What Lessons and Opportunities does Covid 19 present Brands with?
The Covid 19 crisis has affected pretty much every brand the world over. Its impact cannot be underestimated. We’ve all had to pause our campaigns and scrabble to work with what’s left. Many brands are trying to work out new strategies which will carry them through this crisis, despite having to drastically change their operation.
However, while the world has changed, it has not stopped. Brands and marketers which can be agile and adapt to the new world we find ourselves in will discover that there are plenty of unique opportunities out there.
Now is the time for brands to take stock of the situation, and consider how they can best provide value to their customers at this time.
I’ve presented this run-down as a PESTLE analysis of the macro marketing environment as it stands. The PESTLE framework is an insightful way of analysing the external (macro) environment and focusing attention on six main factors that could affect an organisation. The findings identified are ones that an organisation is unable to control but with an awareness of the changing environment, an organisation can be in a better situation to adapt.
Government restrictions have had a major impact on pretty much every industry. Some have been hit harder than others, however:
Travel and tourism.
With flights cancelled and people staying home, the T&T industry must rely upon insurance and savings to see itself through.
However, according to Izea, 55% of UK consumers surveyed said that they ‘would likely’ take the opportunity while in quarantine to book or reschedule vacations.
There are opportunities here for T&T brands which can adapt quickly and make their online presence felt. Remember, people are going to be desperate to get out and see the world afresh once this quarantine is over. There is an opportunity here to engage with your audience during this time, to provide entertainment and ideas for future travel plans when lockdowns are lifted.
Bars and restaurants are closed by law in most affected countries. Even those staying open are seeing a huge drop in business as people self-isolate.
Many hospitality businesses pride themselves on the ‘going out’ aspect of their operation. It’s as much about dressing up and going to a venue with a nice atmosphere as it is about the food/drink.
However, there is an opportunity here to adapt an existing business which many have done so already by offering takeout. There are others that have taken this a step further.
Chefs and food brands have been growing their subscriber lists by offering exclusive recipes for people to cook at home, livestreaming demonstrations and so on. There is even a movement afoot for people to dress up for dinner and order takeout, which has a lot of potential for restaurants who capitalize on it.
Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock (the world’s largest asset management company), believes that the economy will recover, and that there will be fantastic opportunities in the post-pandemic world for brands which have taken the right lessons from the crisis.
That being said, it can’t be denied that the global economy has taken a hit. Many businesses (as above) have had to suspend their operations, and many people are spending their quarantine on severely reduced incomes.
However, this does not mean that the economy has shut down. Several sectors are doing very well such as streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney Plus which has already surpassed 50million subscribers. And there are opportunities out there for those who know where to find them.
Spending patterns have shifted, certainly. But they haven’t stopped. Here are the areas marketers should be focusing on in this pandemic (and post-pandemic) world:
American ecommerce portals have more than doubled advertising and promotional spend knowing that what disposable income people have is likely to be spent online.
While it may feel crass to advertise at a time like this, studies show that very few people actually want brands to stop marketing. What’s important is that marketing is done sensibly and responsibly.
Online behaviour is also changing at the moment which I’ll go through in the ‘Social’ section below. But, for now, make a note that online ecommerce presence could make the difference between brands which survive this pandemic, and those which will struggle.
The ‘Just in time’ supply model has ruled the West since the 90s. Its basic principle is that warehouses and stores stock up with ‘just enough’ product to serve demand at any one time, and order new stock in as and when needed. This means that old inventory does not have to be cleared after, say a public holiday like Christmas. It smooths the transition between trends and merchandising seasons.
It has quickly become apparent that this model just doesn’t work in a crisis situation. When even Amazon are finding themselves with empty warehouses and major stock delays, it’s clear that there’s a big problem.
Brands which promise to tackle the issues inherent in ‘just in time’ supplying are likely to do well in a post-pandemic world. Consumers will want to be sure that their brand can get their items to them on time and without supply chain issues.
How this can be achieved is more a question for logistics than for marketers, but methods may include:
- Focusing on durability and quality of product, and producing that product long-term rather than frequently switching models, styles, trends etc.
- Localizing suppliers and warehouses, to lessen logistical issues.
- Direct To Consumer (DTC) business models.
For now, however, marketers can offset some of the economic impacts of this pandemic by acknowledging the problems around this issue and promising change.
Some channels and tactics are going to give more ROI. Things like billboard promotions on major highways are very unlikely to be seen – but advertising via email and social media could reach a greater audience than ever before. If your website is yet to be optimised for search, diverting budget into tactics like SEO could help to offset the economic impact of this crisis by providing optimum ROI. Use Google Search Trends to be informed of the search terms and queries that are most regularly used at the moment. But remember to stay true to your brand and your tone of voice. If the search query isn’t relevant to your business, then adding content about that particular topic isn’t going to be relevant to the visitor.
New online behaviour
This is probably obvious by now, but people are stuck at home and they’re relieving their boredom on the internet.
Social media usage has shot through the roof. Streaming services like Youtube, Amazon Prime, and Netflix have experienced a huge uptick in both subscribers and usage.
But it’s not just social media and streaming services which are doing well. Any online business now has a unique opportunity to get themselves in front of some eyeballs.
People are perusing the internet in ways they never have before. They’re seeking out its secrets and learning new digital tricks. And that translates to brand-based behaviour as much as to anything else.
Research conducted by Valassis has found that many consumers are trying out new purchasing behaviours. Lack of any other option has led 19% of survey respondents to new brands, while 13% of respondents stated that they were actively “taking the opportunity to discover new brands”.
So, brands which optimize their online presence could well benefit as people are becoming a lot more willing to try new things.
A need for sensitivity
That being said, marketers can’t just continue advertising as usual. People’s lives have changed drastically, and marketing messaging needs to be sensitive to that.
Content which appears to be exploiting the crisis isn’t just going to anger subscribers. It could also end up being blocked by the tech giants.
So, be sensitive, compassionate, and responsible with all messaging.
Looking towards a post-pandemic world, I honestly think that the ethical lessons here are among the most important. People want to return to a world changed for the better. Brands which can take the relevant lessons from this pandemic and apply them will be rewarded for it.
There is an undercurrent of wonder on social media at the possibilities presented by this quarantine. People are entirely reconstructing their lifestyles – and many of them are loving it.
Quiet roads. No crowded commute. No pressure to put on a mask and perform. The flexibility of remote working. The clear air. The birdsong. Time with family.
Yes, there are many stressors too. But it can’t be denied that a lot of people are taking this opportunity to take a step back, to reflect, and to reconsider their former lifestyles.
Adaptation and innovation
There has never been a better time to optimize your use of marketing tech. Diversifying your approach could help you to not only survive but thrive.
Plenty of brands are leveraging a multi-channel approach to help bring new kinds of value to their subscribers.
For example, fitness subscription service Classpass is no longer able to fulfil its main remit (linking up consumers with fitness classes) – so they are instead offering things like video and audio workouts via their social media, as well as switching up their app-based credit system so that it still has value and relevance for customers.
I’ve already covered how changing online behaviour presents opportunities for brands willing to switch up their digital tactics. These are unprecedented times – but we also have at our fingertips the most astonishing comms technology that the world has ever seen. Make the most of it!
But – as I mentioned earlier – watch out for the filters. They’re doing overtime trying to stop people exploiting the crisis, and a lot of innocent posts are getting caught in the net.
So, be careful with your keywords. Being reckless with terms like ‘coronavirus’, ‘covid’, ‘cure’, ‘vaccine’ etc may result in being blocked.
Emergency government measures during crises often result in more draconian legislation and harsher punishments than would usually be the case. Bear this in mind when sending out any message.
There’s a lot to dig into, here. The environment is a major winner in all this. People have noticed how much the planet is enjoying the break we’re giving it – and people are thinking very hard about that.
The fact that we have been able to transition so quickly and so effectively away from harmful practices is proof, for many, that a more sustainable way of life is possible.
Then there are the implications for workers.
The fact that so many businesses have been able to transition to home working spells out great possibilities for those who have been excluded from the traditional office environment. People with mobility issues, for example. Or those with medical conditions which prevent them from driving. Or even those who need more flexibility in their schedule than the 9-5 can provide (single parents, for example).
What does this mean for brands? Well, the wrap up is that we now know that it is possible to switch to a more sustainable way of living. We know that it is possible to give workers a lot more flexibility in their working hours and location than we previously thought. And people are not going to forget this.
So, take lessons from the ways your brand has changed its operation during this crisis, and incorporate these lessons into your messaging.
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