Our new blog series, “WTF Do We Do Now? Business in the Time of Corona,” explores the question business leaders all over the world are asking right now: how do we keep our businesses going—and growing—during a crisis? This week, our CEO Tom Stirling examines what areas of our business we should invest in now and where we should pivot.
In uncertain times, it’s easy to panic and freeze. After all, the only thing worse than a recession is a possible recession. And, although there are strategies like scenario planning that can help you prepare for possible future states, it doesn’t answer the question, “what should I do right now?”
Smart and resilient companies realize that people will remember brands that were there for them during this period. They will remember brands that gave them access to a product or service that helped them through or that just demonstrated empathy and understanding rather than going dark. Brand behavior matters, never more so than in difficult times.
Here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way.
Take a walk in your customers’ shoes.
Right now, we all have an opportunity to step back and focus on our relationships with our customers and strengthen their connection to our brands. Empathy goes a long way. It’s a good time to put yourself in their shoes and think about their needs and how you might help them. Can you provide remote services or home delivery options? Can you provide information, tools or resources to give them confidence? Can you share updates on how you are preparing to be there for them on the other side of this and thank them for their support and loyalty?
We have seen some brands doing this already, reframing the customer experience through the lens of the current situation.
Uber, for example, quickly pivoted emphasis to Uber Eats, taking an existing secondary service offering and moving it to the front of their strategy to rapidly respond to the needs of customers, drivers, and communities.
Double-down on your cause. Or find a new one.
If you are doing cause-related marketing, consider increasing your investment. Not only does it resonate with customers, it benefits those in need. If you are already involved with a worthy cause, bring it into the light. If not, find a cause that aligns with your business, your customers, or just your heart and get involved as a brand.
Serta Simmons Bedding made news by donating 10,000 mattresses to New York City hospitals and medical facilities, and calling on its competitors to do the same.
Similarly, software maker QuickBooks paused current campaigns and re-focused its TV ad buy to ask consumers for donations to a new Small Business Relief Fund. A new spot begins, “QuickBooks salutes the grit and determination of those who work for themselves—they’re the backbone of our economy and in these challenging times, they’re adapting to support their communities.” The call-to-action is donations to a fund, created by QuickBooks parent company Intuit and GoFundMe.
The world has changed. Your marketing should too.
Once you have made some decisions on what you want to communicate, take a hard look at how you communicate. People are working remotely and connecting digitally. Consider pausing offline marketing and increasing investments in digital and social channels to reach your customers. Enhance your email efforts and use one-to-one channels to deliver personalized offers and content. Build in quick-response learnings to optimize your budgets and efforts. And, most importantly, double and triple check the tone of every message you put out for a hyper-sensitive audience. Right now, erring on the side of caution will not only prevent you from alienating people, it will earn their appreciation.
Geico and KFC recently earned public praise for quick responses to pulling advertisements that, although not offensive, were out of touch with a focus on social distancing. Geico’s “High Five” ad and KFC UK’s “Finger Licking” ad were the wrong message for the time and both companies wisely realized this and acted swiftly.
Despite the uncertainty, now is not the time to go silent. If you can be relevant and valuable to your customers right now and stay connected with them through these difficult times, they will reward you in the long term with loyalty and advocacy.
This is Episode 2 of Stirling Brandworks’ ongoing series WTF Do We Do Now? Business in the Time of Corona. Check out Episode 1 about the images we should—and definitely should not—use in our COVID-19 emails. And be sure to check back for more episodes each week as we navigate these unfamiliar times.
Also, we want to know: what challenges is your business facing today? Where do you see other businesses going wrong? And what could we all do a little bit differently to help each other out? Shoot me an email at [email protected] or give us a call 781-369-5154. Let’s keep strong brands at work together.
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