Like everyone else, marketing and communication professionals have had a challenging few weeks. As the pandemic expands, marketers and customer experience professionals have done their best to keep up with and bridge swiftly shifting consumer and brand needs. These are the most common 7 behaviors brands adopted in the early days…
We rapidly transitioned from a period when brands debated if they should communicate about COVID-19 to now, with brands tripping over each other to broadcast their coronavirus email messages to customers.
Avoid Virtue Signaling
Virtue signaling is when your brand conspicuously expresses its values without actually taking actions to live by those values. Today, it’s not enough to tell consumers that you’re aware of, and reacting to, the pandemic – everybody is. We also don’t need to know that your brand is keeping your employees safe – we hope that’s business as usual. Finally, no one needs to hear how your brand is striving to continue its operations uninterrupted – it would be real news worth sharing if you weren’t. If that’s all your brand has to report to customers, then you don’t need a special COVID-19-themed brand communication at this time.
The key attributes to brand social and digital messaging during times of crisis, like COVID-19 include the most basic of components:
MOST IMPORTANTLY – Be present and invest in consumer relationships: It can be tempting for brands to go into cost containment mode in times of distress, quietly weathering the storm. But we have a unique window where brands can earn trust by maintaining presence and delivering relevant value in a fluid period of heightened anxiety.
Be a source of truth and positive impact: Brands can develop deeper consumer relationships by being a trusted source of accurate information or consumer-centric counsel in uncertain times. Here are some examples of brands that have taken the initiative to help stop the virus from spreading or to avoid other negative impacts:
- In the UK, Lush is inviting people to come into their stores to wash their hands.
- In India, we have seen communication from Lifebuoy to practice good hygiene – even if it’s with a competitive brand.
- Amazon is actively working to eliminate acts of profiteering/price gauging.
- Sephora has decided to suspend all paid in-store services, including makeup applications, classes, and skin care services. In a statement posted to the company’s website earlier this week, Sephora stores remain open but will implement enhanced safety measures like increased access to hand sanitizer and disinfecting surfaces with hospital-grade cleaner.
- Chillhouse. The IG-famous wellness hub is closing its NYC retail locations for two weeks and will reopen “as soon as it is safe to do so.” In response to the pandemic, Chillhouse has promised to double down on stress-relieving and self-care content on its social media channels and blog The Chill Times. The brand has yet to promise paid time off for retail employees but is in the process of figuring it out right now.
- Nike. The athletic wear brand is closing stores in the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand through March 27th. In a statement, Nike cites the “health of athletes around the world” as its top priority. A brand spokeswoman confirmed to CNBC that employees will be paid in full during this time off.
- LVMH. The luxury conglomerate announced it will use all cosmetic and perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitizer to be donated to French health authorities and the Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Paris.
In an era where many are increasingly open to brands rather than traditional institutions to promote social progress and well-being, the current crisis could accelerate that pattern if brands rise to the occasion.
Show empathy / Give comfort: Louis Vuitton posted a heartfelt message to Chinese customers on social media platforms like WeChat, and Weibo: “Every paused journey will eventually restart. Louis Vuitton hopes you and your beloved ones stay safe and healthy.” This tone-appropriate message fits a brand positioned as a purveyor of fine luggage.
Help people constructively use time and build new routines at home: This is an inspiring territory, as brands can look to help people make good use of the time they spend at home – and to drive internalization of new habits by helping them feel good about the way that time is spent. With many adopting new in-home behaviors, building positive associations/identities around those new routine behaviors will help to build motivation to re-enact them.
Go virtual: We expect to see a further shift to virtual alternatives. In China, online car sales went up in the first weeks of the crisis, despite overall car sales crashing. We also see many professional meetings and exhibitions moving online; just as many museums have started to create an online experience by creating virtual rooms where art is being shown. Alibaba is organizing no-meeting concerts, where they live-stream new content.
Recognize and affirm new social norms: When trying new behaviors, people can often feel a bit self- conscious, as if they are the only people practicing them. This feeling of marginalization can be a barrier to changing behaviors, so it can help to illustrate the prevalence of social consensus of the behavior or belief. If people feel that others are doing this behavior too, they are much more likely to maintain it.
Learn from the last ”new normal”: History provides evidence that brands can grow in distressing times. There are some enduring examples from the Great Recession, where brands like Netflix, Lego, Amazon, and Domino’s courageously expanded their horizons through investment/innovation, customer treatment, alternative pricing models, and transparency in communications. While many of their competitors either stopped communicating or held fast to old business models, these brands pursued consumers in the right way and delivered value in a time of contextual fluidity and behavioral change.
There are hard times for all of us and maybe all we need is to know is that we are together in this! #everythingwillbefine #andratuttobene #todoestarábien #toutirabien #totulvafibine.