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  • Writer's pictureNina Franck

Be kind and keep talking

Updated: Apr 10, 2020

We are seeing great examples of brands acting in a caring way during the crisis. Pret a Manger, for example, is handing out hot drinks for free and 50% off everything else for NHS staff. There are also collaborations amongst companies that usually don’t have any relationship or crossover, for example McDonald's is sending their staff to Aldi to help stock up the shelves quick enough again to ensure everyone has access to the essentials such as food and hygiene products. Also, InterContinental Hotels Group offer 300 hotel rooms for rough sleepers to isolate. Free NOW and Gett are offering to take rough sleepers to these hotels. And Guinness Ireland is donating funds to support Irish bar staff and the elderly. 

All these actions as well as the latest Kantar research in the UK on what consumers expect from brands during the crisis inspired me to think about how brands can and should continue communicating with their consumers or clients. 

A lot of (e-)commerce brands are interestingly favoring loyal existing customers, which seems to go against the theory of speaking to prospects in order to grow. For example Riverford has seen unprecedented rise in demand which couldn't be met simply by not having enough staff to help pack the boxes. They had to stop new sign ups and even returning consumers couldn’t place their orders unless you had a recurring order of their core-product, such as the veg boxes. Within a week, they solved it by offering a leaner product offering, focusing only on their core offering of veg boxes and organic meat (so only perishable and livestock based products). Staples, juices, beer, wine etc. have been taken off for now to allow caring for their consumers with fresh seasonal produce. 

Given that the crisis is a short term crisis (hopefully), talking to your existing customers who feel supported will vouch for you during and remember you positively after the crisis. It will help build up the brand in the long term. Once the crisis is over you can continue to put effort into increasing your consumer base and grow your business.  Some sectors and brands such as hospitality, sports/events and out-of-home entertainment (cinema, fun parks, etc.) are facing hard times and I do hope that the governments’ support will help them to get through this crisis, and not every business can substitute with online offerings. Maybe a silver lining is, according to Kantar’s research (March 2020), in the UK these places are the first ones consumers are planning to spend their time with, to treat themselves after a long abstinence. But the real damage to these sectors will remain uncertain and I am not trying to downplay the effect on the economy. 

It is about what you say that you whether or not you will be remembered positively once the lock-down stops and life gets back to the new normal. If you go completely mute consumers will not remember that you went silent during and because of the crisis, and more effort will be needed to build the brand back up in consumers’ minds.  Keep talking to your customers in a sensitive way to ensure resilience. Differentiate yourself and be meaningful and continue strong after the crisis. If you stop completely it is hard to pick this up again afterwards and more effort and resources will be required to get back to brand health and continued growth. According to Kantar research (March 2020) only 2% of the UK population expect brands to stop advertising during this crisis. What they do expect is protecting the supply chain and supporting the government or community (like the examples mentioned at the top). However, be mindful of what you say and when you say it, and revisit your channel mix and adapt accordingly. Do not be exploitative, consider your offerings, be helpful during these times and be reassuring with your language. Show them that you are there and that you are doing the right thing to support them during the crisis.  Pulling everything brings a cut to your investment that is media and a short term crisis shall not determine long-term strategies. Be agile in a crisis but don't lose sight of the long-term goal. 

Obviously channels such as cinema and OOH are becoming irrelevant during this crisis unfortunately. However, due to lock-downs, channels such as podcast/streaming music, VOD, TV, social media, newspapers, magazines and radio/podcasts have seen an increase in usage. With an increase of usage messages become more and clutter increases, which makes it hard to communicate and cut through. So, looking at each channel carefully during these times is even more crucial to allow with limited resources a meaningful communication. 

Be curious about new digital ways to connect with your consumers, which can become not just relevant during the crisis but will inform your mid- and long-term strategy on how to connect differently and in more relevant ways with your consumers or clients. 

Get in touch for a free chat to see how I can help you adapt your media planning or current campaign.

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