When the pandemic began nearly two years ago, the ways that brands communicated with their audiences were turned upside down. Almost overnight, public health became the one and only priority. Indeed, at the onset of COVID, just about any marketing at all seemed out of place. And as the pandemic wore on, marketing remained turbulent. Marketing professionals had to master online events, and had to adapt their messaging to consumers’ shifting needs and anxieties.
After almost 24 months, brands are starting to achieve a little bit more control — or are at least getting used to “brandemic marketing.” But the art of marketing isn’t returning to the 2019 status quo anytime soon. As 2021 winds down and 2022 approaches, it’s crucial for your marketing to meet audiences where they are at this moment in time. Here are three ways to do that.
Digital channels continue to rule. At the start of the pandemic, digital channels were the only way to reach an audience. Conventions, festivals, and even small client meetings were off limits. Today, in-person events are beginning to regain momentum. But many people continue to work from home, and some — especially older populations with health concerns — aren’t out and about in the community like they once were. In other words: Digital channels are still the best way to reach your audience. Indeed, more than half of Americans say the internet is essential to their everyday life due to the pandemic, according to Pew Research. As you craft your 2022 marketing strategy, prioritize how you’ll leverage your email list, your Zoom events, and other digital channels. This is especially important because over the past two years, consumers have come to expect flawless online experiences. Even if the pandemic ended tomorrow, that expectation of flawless online engagement would remain.
Be optimistic, but not too optimistic. 2020 was one of the most difficult years in memory. Public health risks, coupled with layoffs and economic apprehension, left consumers feeling grim. Fortunately, with vaccination rates rising and the world opening back up, a sense of optimism is on the rise. “Amidst the Delta variant, consumer optimism and spending have remained strong,” reports McKinsey & Company. Still, anxiety remains. “Consumers are cautious and embrace the homebody economy,” McKinsey & Company continues, noting that more than half of consumers still haven’t “reverted to normal behaviors outside their home.” Your marketing should reflect these attitudes: Be optimistic, but not jubilant. And if you can accommodate consumers’ “homebody” habits, do so. That might entail more online seminars, creative direct mail pieces, or marketing specific products that can be used at home, like DIY kits.
Lean into your values. The pandemic put things in perspective for consumers, with many people choosing products not just for price and performance, but also values. “Consumers are becoming more aware and purpose-oriented, and the companies that follow suit will be positioned best for continued growth,” explains Ernst & Young (EY). Indeed, recent EY research found that well over half — 66% — of U.S. consumers “agree that brands must behave ethically and in line with community expectations.” In your marketing for the rest of 2021 and beyond, ensure you’re putting your organization’s values front and center. Perhaps that means detailing how your restaurant donates food to the local community, or explaining how your fitness center offers free sports classes for local youth.
As we continue to adapt to the pandemic, it’s important not to make a blind return to old marketing tactics. Audiences are still navigating what they are and aren’t comfortable with — and your marketing needs to meet them where they are in order to be successful.