Advertising During COVID-19: How To Remain Agile In A Crisis
It’s a confusing time at the moment, with some businesses struggling for cash flow and others with increased workloads. The COVID-19 crisis has affected us all in many ways, and for us digital marketers, we are in a unique position where the business we work for, or the clients we help are going to sit in one of two camps; the budget decreasers or the demand increasers.
With different needs needing to be met we must be more agile than ever, and understand how to perform at our best during this unfortunate time. It is our job to understand and address individuals' problems, and solve it for them on a daily basis. Right now that mission has never been more important, for consumers, for our clients and for the businesses we work for.
Our team has put together some helpful tips, so that you can navigate through this crisis with confidence and compassion.
Don’t Be Predatory
While digital platforms mitigate predatory targeting with policies, it is important to lead with your moral compass. While your end goal is to deliver sales/leads, you have to be careful about brand image.
Don’t use Covid-19 as a sales tool, or an opportunistic window to prey on the vulnerable. If your product or service is experiencing increased demand then lean in, but do not centre the messaging around emotional appeal. An example of a brand misstep is a mask company that produces ‘fashionable’ masks that was advertising online with messaging directly addressing how everyone needs masks right now and to purchase from them. While there is an increase in demand for masks and that is their product, and therefore they were responding aptly, they did not seem to factor in that ‘fashion’ is not the priority right now, nor is purchasing a mask valued at +$100.
This appeared tone deaf and predatory, and caused negative discussion online. If it were a regular mask company just advertising their benefits it would have been okay, as consumers are aware of the demand. Be unbiased when analysing what is appropriate for your brand.
With everyone isolated in their houses and working from home, it is natural that there has been an increase in search activity online on many keywords. Due to the panic, and many businesses experiencing cash flow issues, the knee-jerk response is often to reduce marketing spend.
You may be thinking, “How classic, a marketer is telling me to spend more money on marketing…”, and sure, simplistically that is a valid read of the situation. However, you have to spend money to make money. During this crisis, where people have much more pressing things to worry about, they aren’t really worried about which pasta to buy, just that it is available and on the shelf. Without a healthy budget, you’re not on the shelf, and people aren’t going to find you.
Set money aside to keep up your advertising and be seen, because any competitor that is present in this time of need is gaining valuable market share, and making sales that could be helping improve your cash flow. This is advice for your budget decreasers, and next steps for your demand increasers.
Boost Brand Awareness
Similar to the previous suggestion, we know that there are more people at home and online. This means more people exploring websites, on social platforms, and more people researching. Some people have lost their job and are spending more time at home, and others are finishing work on Friday and spending their leisure time researching that car they’ve been thinking about because they can’t leave the house.
It’s easy to not prioritise brand awareness in favor of lead focussed platforms, but even outside of a crisis, it’s silly to not recognise that people are at different stages of the buying cycle. Some people simply want to know what is available for when they are ready. Now with more people researching, and more room to reach even more people, take the opportunity to let them know you exist. Whether they are in a position to purchase now or not doesn’t matter, because you are on their radar for later. If your client is a budget decreaser, this might be the right strategy for their advertising.
Only Contribute If You Add Value
A common piece of advice we receive as kids from our mothers is, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!”.
We’re here to tell you to listen to your mum. Yes, there are more people online, and yes there is an opportunity to weigh in on the crisis and be an active participant in the discussion. In many cases this is beneficial. Hygiene brands, food delivery, essential services and many others have a platform to promote their product in a helpful way. They are in a position to raise their voice and contribute helpful information, provide comfort and assist consumers, because there is an inherent need for their offering right now.
It is your responsibility to self-analyse and understand if your company provides value in this time, or if it is taking up space. Will joining the conversation help or hinder your company and consumers?
Just because there is a conversation doesn’t mean you need to be a part of it.
How Can You Help
While it is important not to be too opportunistic if it isn’t your company’s place to be, it is a great time to consider if your brand can help.
Many brands have charitable efforts tied into the ethos of their business and it is inherent to their mission. This is where the tide has been moving for a long time, even outside of this crisis. If your business does have the ability to help, then it is possible that consumers are going to expect you to.
We have seen companies promote discounts, release free content, or even offer free services. This has happened on a general public level, and it has also been focussed on at risk communities. While it may not be your time to contribute to the conversation, it might be a good time for you to contribute to helping a struggling world by showing generosity. Not only is it just a nice thing to do, but it also shows your brand has heart, and people will remember that when choosing between you and a competitor in future.
Be Prepared For Demand Shifts
If you are, or you are working with, a company that fits into the ‘demand increasers’ camp, then you are likely already feeling it. There is little you can do to prepare now, but it can serve as a warning to new companies, or others who may experience a demand increase soon. There have been boosts in sales and leads beyond what some companies have experienced before, and this has then lead to them having to stop advertising, having an overwhelming level of work, or not having enough product to meet demand.
Be prepared. Consider if you expect there to be a potential increase, even if it is not an obvious connection to the crisis, and plan ahead. It is better to be over prepared than under prepared, because if the time does come not only will you be stressed, but the already stressed consumers may not be kind. Don’t forget, that purchase behaviour has changed mid-crisis, but you may also need to prepare for post-crisis.
Change Your Goals
If your business is struggling right now, search volume for your product/service has plummeted, or people are researching but not committing to a sale or booking, consider changing your goal.
For example, if you run a service-based company and due to social distancing or not being an essential service you are struggling to book jobs, then start booking jobs for later. We get so caught up in the immediacy of results that we forget it doesn’t always need to be about what it can do for you right now.
Start advertising reasons to think ahead, or reasons to get in touch and start the conversation. Promote a different part of your service, and start engaging in a different way, so when the restrictions are raised you already have a relationship. Think outside of the box... even if it feels like you’re isolated in one.
Create More Engaging Content
So money isn’t coming in at the rate it normally does, you’ve considered changing your paid marketing strategy, but no matter how you paint it it just isn’t going to work. Then it is time to consider what kind of marketing you can do that isn’t paid.
This is the perfect time to start engaging your audiences on socials and producing valuable content. We have seen that we’re consuming more video than ever before, and we are engaging online more due to being isolated at home. The demand for more engaging and interactive content has increased, so respond to it.
What organic content can you create that will keep people interested and engaged? Is there opportunity to run an organic competition? Could you create some educational videos? Could you create something funny that provides some relief and love for your brand? Could you be using Instagram Live or Facebook Live to engage directly with consumers?
If you work on building an engaged audience, you’ll have a loyal & highly-engaged group that are much easier to communicate with and convince to purchase.
Use Smart Bidding
When we talk about the importance of remaining agile due to the craziness caused by Covid-19 we also need to be aware that many of us might not have advertised during an event like this before. No matter what, you can make predictions, but you aren’t going to be able to be ahead of every shift in behaviour that occurs. Due to this, it might be a good idea to consider using smart bidding strategies.
As marketers, we love and are fuelled by data because it gets us better results. So it absolutely is within our power to respond once something is statistically significant. However, smart bidding will notice these shifts quicker, and can respond faster. According to Wordstream, there has been a decrease in searches during peak hours and an increase in early mornings and late nights; a change we never could have seen coming.
If you implement a smart bidding strategy it can take this into consideration for you and ensure you are remaining flexible and getting the best results.
More than anything, remember to be human.
While you work for a company and that company needs results, it’s also important to remember that it’s just a company built up of people. People who are all dealing with the same stress and the same pandemic. We’re all on this planet together, and communicating with compassion and empathy to your audience or target market right now is the best thing you can do. Brands who are already doing this, who are showing their human side and connecting on a personal level are reaping the rewards and receiving that same love in return.
This blog was written in a small living room in Brisbane, from the same chair I’ve been sitting in for 4 weeks. You’re likely reading this from your isolation chamber too, if you’re being socially responsible. I hope you are staying healthy, you are staying inside, and you are keeping your mind active and happy. I also hope that these tips from the Klyp team have helped offer some clarity in this stressful time, and have assisted you in creating a plan for success going forward.