it went. Well, you get the idea.
Building and maintaining a brand that occupies a place in the hearts and minds of consumers is very similar to filming a thoughtful movie… it’s a long game, that demands careful attention to detail.
It’s important to communicate regularly during extraordinary events. You don’t want audiences to assume your brand’s relevancy has faded. Crises also encourage prospects to consider alternative solutions — a perfect time for challenger brands to overtake the establishment and the status quo.
A positive brand reputation and perception is gained by the inch. And lost by the mile. Your building products brand has no doubt worked tirelessly to put out the right messages and build an image of your products that people trust and admire. If you “go dark”, you can quickly lose much of the goodwill and equity you worked so hard to create.
In a world where people are constantly exposed to messages and media… it’s not surprising that audiences have short attention spans. When they don’t hear from you consistently, it’s all too easy to forget about your brand’s benefits. To help prevent this outcome, it’s vital to track changes in your customers’ sentiment and behavior and continue to deliver content, so your company retains (better still, gains) relevancy during the crisis.
Seize the Opportunity to Gain Ground
If you’re thinking about making reductions in your marketing activity, chances are your competitors are too.
And that’s precisely why you shouldn’t.
Think of your competitors’ pulling back as an unexpected gift. If they’re quiet, it’s much easier for you to make some noise and grab the attention of a greater share of the market.
None of this is to say a brand should be reckless.
There are plenty of cost-effective ways to market your business… even if you’re operating on a constrained budget. Create sharable infographics. Comment on relevant online and social media posts (e.g., LinkedIn). Host instructional Zoom webinars. Create engaging — and easily shareable – content. Most importantly, keep your brand and its unique-selling-proposition, front-and-center.
A crisis presents an opportunity to re-evaluate how you reach your customers, the values you represent, and the messages that reflect those values. It also gives you a chance to look at new, more effective media and tactics. And yes, perhaps even be a little innovative.
This is a time to be smart and “show up” – not a time to be absent. Otherwise, your brand is at risk of losing a significant portion of the inroads you’ve made over the years. And instead, handing them to a competitor who’s not afraid to stay in front of your customers.
To learn more about some of the most effective ways to market your business during a crisis, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org