Let’s face it, there is a ton of disruption in 2020 on top of which, we are still feeling the effects of a global pandemic of which no end is in sight. The US alone experienced strife in the Oval Office, devasting hurricanes, loss of 22 million jobs of which less than half have been regained (Bartash, 2020) and widespread civil unrest in response to social injustices. All of this has occurred in only the first 6 months of the year; makes you wonder what the back-half of 2020 will deliver.
The Scramble to Respond During Crisis
In all of this, people are encouraged and sometimes mandated to maintain physical distance from each other to discourage the spread of the disease. One problem I see is the term coined as “Social Distancing”, which is misleading in my opinion. When people are discouraged from congregating in person, the only real outlet they have is digital solutions such as web conferencing and social media. Companies that don’t capitalize on this newly created captive audience are missing many opportunities. Marketing departments across the country are trying to find a balance in their messaging of promotion and people. Promotion in the sense
they want consumers to know they are still here and have items to sell, but People in the sense that marketing communication must be empathetic and sensitive to the plight of people. Any number of the following is occurring and contributing to the delicate creative thought that must go into the marketing experience:
- Consumers resources have declined due to the economy shutting down,
- Consumers losing confidence in the ability of the company to pivot and provide safety,
- The appropriateness of the messaging. A poor example may be Corona Beer launching their new Hard Seltzer product with messages of hanging out at white sandy beaches on a hot summer day while the travel industry shuts down to reduce the spread of COVID.
In all of this, there is increased sensitivities to the content put out by companies such that any misstep can land a company in the social media cancel-culture hot seat. This has inevitably led to companies scrambling to show they are “one of us” and responses are swift in distancing themselves from any offender (Adomaite & Tymulis, 2020). Take the civil unrest for example. In my opinion, there is a delicate and political dance that must occur in the decision-making process to align on a side of some of these issues. But does it come at the risk of free speech or inauthenticity? In June 2020, we saw several companies publicly promote their alignment with certain causes such as banning hate speech or specific groups from their platforms in response to civil unrest sparked by social injustices disproportionately impacting minorities. We saw companies rush to market messages of support for victims of these transgressions, many in a voice that was consistent with their company culture. Others remained silent, not sure how to provide relevant communication and not lose trust or loyalty with their customer base.
In these varying degrees of crisis, some of it unprecedented, marketing departments are learning on the fly the best way to engage their existing and potentially new customer in new ways; showing empathy while still protecting revenues. It leads me to think of what are some effective strategies that can be used, some examples may include (Garrant, 2020):
- Prioritizing People over Profit – Don’t sell beer on the beach when the vacation and travel industry shuts down. Don’t promote new menu items when household incomes have substantially decreased. Instead, use your marketing dollars to show how your company is contributing to solutions to ease people’s experiences in a scary time.
- Be Honest and Authentic – Simply attaching “We are in this together” to marketing messages without explaining the company’s evolution given this time sounds forced and inauthentic. If you run an eCommerce shop, let customers know what you are doing in the wake of decreased customer confidence to enhance the customer’s relationship or peace of mind. If you place a statement regarding shipping delays, also provide proactive messaging or enhance your content marketing strategy to provide complementary resources while your customer waits for their tangible purchase.
- Be Channel Appropriate – This applies to any time, not just during a crisis. It simply will not due to blast the same messaging across all channels. Understand the purpose of the platform and the needs of the customers that visit. LinkedIn is great for professional resources during this time of lost jobs. Youtube is an option for How-to videos and appropriate for best practices or even suggested alternate use of your product. Twitter is great for collecting and returning succinct and on-time feedback from and to your customers.
What are some other social media strategies smaller, “mom and pop” organizations can implement especially with smaller marketing budgets?
What are some examples of innovative and out-the-boxes strategies companies have used that still align with their company culture? What are some examples of companies that completely missed the mark and made you scratch your head with their messaging?
- Adomaite, L., & Tymulis, D. (2020, August). Here’s A Recap Of 2020 So Far And It’s Painful To Read. Retrieved from https://www.boredpanda.com/2020-year-recap/
- Bartash, J. (2020, August 07). The U.S. has only regained 42% of the 22 million jobs lost in the pandemic. Here’s where they are. Retrieved from https://www.marketwatch.com/story/restaurants-and-retailers-have-regained-the-most-jobs-since-the-coronavirus-crisis-but-theres-a-catch-2020-08-07
- Garrant, L. (2020, April 9). 8 Ways Businesses Can Use Social Media During a Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.elevation10k.com/blog/8-social-media-tips-for-businesses-during-crisis/