The events of 2020 have resulted in an unprecedented shake-up of businesses in nearly ever industry and marketing organizations are at the forefront of needed change. Here are some key ways marketing has responded to the crisis and found ways to connect with customers.
1. Convey safety and security. The news is a constant cacophony of grim tidings. It’s like watching the trailer for that “Contagion” movie on a loop. To address this, Hilton Hotels partnered with Lysol and the Mayo Clinic for its CleanStay program that includes contactless mobile check in and rooms adhering to certified clean protocols. RVs hit record sales with the appeal that you can travel and avoid hotels altogether by living in your own mobile self-contained space. Anything your business can do to allay fears and demonstrate that you have prioritized customer health and safety is key. If your message shows how you can help people feel “normal” for a while, it has a good chance of grabbing their attention.
2. Double down on digital. While tens of thousands of restaurants have closed, Chipotle went all-in on mobile marketing to promote curbside pickup and delivery. CMO Chris Brandt said the restaurant chain’s strategy “poured the gas” onto digital and tripled third quarter sales by building a hundred drive-through “Chipotlane’s” and engaging with millennial/Gen Z customers via TikTok. Lowe’s dropped nearly half of their marketing budget on digital from personalized messaging to their community-building “Home is what unites us” NFL tie-in campaign. “Marketing brings this very unique perspective of understanding the intersection of business, consumer psychology and culture,” Lowe’s CMO Marisa Thalberg told Marketing Dive. “Very few roles do that.”
3. Offer a change. According to a McKinsey study, these days 75% of Americans are open to swapping brands. If you are a well-known established name, you can build on this opportunity and bring customers back with a value proposition of familiarity and dependability. If you are a smaller company it is a great time to get creative and share what you have to offer since customers are open to hearing about it. As Aer Lingus demonstrates, the key is to serve instead of sell. Rather than touting airfare deals, they offered a heartfelt video invitation: “When you’re ready to fly again, we’re here.” People are receptive to a genuine outreach that conveys confidence and instills trust.
4. Re-work existing products and services. Hilton realized that while there is a reduced demand for rooms due to decreased travel, there is an increased interest in remote work options. The hotel brand responded by creating “Workspaces by Hilton” offering daily rates for rooms that can be used as offices. The appeal is a distraction-free clean, private space with room service amenities including lunch and happy hour beverage options. Think about how you can leverage your existing offerings by pivoting to meet a current need.
5. “Direct to Consumer” is taking off. Nike began its DTC approach in 2017 and COVID-19 has accelerated it. “The key to expanding our competitive edge continues to be our total commitment to the consumer through the consumer-direct offense,” Nike CEO Mark Parker said on a recent call with investors. Brands like HelloFresh, Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker have ramped up service to people staying home and boxes are piling up on doorsteps. Now might be the time to explore how DTC can work for your business.
6. Listening matters. After nine months of talking to the family Labradoodle, people may appreciate some additional interaction. That’s why engagement and feedback—from old school live representatives to AI-powered chat technology—is more important than ever. According to a study by Siegel+Gale, the global brand experience firm, listening is vital especially since customer needs and experiences vary depending on the pandemic status in their region. “We leveraged new digital and market listening capabilities to measure and assess real-time consumer sentiment,” says Hubertus Devroye, Global Marketing Director for DOW. “We have seen an acceleration of people asking Marketing to anticipate where things are going. The power is in combining different data sources and translating these into actionable insights.”
7. Renewed emphasis on “purpose.” Customers are looking for products and services that align with their values and organizations want to believe they can be part of the solution, whether they are making beverages or medical supplies. Coca-Cola’s new version of their popular “share a coke” campaign recognizes “everyday heroes”—from caregivers and teachers to donors and nurses—with personalized bottles and shareable content. And Pfizer is working to protect these heroes through a vaccine. “We feel proud that we have this responsibility to try to help,” says Deborah Scarano, VP Global Marketing of Pfizer in the Siegel+Gale study. “There is a deeper sense of purpose, and all the reasons we came to work are only heightened now.”
The path forward…
Will elbow-touching permanently replace shaking hands? Probably not. Is contactless purchasing here to stay? You bet. Will we have live events again? Sure, but with a hybrid streaming approach. While there is no crystal ball with the answers, it’s clear that marketing can help lead the way.
What marketing lessons have you learned?