21 April 2020
Brace yourself for the hyperbole because everything has changed. Fast.
Covid-19 has brought great disruption, but with it, the biggest ever drive of digital transformation. Forced into social isolation, our focus has shifted to our screens, where we seek connection, comfort and a sense of purpose in the online realm. We’re working at unprecedented speeds to adapt as we collectively attempt to establish a ‘new normal’.
And the new normal looks a lot like Zoom pub quizzes, Instagram Live workout classes and TikTok, who swiftly appointed us as the crisis hit. Isolation means boredom, and boredom means social media. Facebook has seen messaging increase 50% in the last month, while young blood TikTok experienced a 96% increase in app downloads in February alone. The social media surge represented in iPhone users’ Weekly Screen Time Reports is almost comical, prompting a host of memes calling for Siri to “read the room”.
As our needs as consumers evolve, brands have been forced to re-examine their marketing strategies. In the initial panic, businesses flooded emailed inboxes with detailed notes of reassurance. It was a nuisance. Consumed with our own panic, we didn’t care to hear from that one restaurant we stole wifi from that one time. This info overload has left us feeling overwhelmed, with one in ten UK consumers now boycotting brands because of how they’re communicating about Covid-19. As nearly every corporate pandemic message points out: these are unprecedented times. There’s a fine line that businesses need to tread, and right now everyone’s trying to pin down exactly where that line is.
“Crises tell the truth about a company,” says Doctor of Sociology, Ana Anjelic. “They expose organisational and operational strengths and weaknesses. They bring on business disruption, revenue drops, the pressure to reduce expenses and find new ways of making money”.
Not every business is failing the metaphorical polygraph test. Bold action now can set businesses up for success through the downturn and beyond. But in order to survive, brands must be willing to go beyond their original business model; our spending habits have changed, but we’re craving more inspiration, education and entertainment than ever before. What once was a value-add is now a brand’s lifeline.
These short-terms changes will have long-term impact, and businesses need to act fast and act smart. We’ve put together six golden rules of comms to help brands get it right.
Consumers appreciate authenticity and honesty about the current situation, but not all of your communications should be related to the crisis. Use your expertise to create valuable, on-brand content; the sense of normalcy will be welcomed.
For example, Ikea’s communications focused on the importance of home while Nike’s “Play Inside, Play for the World” messaging stays true to their core values without being patronising.
This is the golden era of creativity. Hone your brand’s agility by collaborating with new creative talent, adapting to new platforms and exploring new product opportunities.
With our client Don Papa, we’ve pivoted from studio-shot product images to beautifully illustrated cocktail recipes and cocktail-mixing animations. With Taco Bell, we’ve commissioned and curated a series of fan-made animations and illustrations for all social channels. We also helped them launched a partnership with self-shooting Creators on TikTok, inviting fans to take part in the #Engageburittomode challenge.
In this stretch of uncertain sales projections, as consumers are re-evaluating their relationship with mindless consumption, create strategies that celebrate connection, education and relaxation.
Brands are using social media to encourage the creation of achievable goals that will create a sense of purpose. Disney is promoting its free website Disney Magic Moments, which compiles everything from drawing tutorials to virtual rides, while Luxury brand Bottega Veneta has launched a virtual residency described as a “theatre of joyous distraction”.
With our client MelodyVR, we’ve used Instagram to launch new artists’ live performances direct to their fans at home. We’ve also collaborated with Teo van den Broeke, Style Director of GQ, to launch Isolation Essentials, an episodic IGTV series that fills the celebrity chat show void.
Now is the time to go beyond your role as a business. Think about your purpose and the benefits you can offer on a societal scale. Look to meaningful discounts and offers that resonate with local communities and at-risk groups, and speak to people’s current needs.
Dozens of beauty and alcohol brands—including our client, Salcombe Gin—are designated factory facilities to hand sanitiser production. With Salcombe Gin, we also created a crowd-sourced Instagram Live gin distillation class to produce the Nightingale Gin, with all proceeds going to the NHS.
Take advantage of the upsurge in social media consumption by pivoting your media investment from out-of-home media to in-home media. Successful brands are activating social media strategies that encourage positive rituals and at-home activities, ensuring their messaging is sensitive to the pressure consumers are under.
With his three-Michelin-star restaurant is closed, chef Massimo Bottura has launched “Kitchen Quarantine”, live stream cookery classes on IGTV where he captures the unique way that cooking creates mental self-care and physical sustenance. For those who prefer £1 tacos, we created an Instagram Stories colouring competition using a brand new Instagram feature for our client, Taco Bell.
Start playing offence as well as defence. Paradoxically, recessionary periods are fertile periods to invest in growing market share. Right now, marketing teams are making tactical moves that could set their brands up for the next decade.
Smart brands are using this time to show off their personality. Dairy disruptors Oatly, for example, have created the ‘Department of Distraction Services’; a website housing playful, interactive content specifically created to entertain bored families during lockdown.
We’re all asking a lot of questions right now. We think we have answers to at least a few of them. If your business requires extra support in social content marketing to navigate the impact of Covid-19, please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.