Despite our brains trying very hard to convince us of the contrary (such is the side-effect of our Groundhog Day-like lockdown) time continues to pass. With at least six weeks of shelter-in-place under our belts, we have entered into the season of late spring with Ramadan, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduation now upon us in the US.
Recently, I’ve spoken with friends in the media world, brands, and creators to get their thoughts on how COVID-19 will shape the way they reach audiences this year. Creative teams save some of their biggest ideas for this occasion. Cherished and polished adverts go live to win people’s hearts with emotion, togetherness, family, and a focus on the common good. But with budget cuts, production stalls, and the difficulties of collaborating remotely, many are concerned about how to meaningfully connect with audiences—and avoid sounding exactly the same.
Luckily, technology has been a lifeline throughout this pandemic, with social media, live streaming, and video calls taking the place of our typical in-person communications and gathering (because how else do you survive weeks of lockdown without Zoom happy hours or live stream concerts?). And for brands, who are at a loss for how to reach customers because their high-production value ad no longer feels relevant or their promotional event was canceled due to social distancing restrictions, technology is here to save them, too.
Social Media: Thinking Inside the Box
Community and family are big themes during these late spring holidays. And with everyone stuck at home and unable to gather in large groups, people are getting creative with how to use technology to come together. Already, many Muslims are relying heavily on tech to supplement communal prayers and celebrations. Colleges and high schools are sending invitations for virtual graduations. And never-before-seen ideas for Mother’s Day gifts are making their debuts.
Just like their audiences, brands can adapt their marketing strategies for a COVID-19 world with a little help from tech. Instead of pressing pause this season, brands can lean into tech to foster a sense of togetherness with their customers—especially on social media. For example, if a brand needs to cancel a sponsored event, like a pancake breakfast in honor of Mother’s Day, they could adapt that event for Facebook Live by teaching a how-to on making pancakes at home, host a viewing party for a popular cooking show on Twitch or share a brand recipe on Instagram and run a photo contest. With slight adaptations, brands can still easily connect with audiences at home and play a meaningful role in these new traditions.
Offer Help at Home
In a similar vein, celebrating while under any level of lockdown is challenging. Aside from not being able to see loved ones, many have lost their jobs, have fallen ill, or are juggling work at home instead of work and home. This makes advertising an especially sensitive endeavor.
Instead of focusing on the sale, the best way to remain top of mind in this climate is to provide genuine utility: understand where your customer is coming from and figure out how you can help—really help. Is it offering storytime on Google Hangouts so parents can find a quiet hour to work? Or targeting college grads on LinkedIn with a special discount? Or publishing the recipe to an iconic menu item? What can you give away to audiences who are struggling? Whatever it is, think of your customer’s needs and how you can meet them where they’re at with value. It’s no longer the time to share your point of view, but to act.
Do Good When It Matters Most
This is a time for brands to do good on a whole other scale. Not only is this a central part of the Ramadan celebrations, as good deeds done are believed to multiply during this time, but the world needs our help. From feeding our healthcare heroes to rectifying medical supply shortages, charitable support has never been more critical.
Brands can foster that spirit of togetherness on a global level by launching fundraising campaigns, donating to a preferred charity or raising awareness for special causes by engaging with audiences to share their stories from the frontlines. Also, try not to forget that, despite the global pandemic, other causes and needs haven’t gone away.
So, while many are unable to break fast together or bring flowers to Mom, technology can help shorten the distance between us and, when done with sensitivity and authenticity, help brands get closer to their audiences, too. Brands have an opportunity to go the proverbial extra mile, and stand out by offering real utility instead of just sharing their story. By turning attention to the customers’ needs, marketers have an opportunity to be of real value to customers---because what’s good for people is, ultimately, good for business.