Marketing Through Coronavirus: Your Customers Are Watching

Anyone who has managed brand marketing during a pandemic, raise your hand.

Yeah, me neither.

There is no class, handbook or “Yoda” for marketing through this kind of crisis. So, 10 weeks into this pandemic we are in the Wild West.

However, there are a few pieces of research that can help us with our aim.

A recent international survey titled “Trust and the Coronavirus,” from the American public relations firm Edelman is a good start. It confirms that what a brand does and says–as well as what a brand does not do and say–will have an impact on the likelihood of customer buying its products in the future. The fact is, the public is reacting to brand behavior, both emotionally and with their wallets.

Approximately 81% of respondents said they must be able to trust the brand to do what is right. And, if they don’t, it’s a deal breaker and at the very least, a deciding factor in their brand buying decision.

A further 37% of respondents claimed to have switched brands or used a new brand as a result of the way it responded to the outbreak.


Solve, Don’t Sell.

I’m paraphrasing a parody of current advertising that appeared in my Facebook feed recently:

We’re putting dead bodies into the ground daily.
We’re all in this together.
Buy these tires.

We are all growing weary of the repetitive, disingenuous phrases. What consumers really want is for brands to stop selling and start solving the unique challenges of life during a pandemic.

In the Edelman study, 89% of respondents wanted a brand to “offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, high-risk individuals and those whose jobs have been affected.”

  •  Allstate Insurance is refunding $600 million to its customers in April and May.
  •  The video recording and sharing service Loom has made Loom Pro free for teachers and students at K-12 schools, universities and educational institutions.
  •  Two of the country’s biggest home improvement retailers, Home Depot and Lowe’s, stopped selling N95 masks and are instead donating them to first responders and healthcare providers across the nation.

It’s just as important that you communicate how you are helping to earn or keep your customers’ trust. Studies confirm they find it comforting and reassuring.

Above all, stop advertising that is humorous, too lighthearted and/or does not apply to current circumstances. Showing people in a crowd using a product is taboo right now.


Protecting your employees

According to the Edelman study, “brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends.” If they don’t, then 71% of global consumers say that brands “will lose my trust forever” and this will have a huge impact on their likelihood to buy from that brand again in the future.

In a study by Morning Consult, 49% of consumers said they consider whether or not companies take care of their employees as one of their top five purchasing considerations.

Discount cosmetic giant Sephora found this out in late March when it laid off 3,000 employees during a conference call. The move sparked backlash on social media, even from some of its most loyal customers. According to Morning Consult, “a Twitter user who identified as one of the company’s highest spenders said the brand was ‘cancelled’ in her eyes after layoffs.”


Where is the best place to communicate your solutions?

According to the Edelman study, 50% of U.S. respondents said they prefer coronavirus communications via email and 37% preferred traditional media (television, radio or newspapers). Responding to the crisis in social media was preferred by less than 26% of the survey participants.

The vast majority of consumers either want to hear from brands and companies at the same frequency prior to the epidemic–or more, according to Opinium, a market research company.

“Brands are really going to be judged for a long time by how they behave through this,” says Patrick Strother, founder of Minneapolis-based communications firm SCG. “If companies react in superficial ways, industry insiders say, they do so at their own peril.”

In conclusion, we can expect significant shifts in brand loyalty. Those brands putting forth a human face by communicating solutions and empathy amid the pandemic, will win hearts, minds and loyalty.

BlaineTurner Advertising (BTA) Clients:

BTA employees are back in the office, following all of the CDC guidelines. We are sharing enthusiasm, collaborating and emotionally supporting one another, albeit through protective masks. This journey, while challenging, continues to teach us many things, including just how gratifying it is to be back together. Rest assured, we continue to intensely monitor the health and well-being of our employees, our clients and our community.

Ginna Royce
CEO / Creative Director

Delbert Royce
CFO / Vice President

Sarah Rogers

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