The world is a precarious place at present. The economy — even more so. But now is not the time for brands to recoil and take pause. Deemed an essential business or not, every single brand has something to offer customers in crisis. Here’s how to take your brand to the front lines.
Your Outpost: The internet.
Governor-mandated “stay-at-home” orders prevent the vast majority of brands from offering physical support on front lines (hospitals, clinical testing labs, manufacturing lines, etc.), but that doesn’t mean we can’t support the mission on another battlefield — the internet — which is now the safest and most widely-used access point for connecting with others.
Your Mission: Use digital marketing strategies and activities to support customers in crisis and help them navigate COVID-19 fallout.
Just as important as direct combat with the virus is maintaining human connection in times of long-term quarantine and social isolation. Your greatest challenge will be ensuring that efforts come across as genuine and sincere, not exploitive, promotional or self-serving.
Human-to-human bonds develop in the real world through direct interaction, mutual interests, values, opinions and shared experiences (e.g., attending social events, playing sports, etc.).
Brand-to-human bonds develop virtually through content. The relationship still depends on mutual interests, values and opinions, but with limited opportunities to interact directly, brands use other methods to bond with customers. For example, thoughtfully-placed digital touchpoints that allow customers to engage with content. Touchpoints, like stepping stones, form a pathway that leads the customer toward a destination. This journey becomes the shared experience that galvanizes the bond between an individual and a brand.
Critical Artillery: Digital marketing tools, assets and channels.
Moments of crisis are rare and powerful opportunities for brands to deepen their bond with customers through compassion, thoughtfulness and support. Since we’re fighting this particular battle on virtual front lines, your greatest resources will include:
Combat Plan: Maintain service quality, provide high-value advice, information and resources, and adapt to meet the rapidly changing needs of your customers.
Below are strategic digital marketing activities that any brand can execute to create camaraderie between their brand and potential or current customers.
Marketers are particularly attuned to the needs of their customers, but those needs have changed dramatically since March and may not align with your solutions in the same way they did before. In times of crisis, Americans always find a way to hold one another up by exercising our strengths differently. This is what makes the human spirit truly remarkable. To that end, continue leveraging digital marketing channels to connect with customers. But rather than focus on gaining something through touchpoints (e.g., engagement, data, leads, etc.), concentrate on the myriad ways you can help meet their new subset of needs in meaningful ways.
Here are some real-life examples:
The Body Coach hosts daily PE classes for kids on YouTube to occupy children while stressed parents work from home. Earlier this year, his followership reportedly went from 800,000 to 1.7 million. Today, The Body Coach has a stunning 3.4 million-person fan base.
Aaptiv opened up free access to its digital fitness platform. The generous giveaway is attracting new members (and membership fees) while allowing customers to sample paid online workout programs. The company boasted 200,000 members in 2019. In February alone, they saw 30,000 new downloads.
Business and education software providers like Zoom, Adobe and Google began offering unlimited access to select paid services to support customers as they transition into remote life. Employees and students gain essential tools for collaboration and productivity (a dire need for many). In exchange, these platforms are reaching hundreds of thousands of new audience members and landing rare and unique placement in the customer journey. As people learn to use these remote digital tools (many for the first time), they are, in a sense becoming “wired” for specific platforms, much like users of Mac versus Windows.
Uber Eats waived their commission fee (normally, 30% of every sale) to support local restaurants struggling to stay afloat with carry-out business. The company still earns revenue through an activation fee charged to new restaurant partners upon sign-up. But foregoing their share of the resulting profits offers a significant break for partners while opening up local restaurants to roughly 91 million active users across 63 countries.
What can your talented workforce do to help?
Let’s say you manufacture and sell sensor technology that enables retail businesses to track and analyze store traffic. Considering that all retail outlets have been ordered to close (aka, no customer traffic), now might not be the time to promote exciting new features that provide depths of information about how customers interact with store layouts. A more appropriate form of outreach would be to offer advice such as Crucial Retail Consumer Insights You Need to Prepare for Reopening.
Additionally, content doesn’t always have to center around your product or service. For example, Kuno Creative is not a video conferencing platform, but we are masters of remote collaboration and veterans of the work-from-home lifestyle. With clients confined to home offices (many for the first time ever), we thought it might be helpful to provide guidance and advice on topics like:
The natural reaction to rapid changes in the marketplace is to talk about how your products and services will adapt to continue meeting the needs of your customers. Indisputably, this information is important to convey, but don’t forget to talk about how the pandemic is and will affect your customer’s industry as well. In doing so, you offer valuable support to customers while validating your specialized expertise.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, right? Last year, nearly half of all consumers switched brands due to poor customer service. In the wake of a global pandemic, expect higher consumer standards. However, as expectations intensify, so can the lasting impression your brand makes by going the extra mile. People are deeply affected by how others treat them during stressful or difficult times. Here are a few simple ways your brand can show customers a little extra love.
The measure of who we are as a brand and as individuals is what we do with what we have. For decades to come, stories will emerge about the everyday people and unsung heroes that fought an invisible enemy to save millions of lives. What story will become a part of your brand’s legacy?