As a team of social media strategists and specialists, we have grown accustomed to working with partners through regionalized crises. Depending on the scale of the crisis, advertisers will pause spend for a few days in an effort to maintain brand safety and as the chatter surrounding the event starts to wane, brands begin to ramp back up on their spend. As unnerving as it may sound, the average consumer has watched so many tragedies unfold via their social feeds that many have become desensitized to it in many ways. But a global pandemic hits a little differently. Unlike a fire in California or a tornado in Tennessee, the global impact and subsequent discussion surrounding Covid-19 will not subside in a couple of days. Instead, people are reminded of the human death toll and economic impact across some of the hardest hit areas of the world multiple times a day with no end in sight.
Given this very unique and unprecedented situation, there are many questions on advertisers' minds. What is the best approach for my brand during this crisis? Should my brand be advertising at all? What do consumers want to hear from me at a time like this? Like most strategic endeavors there is no one size fits all approach. The only constant is an industry-wide need to be empathetic with messaging and flexible in delivery and approach.
As large parts of the US are encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing, social platforms have seen an uptick in engagement. More time at home means more time online with people flocking to platforms to stay informed, feel connected to friends and family or simply pass the time. Pinterest has seen a 4,055% increase in searches for children’s activities. Facebook reports up to 70% more time spent across its family of apps with large increases in the consumption of Facebook and Instagram Live.
Facebook and Instagram Live have become essential for anyone who earns their living by bringing people together. Artists, creators, and instructors of all kinds have found ways to entertain and engage people using the platform. With users looking to maintain some sense of connection and simulate normalcy they have embraced the influx of live content from fitness classes and guided meditations to live DJ Sets and Virtual Voting Registration Parties.
With more users spending more time on social platforms, there has been a reduction in the cost for advertisers to reach people. Unified internal data shows an average 30-50% decrease in CPMs, since shelter in place orders have begun taking place across the US. Separately, we are seeing the cost per conversion for certain non-essential items such as clothing and jewelry increase around 25-30%, this is to be expected as the economy slows and people focus their spending on essential items. As consumers are more cautious and calculated with their discretionary spending, they want to be reassured that we are in this together, they want to be informed on key developments, and most of all they want to be healthy.
As mentioned, there is no blanketed approach for advertisers to deliver this messaging to consumers. Sometimes silence really is golden, but there is a tremendous opportunity for brands to demonstrate compassion and build brand equity during these uncertain times. Based on a study conducted by the Association of American Advertising Agencies, 43% of consumers said they want to hear from brands they know and trust while 56% of consumers are pleased to hear about brands taking actions to help our communities. This presents a unique opportunity for marketers to provide value for customers in a very human way while avoiding any temptation to be too opportunistic.
IKEA Show People How to Stay Home
Ikea Isreal leveraged their very familiar instruction manual to encourage people to stay home while also having a little fun with the toilet paper shortage. A simple yet important message that provides value while using existing and recognizable brand assets.
Tito’s is Creating Hand Sanitizer
Tito’s made it clear to users on both Facebook and Twitter that their Vodka should not be used as a sanitizer but their team has started the process of developing hand cleanser using its facilities. They have pledged an initial 24 tons of sanitizer to be donated to local government emergency agencies including police officers, firefighters, and medical staff.
Snapchat, Pinterest & Instagram Use Native Features to Inform and Inspire
Social platforms are tapping into their native features and user behavior to keep their users informed, inspired and sane. Snapchat is using a filter that outlines the precautions that people should take to reduce their risk of contracting Covid-19. When shared, the filter includes a link out to the World Health Organization where they can receive accurate information and updates from a credible source. While Pinterest has compiled boards that feature content that Pinners are searching for the most including healthy recipes, key updates, and comforting words. And Instagram is allowing users to add a Stay Home tag on their stories that compiles posts across your friend group and is one of the top featured Stories on the home screen.
Brands have unique perspectives and vantage points that can be extremely reassuring to customers at this time and into the future as they begin adjusting to a new normal. Marketers can begin planning and testing messaging to connect with their customers. While it may feel like a far off distant future, the brands that manage to do the right thing for the right reasons today will build brand equity that is sure to sustain them well beyond this global crisis.
Empathize, Address Concerns & Entertain
For immediate communication, advertisers should consider messaging that highlights empathy and compassion that people so desperately desire, or perhaps provide a moment of escapism or comedic relief. This helps to establish the human side of your brand.
Provide Value & Support
As consumers start to adjust to their new normal, they will be more receptive to relevant product updates and changes they can expect when working with your business. Ensure messaging is tasteful and tailored to the current situation, highlighting the value that your brand and product provide even if it is something as simple as a sense of normalcy.
Road to Recovery
Brands should start to think about messaging in the longer term after the curve has flattened and people are allowed to freely move through the world again. This will require a level of flexibility to adjust any pre-planned campaigns or messaging to ensure it is relevant and genuine. The consistent touchpoints in the immediate and short term with your consumer will ensure a smooth transition into traditional brand messaging in the longer term.