Consumer Insights | Untitled-13 6 min read

Marketing in a crisis:
how to come out on top

by Bench June 4, 2020

We’ve all heard countless times that this year is “unprecedented”, but perhaps it’s the most fitting term. As COVID-19 took hold across the world, social distancing became the norm. Unemployment spiked and talks of recession were everywhere. Time became more fluid. Many people tried their luck at making sourdough. Parents soon found themselves juggling work and home-schooling. Search interest in “bored” peaked on Google. And of course, Zoom fatigue is real. There’s no denying the profound effect this pandemic has had on our lives. 

How we approach work has also been altered for good. Marketers need to ride the wave of change and learn from the lessons of this time. It’s not exactly easy to map out how to progress through a global pandemic, but instead of seeking out clarity, it’s worth embracing the change and even taking some risks.

In the advertising industry, budgets have suffered huge cuts and many difficult decisions have been made. There have been cut backs and losses, and the need for marketers to defend their value. Is it better to adapt messaging or to simply play it safe (and potentially harm creative development)? Both paths come with different levels of risk and nothing is certain.

With all this in mind, campaigns are still as relevant as ever. Content consumption is at an all-time high, and the way that channels provide value to both marketers and consumers is constantly evolving. Brands need to stand out, but the way people engage with advertising has shifted. Mobile has taken the lead from desktop; the mindless scroll is tempting as ever. There’s a sea of content to sift through so what marketers put out must be relevant, thoughtful and add value to consumers.

There is still much uncertainty but one thing is clear: the world as we knew it has transformed. It’s time to forge a new path while looking ahead and putting the consumer first.

Making lemonade in a crisis

It’s vital to adapt to the “new normal” and take a leap: be agile, adapt your strategy and use creativity to respond to shifting consumer needs. The saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, so how can marketers make lemonade?

Even as we’ve faced the difficulties of isolation and economic uncertainty, the current climate has presented opportunities for growth. “Pivoting” is more than just the latest marketing lingo. Businesses that successfully adapt their strategies will come out on top. Innovation is everywhere, across all industries, from DiDi’s ad that thanks healthcare workers to distillery Archie Rose expanding its product range to hand santisier (selling-out multiple batches). Yoga studios have moved online, while publications have considered their branding – Time Out adapted to become Time In

Even as we’ve faced the difficulties of isolation and economic uncertainty, the current climate has presented opportunities for growth. “Pivoting” is more than just the latest marketing lingo.

Adding value and moving forward

With social distancing, we’ve seen work meetings and house parties move behind a screen. We’ve seen borders shut down and economies strained across the world. It’s vital to connect and to stand together (virtually, of course).

With life as we knew it moving online (even more than it had before), the need to invest in technology has become crucial. Life may be slowly returning to some kind of normal – at least in Australia – and digital is the way to continue forward. Brands need to keep pace and engage with technology in a thoughtful way. When optimising campaigns, invest in a wide tech stack to pivot strategies as the market continues to shift. Invest in your brand and product, and consider how to add value to consumers in a meaningful way.

Consumer spending is now bouncing back up again, and has reached just 3% less than pre-coronavirus levels. Spending may be coming back, but the way consumers are engaging with content has changed. Many recent marketing efforts have focused on promoting brand awareness rather than simply pushing sales. It’s important to build on these efforts to increase a brand’s share of voice and foster real engagement.

Invest in your brand and product, and consider how to add value to consumers in a meaningful way.

While it’s not a time to capitalise on the hardships of this time, it’s been proven that marketing in a time of crisis does work. Take a look at our insights from earlier in the crisis on how brands came out stronger during economic downturns such as Kellogg’s in the Great Depression and Amazon in the Great Recession.

As consumers are seeing more content than ever before, consider what channels make the most sense and add value. For example, news sites have had increased levels of engagement during the pandemic, and native is a great channel for building brand awareness without the heavy sales push. People always crave strong storytelling, and especially now. Why not tell the stories behind your brand at this time?

As restrictions ease across the country, we will see the increased value of OOH – and DOOH as an emerging channel in programmatic. As Val Morgan Outdoor’s Programmatic Director Braden Clarke says, “the arrival of programmatic to DOOH is an exciting evolution, offering buyers the ability to take control – planning and executing down to the screen, day and hour with granular precision.” This shift couldn’t have come at a better time. Movement brings with it a plethora of mobile location data so it may be time to increase efforts on performance-based strategies. Staying ahead of data and media trends relevant to your brand will mean that you can create campaigns around those topics.   

While it’s still an incredibly difficult time for marketers, we’re well on the road to recovery. 

Life may never return to the “normal” we once knew, but hey, when life gives you a crisis, it’s a chance to re-examine your marketing strategies and pull off a powerful pivot. The pay off? Enjoying the sweet lemonade.