First, now is not the time to panic and shut down all efforts completely. Companies shouldn’t pretend like the situation we’re in doesn’t exist and continue on with a “business as usual” attitude. The future is unknown and we don’t know when we’ll get our old normal back. However, there are plenty of online strategies that can be executed during this time when people aren’t in close proximity to each other.
The current situation is like this: one fraction of business entities is unable to do business at all, so they reduce or completely pause their activities in digital marketing, while some are experiencing increased demand and investing more money and assets accordingly. Since this heavily impacts online advertising, we decided to analyze how the situation reflects on the current prices of advertising.
If your business is currently active on social media, you may need to adjust your efforts. You probably already have social posts ready to roll out for the next month or two, but take a second look and consider altering the verbiage to fit with the times. Businesses that aren’t doing this look a little tone-deaf to what’s happening in the world. It is important when communicating with clients to consider tone of voice and be sensitive to what others may be feeling or experiencing right now.
Businesses and organizations don’t want their customers or clients to think they don’t know how to respond during a crisis. Many companies are using this time to reassure followers they are here to support them and ready to take the necessary precautions. On the flip side, customers are staying loyal to their favorite brands online right now and continually checking in. If you don’t have the means to update every single one of your platforms, make sure you’re at least pointing your followers to the platforms your are maintaining.
Corporate communications take the lead
As the outbreak grew in intensity and reach, many luxury and beauty companies, including LVMH, Kering and Estée Lauder, were swift in issuing messages of support and donations for medical supplies and prevention work. While publicising donations could backfire as a marketing ploy, these initiatives were mostly well-received. “You can’t be seen to ignore China at a time like this,” says Tim Payne, senior partner, head of Asia, Hong Kong, at public relations firm Brunswick. .
According to Oliver Mann, partner at communications consultancy Kekst CNC, internal comms are also key for crisis management, including keeping employees and customer service teams informed at all times. While CEOs and companies might be tempted to avoid communicating risks, being clear about the challenges the business is facing with employees, stakeholders and consumers makes difficult but necessary decisions, including lay-offs, more understandable.
“As long as you are clear about the parameters you are facing then people can be very understanding,” says Payne. “If you are cavalier about it until the last minute, there is a real chance of backlash.”
Investing in community building and adapting to new needs
The outbreak of Covid-19 has accelerated trends that were already developing fast in China, including investments in e-commerce, gamification and live streaming. According to consulting firm Boston Consulting Group, L’Oréal pulled offline advertising in February and reinvested it online. After Shanghai-based cosmetics brand Forest Cabin temporarily shut around half of its 337 stores in China, it used live streaming to engage with consumers. According to Alizila, Alibaba Group’s news hub, after initially dropping 90 per cent, the brand’s sales went up 45 per cent year on year.
Brands also may redistribute their investment in key opinion leaders and influencer marketing to focus more on key opinion consumers and retention marketing. As highly engaged, everyday customers, KOCs have the advantage of appearing more trustworthy and relatable than KOLs, while requiring less spending from brands.
“A KOC is a brand advocate that’s leveraged online for word of mouth, multi-level marketing and user-generated content initiatives, which increase the customer’s lifetime value beyond purchases,” says Parklu’s Whaley. “KOC are the cornerstone of brand communities.”
According to Whaley, as brands focus less on brand awareness and sales campaigns during the outbreak, community building activities are a safe way to interact with consumers and remain front of mind. “When they start spending again they are going to spend with you,” he says.
Similarly, brands also have the opportunity to use their campaigns to directly address the outbreak and to show their support. According to Tulloch, local beauty brands have been particularly aware of consumer concerns, giving suggestions about how to use products to remedy skin issues caused by the prolonged wearing of face masks and highlighting antibacterial benefits. It’s an effective strategy that Chinese consumers have responded to.
Yanxuan, the marketplace owned by internet technology company NetEase, repurposed a number of outdoor advertising billboards it had purchased to advertise a promotion in Hangzhou to tell consumers to stay home and wait for spring. The ad reads: “Don’t look at this ad anymore. This was originally our promotional advertisement from 2.23-2.29, but it has been temporarily replaced. Although everything is on the right track, we still recommend that you don’t gather in public places and don’t stop for too long in front of this ad. Stay home, take care and wait for spring.”
According to Design Rush , the ad struck between engaging and moving while still being light-hearted. “It has been talked about a lot and quite positively,” says Tulloch. “Chinese consumers tend to be quite resilient, so they try to look at things in a light-hearted way most of the time.”