CRISIS MARKETING DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC AND BEYOND

Isn’t the Internet is the only place that is not quarantined for quarantined consumers?

Many brands are no strangers to crisis management and marketing, but the global scale and continued uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic is a first for all companies. The second wave that India is facing right now- is once again keeping customers away from stores and factory closures are resulting in businesses going out of stock. There has also been the unforeseen disappearance of all channels about offline events and conferences, along with the increasing barriers on face-to-face business, which pose a sizable challenge for marketers today.


The key for brands to ride this public health crisis wave is by being nimble. Crisis marketing helps focus on effectively managing a crisis while reframing the brand’s marketing strategy to make it more relevant with the changing times. Crisis marketing is based on honesty, integrity, and being a good corporate citizen.


With more people on their phones engaging with brands online, digital is the way to go with a strong emphasis on e-commerce, technology-driven solutions. However, companies have to be careful to avoid exploiting the scenario while contributing to the community in a meaningful way. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed marketing as we know. Brands need to be sensitive to what’s going on in people’s lives along with being flexible to keep up with the swift changes.


How brands react to this crisis today is going to shape brand loyalty and consumer perceptions for the future.


KEY INSIGHTS ON CUSTOMER BEHAVIOUR DURING COVID-19


  1. Customers spend the majority of their time on social media platforms- Instagram and Youtube being the most popular followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter.

  2. 79% want to hear from brands during this period, with creative social ads related to the pandemic being seen majorly by them rather than direct selling ads.

  3. Customers' top priority is safety and reliability and support brands that show strong CSR.

  4. The majority of their purchases are made online via company websites and e-commerce platforms.


Seeing the change in customer behavior the following are the most typical crisis marketing practices which have been adopted during the Coronavirus pandemic and which can be leveraged by various brands


1. Stay home creative ads and social campaigns

From logo updates to creative ads and posters on COVID-19 and social distancing, commercial brands and NGOs have declared their social consciousness by promoting self-isolation and the stay home mode. Such crisis marketing is a great ad and recognition booster. Brands should resonate with the current situation, get creative and avoid practices that have already become clichés.





2. Leveraging email marketing

Email marketing plays a very important role in crisis marketing. Alert emails should be sent to the customers from time to time regarding the safety procedures followed, store closure, working hours, and return policy changes. Customers should be kept informed of the changes at all times regarding slower shipping times, product availability, and pricing, along with important business updates and plans.





3. Social campaigns

Empathy and support are essential for marketing plans today. People will remember brands for their acts of good in a time of crisis. This could take the form of donating to food banks, providing free products for medical personnel, supporting local communities, frontline workers, charitable collaborations, and volunteering. The community helps such brands in return by spreading the word and engaging more with the brand.





4. Increase digital content efforts and spread awareness

Online marketing is booming and as the mix of actual media platforms used by consumers changes quickly, marketers have to modify their media mix. The use of multichannel communication to engage with consumers via email, SMS, website, social media, or in-app push notification, helps ensure a better response to their concerns, queries, and complaints.




5. Leveraging the power of e-commerce

E-commerce is growing rapidly now, with all brands pushing their products on eCommerce portals like amazon and Flipkart. E-commerce is going to pick up much quicker when compared to offline selling. The COVID-19 pandemic now positions e-commerce as a norm for every business. Companies should focus on investing in content warehousing, building communities, and strong SEO for the e-commerce domains.




6. Free access to paid content

Giving free access to membership or premium content was one of the first tactics most brands employed at the very beginning of the new pandemic marketing. (EG- Harvard University launched a free course and Apple TV Plus opened free access to its original television series.) Apart from actually helping people, this strategy should be leveraged by brands as it helps in contributing to brand recognition; keeps people engaged; generates publicity and media coverage; works as a free trial period, and helps spread word of mouth publicity.




7. Promote feel-good news

While everyone is struggling to fight stress and anxiety, brands should strive to clear confusion caused by inaccurate myths and rumors across the internet by keeping customers up to date with positive environmental statistics; recovery statistics, and good deeds undertaken by them.




8. Leveraging entertainment and technologically driven solutions

An effective strategy to keep customers on their toes and keep them engaging with the brand is by leveraging entertainment. It could be in the form of creative activities on social media; challenges; user-generated content; online events and webinars of all kinds; free entertaining resources and live streaming. Engagement platforms such as Zoom and Google have picked up in popularity for both internal and external strategic business discussions. They can be used to collaborate with content creators and key opinion leaders to spread awareness about the brand.





Predicted Future shifts in marketing approaches and investments


  • Investments must be directed towards marketing tactics that drive online sales. With more people on their phones looking for engaging content to keep them busy, social media will become a daily routine leading to a huge increase in digital ad spend as customers now will choose to shop online versus leaving the house.


  • Shifting budgets to promote at-home and delivery-based options, with an increased focus on pushing sales through e-commerce portals.


  • Fine-tuning media allocations by changes in media supply and demand. Marketers will have to closely manage certain spending areas such as digital, with refreshed ROIs on new cost levels.


  • Marketers will have to leverage trends, social sentiment and find relevant keywords to make the most of their marketing actions.


CONCLUSION


Crisis marketing is of utmost importance during this period as it helps businesses in reframing their brand’s marketing strategy to make it more relevant. Personas, messaging and even product strategies may need to significantly evolve for the realities of the post-COVID-19 world. Regardless of how long the crisis lasts, COVID-19 will forever change the consumer landscape.



Author: Jennifer Jagose