Getting back to business during COVID-19

tyler tullis
Andrei Mylroie
Partner

May 7, 2020

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Let’s start with the obvious — COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While no one has a crystal ball to predict what life will be like this summer, fall or into 2021, we do know that the majority of Americans will not be going back to life as normal until a vaccine is developed and distributed.

As individual states and communities begin to gradually re-open in the coming weeks and months, we’re working with clients across industries to adapt their marketing strategies, tune-up their brands and prepare for different scenarios that may unfold. Here are some of the things we’re talking about with clients as they prepare for the future:

1. Reaffirm your values and value proposition: It’s an ideal time for a brand-tune up.

Crises and the potential of long-term economic worries reveal an organization’s true colors. Consumers are taking note of which brands are sticking to their values. It’s one thing to act with intention and the greater good when all is going well, but a brand’s true colors really show when times are more complicated.

In our view, now is a perfect time to review the state of your brand — how it looks, sounds and feels — as we head towards a return to business. There will be opportunity organizations that reactivate quickly — to engage audiences with your core value proposition and connect products and services to the very real human needs your customers will have for the next several challenging months.

Takeaways:
  • Conduct an audit of your brand messaging, tone, channels and campaigns before and during the crisis.
  • Identify opportunities to reassess (or underline) your mission, vision and values.
  • The same goes for your brand promise and value proposition. There’s opportunity in connecting audiences with what you stand for and how you act.
  • Take an honest look at your competitors, customers and others with an eye towards opportunity.

2. Prepare your back-to-market strategies: Pivot your campaigns.

We like to say that it’s important to be visible in this moment, especially because others will be invisible given the constant stream of difficult news. While budgets may be restrained, it is still critical to invest in marketing.

If you had a major campaign teed up for the summer or fall to promote a new product, you’ll need to take a fresh look at your messaging and creative approach to make sure it fits the context of the moment. How are you adding value to consumers besieged by a pandemic and unsure what the future holds?

We’ll surely see a handful of tone-deaf, sales-driven campaigns that don’t feel appropriate amid the immense challenge the globe faces in the coming years. Campaigns don’t have to be humorless or bent wholly around your commitment to public health, but they need an element of heart and be grounded to your value proposition.

For example, how will hospital systems encourage elective procedures again, which are the financial lifeblood of most health care systems? How will public transit and airlines make people feel safe about using their systems?

What new norms need to be created around cleaning, service, working together in person and more?

Takeaways:
  • Review your upcoming campaigns to adapt messaging and creative approach to fit the moment — gut-check with your team to make sure it fits before launch (ideally before development).
  • Revise your content calendar of social posts, eNews, website/blogs — bring value by aligning with content your customers are concerned about, and what’s going on in their lives.
  • Take an honest look at the imagery, language and ideas you’re communicating. Are they in line with what people are currently experiencing and feeling?
  • Don’t let off the gas on your paid media — but be smart about your traditional vs. digital vs. sponsorship mix.

3. Recognize what you can control: Seize on opportunities during the recession.

Recessions are tough across economies, but as you review and revise your strategic plan for the next year or two, you may find this economic climate presents opportunities if you look for them.

  • Embrace downturn as opportunity to innovate. For example, families are home cooking together, recreating in new ways (family hikes, bike rides or walks) and generally more connected than in many years. What opportunities does this present for your organization to be a resource, to market new ideas, to help?
  • Double down on your efforts to exceed customer expectations in this moment. People are highly attuned to organizations meeting and exceeding their expectations. Show up for customers and you’ll find this a terrific moment to solidify brand affinity.
  • The labor market will open up — take advantage of it as you consider restructuring your team and looking for new (or virtual) talent who can help you through the storm and thrive as it passes.
  • And remember — while your competitors shrink or fall from the public eye, you have opportunity to maintain your visibility by pushing ahead with smart use of owned, paid and earned media.
There’s a path ahead for companies to not only survive this challenge, but to thrive and connect with audiences in entirely new ways. Let us know if you want to talk about how these tips apply specifically to your business, we’re always happy to listen.
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