As we move into the sixth week of lockdown, one thing is clear: we’ve never read, listened to, or watched more thought pieces than now.  This article sets out our view on the most useful advice to help brands navigate through the crisis. With the aim of emerging fit for the future. 

While the context in which we’re living has never looked so different, many of the lessons learnt reinforce the best practices of marketing we knew long before COVID-19. The challenge now is how to deliver best practice in a world where reacting and adapting has become our way of life.

Overall, we think there are three areas for marketing to focus on.

 Firstly, maintain sight of the longer term (where possible):

While the long term may feel like a distance future, it is never more critical than in a crisis.

Learning from the past shows that strong brands recover quicker following recession. Maintaining, or indeed increasing, share of voice during tough times pays off disproportionately in the longer term (in 2008, brands that invested in ESOV saw 5x as many very large business effects and 4.5x annual market share growth1). Conversely, the cost of going dark does far more damage in the long term than good in the short (0% of brands with <0% ESOV saw very large long term profit effects1).

For brands with challenge in supply, demand or both, focusing on comms that builds brand (vs sales) in the short term becomes even more important, either in paid media or via content and owned comms.

Thinking about how comms can adapt according to “now, next and future” is therefore key to ensuring any short-term approaches do not come at the expense of the long-term health of your brand.   

Secondly, put yourself in the shoes of the consumer:

Lockdown has caused unprecedented behaviour change in the short term, and with that, consumer need states are changing. In many cases, we are seeing previously emerging trends accelerated – eSports, working from home, eCommerce and the rise of direct to consumer brands to name a few.   This means existing customers are behaving differently, and new customers are experiencing products for the very first time (sometimes under distress).

Finding a way to pivot and adapt can ensure that brands remain relevant and front of mind in the immediate future, while anticipating what the green shoots of normality might look like to stay one step ahead.

Being in tune to opportunities as well as challenges is key, especially within media. TV viewing is up 21% YOY in April2, OOH weekly impacts are down 89%3 and web traffic related to gaming is up 75%4 – so shifting channel mix and testing new formats is key to find the opportunity among the disruption.

Monitoring shifting customer bases to understand new occasions and audiences is also critical to plan for recovery and assess which behaviours and customers are here to stay.

Thirdly, find your role to get noticed:

With consumers expecting more from brands, finding a clear role that genuinely adds value is critical.

We have seen four roles for brands emerge during lockdown – being useful by providing practical help to customers or communities; connecting people or communities who can’t be together; entertaining those in need of light relief; and educating those looking for new skills or home-schooling help.

Whichever role chimes closest with brand values, as more brands gravitate to similar techniques and aesthetics in comms, finding a distinctive way to communicate is important to get noticed.

As we continue in unprecedented times, we should focus on the things we can control.  Keeping the long term firmly in view, putting ourselves in the shoes of consumers, and finding a clear and distinctive brand role are all key to navigating the changing landscape and building a plan for now, next and future.