Lockdown Marketing: Three Ways to Protect Your Brand While Social Distancing (Part 1/3)


April 2020 10 minute read

Summary

- Don't go quiet
- Communicate with care
- Maintain brand awareness
- Listen to your customers

This article is part one of three, all written to help you keep your brand alive and thriving during this challenging coronavirus lockdown.

Don’t panic.

Even though the coronavirus pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge, and permanent damage to your business might be a real possibility, all change is both a threat and an opportunity.

There are actions that you can take in your marketing to minimise the threat, adapt to this new environment and not only survive, but affirm, grow and strengthen your brand.

To begin with, consider the following three areas where you can act now to reassure your customers and avoid potential reputation issues.

Communicate

Clear, transparent and reassuring communication is perhaps the most critical aspect of any marketing activity right now. Don’t go quiet.

Keep your customers up-to-date, specifically regarding the following three areas:

1. Business Continuity
Share how you’re changing the way you usually serve your customers. These changes could include whether your stores are open, new opening hours, which services are still available and what changes you’ve made to the way those services are delivered.

2. Employee Safety
Many customers will want to know how you plan to keep your employees safe. Explain what actions you’ve taken around working from home, PPE equipment and sanitation.

3. Set Expectations
Many things will be outside of your control, especially in your supply chain. You may be able to continue very much as usual, but some of your suppliers might not. Forewarn your customers about any difficulties that you can foresee, to enable them to make plans, but be careful not to cause any panic or suggestions that you’re trying to inflate demand artificially.

Communicate with care

Make sure that your tone is compassionate and reassuring. Be human, open and honest. Also, double-check before publishing by asking yourself whether anyone could misinterpret your message as posturing. In other words, if it has an air of ‘look how great we are’, try again.

Use all of your existing communication channels. For example, it should be relatively quick and easy to complete the following:

  • Add a prominent message to your website, with a link to a page that provides full details. You can create a new page or use a blog post, whichever is easiest on your website.
  • Email your existing customers, either with your whole message or a summary and a link to the relevant web page.
  • Post updates on your usual social channels, making use of any options to ‘pin’ a post. Again, link back to your website.
  • Update your business listings, e.g. Google My Business and Apple Maps. For example, you may need to change your opening hours.

It may help to record your changes as you make them. Your notes might be useful for making sure that all your touchpoints remain aligned when you’re making updates. Hopefully, you’ll also want to change everything back one day, so your future self may be pleased to find that you recorded how things were.

Review your current marketing

Pause anything that could cause panic, promote dangerous behaviour, doesn’t add value right now or that your customers might think of as being opportunistic.

For example, KFC paused its “Finger-Lickin’ Good” campaign and any promotional offers on hygiene products might not be received positively. (Image source: The Drum)

We don’t recommend cutting all your paid advertising as a short-term way to reduce costs because it’s vital to maintain brand awareness. However, you may identify specific ads that could harm your brand at this time.

Start asking and listening

Hopefully, you’re very familiar with your customer’s needs and can adequately judge what they would want from your brand in this new situation. However, a global pandemic is a sensitive subject, and the effects of the lockdown are complex. All brands should be listening to their customers to get a refined understanding of their needs and concerns, plus their attitudes towards the many possible responses from businesses.

Listening first can provide you with vital guidance on how your business should respond as a whole, what you should be communicating and how.

To begin with, you can start asking your customers about their needs on your social channels, by email and by phone.

Focus only on finding out how you can help, and on answering any concerns about how you expect to continue to serve.

We’re all in this together

Remember that this is a new and challenging time for everyone, which means that even if your brand usually has a very corporate voice, right now a more personal tone is likely to be appreciated by all.

Also, don’t worry if you don’t yet have everything figured out. Your customers are likely to be more understanding and forgiving than usual, as long as they feel that your goals are to do the best that you can for them and your employees.

The foundation of your brand is the value it offers and the values it embodies. Take the steps above with that in mind, plus the awareness that we’re all in this together, and you’ll make a great start to adapting your brand’s marketing to the challenge of a nationwide lockdown.

Once you’ve covered the essentials above, check part two of this series for some ways that you can effectively and continually adapt your marketing throughout the lockdown, with a greater focus on how you can strengthen your brand.

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