As businesses and nonprofits around the world continue to adapt their operational and marketing strategies in response to COVID-19, it’s become evident that we are living in two marketing worlds. One world is built around a nimble marketing strategy, smart modifications and adjusted goals. The other, puts messaging in front of consumers that isn’t entirely relevant to life today, depicting large social gatherings, alluring vacation destinations and brand values that don’t resonate in the current environment, to name a few.
Marketing one’s products and services during COVID-19 comes with a unique set of challenges. People are spending more time on social media and apps – some apps noted 40% usage increases by late March – and yet their attention spans are more fragmented. Between Zoom-ing for professional and social purposes to livestreaming entertainment to homeschooling children – the notion of focus looks different these days. Social distancing guidelines are impacting everything from time with friends and family to shopping habits. And, we can’t overlook concerns about the well-being of society and health of the local and global economies.
While the circumstances feel heavy at times, it isn’t all doom and gloom. The hard-hit hospitality industry is banding together to feed essential healthcare workers and sell pantry products that are out-of-stock at many grocery stores. Essential businesses are hiring, offering work to both the recently and long-term unemployed. And, many foundations are rallying on behalf of nonprofits with emergency funds to support their ongoing response to COVID-19.
For the businesses and nonprofits operating outside of health and human services during these challenging times, crafting a poignant message and packaging it with eye-catching visuals is key. It doesn’t matter how well-written your email is if nobody opens it. And, your digital ads may be stunning, but without the right clicks, they’re meaningless.
If your business is executing paid marketing activities during this time, ask yourself: Is it relevant? Is it meaningful? Is it appropriate given the current climate? While the cost of social advertising has trended downward during the pandemic, it is important to note that engagement with this content has followed a similar trend. And, for organizations deploying direct mail, note that deliveries are taking longer and that some view mail as a potential transmitter of COVID-19.
While the challenges of marketing during a pandemic may make one question if going silent is the best option, I’m here to say that isn’t the case. Now is the time to nurture your existing relationships and cultivate new relationships with the right audiences. While your organization may have shifted its primary focus during COVID-19, the heart of your mission and founding principles haven’t changed. Hence, there is a target audience that you defined who values this scope of intended impact. Much like marketing during typical times, getting the right message to the right audience(s) is paramount.
As businesses and nonprofits adapt their marketing strategies to fit the current climate, remaining up-to-speed on current events and understanding what consumers value during these times is paramount to success. Messaging that comes across as “tone deaf” can not only erode brand equity but provide fodder for negative social media banter. And, as the world manages a real health crisis, nobody needs to manage a social media crisis that was truly avoidable. While focusing on what we once knew as normal may feel like a gesture to provide optimism, it is critical to remember that during these unprecedented times, the way people focus, process information and engage with their peers is anything but typical – and your marketing needs to be sensitive to that.