HOW CAN BRANDS EMERGE FROM LOCKDOWN AHEAD OF THE CURVE?
For most of the past month client conversations have been panicked, confused, frustrated, annoyed, perplexed. And rightly so. We have all been coming to terms with this surreal and shocking place we find ourselves in, scrambling to figure out what to do. Trying to focus on the positive and resisting the temptation to be too reactive.
The first literation’s of “We must say something” have eased and most brands have moved onto something that resembles “We are here for you” and in most cases consumers accepted them as sincere and considered, although some have been clumsy to say the least.
Consumers have been quick to jump on those brands that have been seen to attempt to profiteer and place them in the hall of shame. At the same time many CEOs have place their size 12s into the consumer mindset through crass public statements, from Mike Ashley, Tim Martin and Richard Branson, affecting share price and public sentiment. Where they have backtracked, tripped again and tried to re-emerge the damage has remained.
Brands like Guinness quickly read the sentiment and pushed out creative that maintained the brands core values but importantly recognised the feeling of the nation, against the veneer of the brands expressing their concern for you and your family.
Brands are there for you, your family and friends now in these troubled times but what’s next? What should brands be doing next?
Plan for the end of lockdown now!
How do brands emerge from this ahead of the curve? Brand strategy, insight, thinking and the best campaigns rarely come from been reactive. By insight we mean the discerning and penetrating facts that when combined with the insights drawn from a vast variety of sources that inspires ideas and action – the what next!
The risk is todays insight can be vastly misleading so brands need to be careful where it comes from and how they apply it, the public sentiment felt today could change quickly once society returns to the ‘new’ normal. Brands and consumer lifestyles could quickly revert to old habits (see earlier blog on the power to change habits).
Many consumers will revert, which is where we can use this time to start work on unlocking the value of our data and digital assets. Use this time to review our websites (a digital audit is a good place to start) or analyse customer data and look at ways we can enrich it, overlaying outside data sources to gain real insight into the habits and trends of our customers.
For example, we are looking at combining a client’s disparate databases into a single customer view and enriching with additional household data and using machine learning we can drive completely new and proactive campaigns through direct mail and digital channels unlocking previously unknown sales opportunities. Predicting when a customer is most likely to invest in a replacement product and offering relevant incentives.
We can start working on the strategy and campaigns that will help our brands and businesses emerge from these surreal and dark times. Combining insights – about people, the market, future business models, technology and society, can inspire and create new products, brands and campaigns.
Its looking more like the economy and society will unlock gradually as different sectors awaken from lockdown mentality, but will it be into a depression, recession, rebound or something completely different (likely a part of them all, depending on your sector)
Economists are desperately trying to predict the shape of the emergence and will continue to contradict themselves as more data becomes available on the global economy. As marketeers we just need to think about a point in time when consumers will begin to see normal life return and decide how to engage with them at that point. In 1976, M. F. Weiner wrote an article in the journal Medical Economics entitled “Don’t Waste a Crisis — Your Patient’s or Your Own.” Weiner meant by this that a medical crisis can be used to improve aspects of personality, mental health, or lifestyle.
Research consistently demonstrates that during and after a depression, pandemic or recession those brands that have invested in advertising and brand communications throughout the periods of uncertainty are those which come out stronger, consumers are still spending, they might be looking for better deals or brands that recognise new habits. Consumers can quickly forget the brands that stop advertising in sectors where other brands are still spending (marketing in a pandemic).
It’s not about the crisis, it’s about harnessing those aspects of the consumers life that has changed; the habits, family, work, friends. To realise your brand values and maybe a few more things, that your brand is still there and investing in its customers and the wider market.
Using the information, we have realised from our audits and reviews we can make our communications more relevant than simply promoting a discount, loyalty bonus or some other generic message. We can personalise and make our touchpoints relevant and engaging, our insight can deliver messages that reflect how the consumer has changed or not.
Many clients are experiencing an opportunity to review the ‘we’ve always done them’ lines in budgets – events, exhibitions, hospitality, open days, and channel them into something different or diverting those savings into the audits and data strategy pieces that have always eluded them as they chase the day to day.
Brands can remain on the fence, delivering predictable ‘we are here for you’ messages and wait for the competitor to break ranks and show something different or they can use the opportunity to start something new themselves. If the right insight has been identified, then brands should have nothing to fear.
Those brands that emerge the strongest will be those that have moved with surety and purpose. Start thinking and reviewing today before your back chasing the day to day.