A crisis can either make or break a business. Today, a global health crisis like what we are facing can either paralyze an organization or force it to thrive.
Business owners understand that they can’t stay idle for so long. Organizations are now making tough decisions just to keep themselves alive.
Some companies are cutting back on their marketing efforts. In some instances, they are even laying off their entire marketing team. Some companies are also cutting back on its core business operations. In contrast, others are more agile in coming up with more interesting ways to engage their audience during these difficult times.
CEO and Executive Creative Director for InnoVision Marketing Group Ric Milti noted what business marketers should expect on how consumer buying attitude will unfold in the new COVID-19 environment:
The Fear and Quarantine Period
The first period started during the first few weeks of March 2020 and went on through the lift of the quarantine lockdown. This period brought about uncertainty and panic for consumers.
Adding relevant and compassionate marketing messaging can strengthen the brand and establish post-COVID-19 brand loyalty to consumers. Communicating at the right platforms with messages that emphasize the brand’s commitment to their stakeholders will go a long way.
Organizations need to offer relevant and truthful content across their digital platforms to show that they are a helpful and compassionate brand. Create relevant and informative content that is strategically curated to keep consumers updated. The tone of the messaging should neither be depressing nor apathetic. Brands should stay positive and optimistic amidst the crisis.
To move past the hurdles of this pandemic, companies need to market strategically and compassionately during this period. Those that do so will undoubtedly reap the rewards of their hard work once the crisis abates.
The Reprieve Period
This period begins once the lockdowns have been lifted, and people are slowly starting to transition back to normal activities. It is expected to last up to six months if there are no reported cases of COVID-19 resurgence.
Businesses that successfully gained the trust of their consumers during the quarantine will find themselves reaping the benefit of their marketing efforts. Companies need to demonstrate that their compassion is authentic.
They need to provide sincere and altruistic messaging during the reprieve period and show that the organization cares more about their consumers than the company’s bottom line. Thus, this is not the time to pay lip service to consumers.
The Back-to-Normalcy Period
As the world starts to adapt to the new normal, marketers need to shift away from heavy COVID-19-related messaging. Businesses will have resumed to a new and more agile operation.
Ensure that the organization is prepared to adapt to this period with a robust marketing plan that will play out strategically in a post-COVID-19 world. Remember that a good business continuity plan does not end after a crisis is over; it should continue until the organization has been successfully back on its feet.
A road map for post-COVID-19 recovery
As the crisis finally abates, organizations should expect a change in their consumer’s purchasing behavior.
Businesses need to understand that they should be agile enough to withstand the crisis and its aftermath. Expect changes both in the high and low ends of the market. Whether intentional or not, brands will also be shifting to digital channels.
Their products and services will be offered to a digital storefront. Thus, brands need to be market-savvy enough to fight the battle for new and existing consumers.
Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company noted that organizations need to craft an effective marketing approach that drives revenue at a scale that makes a difference. Effective organizations build a model around SHAPE which contains these five core elements:
· Start-up mindset
The start-up mindset is characterized by an organization’s agility. It biases action over research and testing over analysis. Companies that adapted to the global health crisis have successfully reallocated their marketing budget in a few days and launched an eCommerce business in a matter of weeks.
· Human at the core
As the global workforce shifted to remote work, companies also need to rethink their business operating model and work around how their people work best while at home. This can be done by enabling employees with new skills and the right tools to work remotely.
· Accelerate digital, tech, and analytics
Any forward-thinking organization knows that shifting to digital is a must at this point. Successful companies are enhancing and expanding their digital channels. They have also successfully used advanced analytics to combine new sources of data for their consumer insights.
· Purpose-driven customer playbook
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses need to reassess how consumers make their purchasing decisions. Companies need to recalibrate their buyer’s journey and understand new insights on customer experience in the post-COVID-19 world.
· Ecosystems to drive capability
Disruptions in supply chains and physical stores have forced organizations not just to adapt and survive, but also quickly to pivot by assessing new opportunities. Both short-term and long-term initiatives have enabled new partnerships and non-traditional collaborations between organizational stakeholders.
McKinsey and Company also noted five themes that will help organizations recover their business operations:
THEME 1: Building business operations resilience
Forward-thinking organizations understand the need to redesign their operations and supply chains to succeed in a post-COVID-19 world. This means they need to protect their business against broader and more disruptive black swan events.
Companies need to trace their global asset footprint and look for loopholes in their operations. The new normal that will shape the post-COVID-19 recovery efforts means that companies need to step up their supply chain risk management strategy. Organizations also need to find ways to increase their adoption of online and omnichannel delivery models.
THEME 2: Accelerating end-to-end digitization
Before the rapid spread COVID-19 virus, some organizations were already on the road to digital transformation. The crisis has only strengthened the belief that end-to-end digitization is a critical factor that helps organizations survive and thrive.
Thus, digital technologies are expected to be the core of an organization’s business operations in a post-COVID-19 world. It will enable businesses to meet the needs of their customers and improve the agility and responsiveness of their services.
THEME 3: Increasing expense transparency
The economic impact of COVID-19 is expected to outlive the pandemic itself. Companies are expected to bounce back to their new normal operations with a different budget structure. The allocation for the marketing budget alone needs to be made as quickly as possible.
Organizations may want to rethink the way they handle and execute their projects and campaigns. Leading organizations need to adopt sophisticated project management structures that strategically recalibrates capital planning and ROI predictions as the new changes in the post-COVID-19 environment emerge.
THEME 4: Driving the future of work
The way employees do their jobs has been fundamentally altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. With access to offices limited to essential workers, employees learned how to complete tasks remotely with the help of digital collaboration tools.
Thus, the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will be the catalyst for the changes in how work is done. In some cases, remote work may actually become the norm for many businesses. As organizations adjust to the changes in their environment, they also adapt their business operations accordingly.
THEME 5: Reimagining sustainable operations competitive advantage
Dramatic shifts in supply and demand, along with customer expectations in the post-COVID-19 environment, will create an opportunity for companies to make dramatic shifts in their business operations.
Organizations need to find ways to create lasting competitive advantage amidst the COVID-19 aftermath. By meeting environmental and social responsibility goals, companies can transform the way they develop their products and deliver them to their consumers. Companies need to leverage digital technologies to improve service delivery and introduce new and innovative products.
Post COVID-19 Marketing Strategies to Help Brands Thrive
STRATEGY 1: Start with customer empathy.
Once the crisis ends, the whole world needs to move forward from the harrowing events brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations need to follow suit by showing genuine empathy towards their consumers.
Marketers can help their organization by being the provider of consumer insights towards the brand. Companies can take the appropriate steps to promote consumer engagements that will unravel the shifting attitudes and behaviors of consumers in a post-COVID-19 world.
STRATEGY 2: Tell relevant, authentic stories and give back.
Some brands already have compelling and relevant campaigns that reflect the effects of the pandemic. It’s great to provide a creative narrative. However, marketers know that brands need to push the envelope even further at this point.
It’s time to give back and provide as much value to customers and communities. The goodwill the organization will get from their COVID-19 relief efforts will help drive long-term customer loyalty.
STRATEGY 3: Be agile for the new normal.
Some employers and marketers are holding the fort by not taking action at all. However, the assumption that everything will be back to normal in a few months may be a bit premature. No matter how long this crisis will last, COVID-19 is expected to leave lasting changes to the consumer landscape.
Companies cannot simply pick up where they left off and adhere to their old marketing playbook—strategies, brand personas, and messaging need to evolve to face the realities of the post-COVID-19 world.
STRATEGY 4: Rethink offerings.
Rapid changes in both consumer behavior and market dynamics are expected in the aftermath of a global health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. Brands need to carefully monitor their communication and messaging at all times during a crisis.
They need to be agile enough to pivot quickly and adapt to the changing circumstances. Organizations do not just need to understand the changing market conditions. They should also make their products relevant in the new normal landscape of a post-COVID-19 world.
STRATEGY 5: Solve pertinent issues.
Organizations need to anticipate a slow recovery during the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this is also an opportunity to reach out to consumers and initiate new and meaningful conversations.
Organizations need to communicate effectively and show how they are helping consumers face challenges. By providing tangible solutions that will help consumers navigate the post-COVID-19 environment, consumers will know that the brand’s compassion is more than just lip service. The brand needs to show that they really practice what they preach.
Best Practices from Brands Currently in the Lead
Poshmark’s Posh Stories
Social commerce marketplace Poshmark created Posh Stories, a new feature that shows users items from brands and closets they follow. Users can now create their own stories and share them as video clips or photos. These stories will be displayed on top of each other’s feeds. Each story will have a tag that will redirect them to purchase the item displayed.
Launching Posh Stories can help Poshmark differentiate itself from other reseller websites. Linking social media and eCommerce has started to become a popular marketing strategy lately. As social media selling grows more and more prevalent, these eCommerce features will help Poshmark reach new levels of engagement amidst the sales slump of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Russell Stover’s Virtual Hug
Chocolate making company Russell Stover is uniting their fans on TikTok to create the “world’s biggest virtual hug.” As social distancing has inevitably made virtual hug taboo nowadays, the virtual hug can be a viable alternative as the pandemic continues to spread. The chocolate maker posted on Instagram to promote the campaign by asking people to hug virtually.
UberEats’ Send a Cup
UberEats is helping friends and family send food to each other’s homes while social distancing with its new delivery feature. In response to the surge of food delivery during the pandemic, UberEats did not set a distance limit on the offering. To launch the campaign, UberEats partnered with Starbucks to let users send food and drinks to someone of their choice with free delivery. This #SendACup partnership can be beneficial to both companies as they can both retain loyal customers and incentivize repeat orders.
Coca-Cola’s uplifting message to the human race
Coca-cola is spreading hope and positivity with their video message to the human race. In honor of International Labor Day last May 1, Coca-cola released a two-minute short film entitled, “To the Human Race.” The video reminded their viewers that being optimistic can be more contagious than any virus. The video ends with a thank you message that thanks workers and frontliners around the world.
e.l.f Cosmetic’s #elfvanishingact TikTok challenge
e.l.f. Cosmetic’s newest TikTok challenge is focused on its Poreless Putty Primer. The brand created the #elfvanishingact challenge to encourage users to make videos and apply the product while they lip-sync to the tune of the “Vanishing Act” by singer M. Maggie. The song was made exclusively for the TikTok challenge.
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Lein, S. (2020). 5 Ways Brands Can Reinvent Their Digital Marketing Strategy. Entrepreneur. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/349969
Militi, R. (2020). How to Navigate the COVID-19 Marketing Environment. Target Marketing. Retrieved 14 May 2020, from https://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/navigating-covid-19-marketing-environment/
Rapid Revenue Recovery: A road map for post-COVID-19 growth. (2020). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/rapid-revenue-recovery-a-road-map-for-post-covid-19-growth?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=6a483f2b33854ed894a9099c225addde&hctky=11979874&hdpid=a3291c77-3f36-4969-b205-446f1d12913d
Reid, A. (2020). Best Practices for Marketing During and After COVID-19. Entrepreneur. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/349535
Jumpstarting resilient and reimagined operations. (2020). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved 13 May 2020, from https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/operations/our-insights/jump-starting-resilient-and-reimagined-operations?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hlkid=e11bf8052ba34238b8f6a7d0e3ddcaa6&hctky=11979874&hdpid=6b010a35-a39d-46bc-afa0-907d0ac65ae4