Somewhere, in a parallel universe, another Earth is experiencing a very different 2020. Its lucky inhabitants are enjoying all the things we were once promised: Flying cars, android assistants, a world in harmony – and perhaps even a moon colony or two.
Meanwhile, our own civilization has been stuck with quarantines, supply shortages, and country lockdowns. Far from ideal, but here we are.
Yet if there is a more advanced and more pleasant Earth out there in the multiverse, its people didn’t complete their greatest accomplishments by shrinking in the face of a challenge. All genuine progress comes from taking our existing situation – no matter how imperfect it may be – and working hard to make it better.
To be sure, the coronavirus has been devastating in its human and economic cost. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have already died, with many more in serious condition. But for the rest of us, and for those only indirectly affected, defeat comes only when we stop fighting. If you keep your eyes open, you may find new opportunities where you least expect them.
Can’t go to the office? Now’s your chance to hire new talent regardless of where they live in the world. Can’t attract new tourists to your hotel or guesthouse? This is an ideal moment for those renovation and rebranding efforts you’d been meaning to get to.
Work stoppages and other major disruptions provide a chance to step back, take stock, and rebuild in a new direction. Historically, world-changing events and disasters have brought forth new possibilities for change, many of which had the ultimate effect of improving society. The pain in the moment is real, and piercing. But much can be done with a fresh start.
Setting the right tone, for both internal and external communications, is essential. Internally, your new mission needs to be formed with care and then articulated clearly to everyone on your team. The mission needs to be compressed into a clear strategy that makes the best use of every resource at your disposal.
From there, you need to let the world (or at least, your audience) know about it. The below messaging guidelines from our digital marketing agency in Bangkok can help your business find a way forward through this unprecedented time.
The show must go on
With the economy itself on a ventilator, companies must make key financial decisions quickly. One common decision among businesses has been to slash their marketing budget and pause their digital campaigns. However, and perhaps counterintuitively, it may be far wiser to continue pursuing your digital marketing objectives despite the ongoing crisis.
The reasons are straightforward. First of all, more people are online now and looking for things to do. A recent study across 30 markets showed that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 61% increase in social media engagement over the normal rate. This change in consumer behavior makes it far easier for your posts and ads to reach your target audience, thereby lowering your operating cost for each campaign.
Second, with many of your competitors likely reducing their own ad spend, you could very well have an open playing field (and cheaper rates) at precisely the time when many of your potential customers have had their everyday routines disrupted and are therefore looking to form new lifestyle habits.
Third, people might not realize why they need your business during this unusual time. Remind them, so that you can enter into win-win relationships with a larger customer base.
Fourth, in a world filled with new content each day, absence leads to forgetting. Staying connected lets you play the long game, even if immediate sales are unlikely to take off. If you wait until the crisis abates, you will find the online space to be positively flooded with ads competing for new business. Today is an ideal time for the intricate process of brand building; tomorrow may present far more difficult conditions to achieve the same result.
You may not need to publish new material as frequently as you did before the pandemic, but hero content such as a short brand video can go a long way if it is backed by a reasonable investment. What’s important here is to have a clear and sensible objective in mind, so that you can measure the progress of your marketing campaign and how it is contributing toward your overall company strategy.
Key takeaway: There will always be underlying opportunities in uncertain times. Businesses should continue their online marketing efforts in order to build brand awareness and connect with new customers.
Empathy is the key
With COVID-19 keeping more people at home, many have reported negative side effects from the restriction of social distancing. Surveys have revealed common complaints of “boredom”, “loneliness”, “lack of fresh air” and “lack of freedom”. These conditions can lead to negative emotional states, as researchers have linked some of the effects of isolation to higher levels of depression and anxiety.
Where your customers have a problem, you should try to be part of the solution. Social media allows you to fight boredom by setting up quizzes, games, challenges, and competitions; telling fun stories about life or your brand; publishing and promoting inspirational messages; or posting the occasional reminder that this too shall pass.
If you have a large following, you can schedule a time and day where you all watch the same movie or YouTube video at the same time – and you can invite people to comment or ask questions during the presentation.
Such an event could also provide you with an opportunity to answer questions or concerns that people have about your industry. If you’re a hotel or an airline, for example, try screening a movie, TV show, or documentary with a travel theme – and take the opportunity to clear up their misconceptions about safety and practical concerns. These positive messages, where possibility and promise are the unspoken themes, will make your customers feel better, while also helping them understand that your products and services are still very much available.
In a time of disruption, anxiety, and discord, your positive contribution will be received as a breath of fresh air. Moreover, the simple decision to stay active can serve as a reminder that when times are tough, you stay with your community rather than disappearing from it.
Always keep in mind, however, that it is best to avoid posting anything that makes fun of, ridicules, or minimizes the situation.
Key takeaway: Put out lighthearted, positive content for your brand. Maintaining momentum keeps the brand alive and also lets you associate yourself with positive feelings, which can ultimately help you reconnect with your customers.
Research leads to understanding, and better relationships
The COVID-19 pandemic has led businesses to prioritize short-term decisions over long-term strategy. It is now past time to make informed adjustments about long-term goals, and how to get there. A renewed focus on digital marketing strategy and execution should be a key part of this effort, and customer research is as a necessary first step.
The virus has changed society writ large, but it has also affected the priorities of your online audience. How has their financial situation been affected? Do they have disposable income to spend on luxuries, or are they restricted to the bare necessities? Are they cooped up at home, or back at work? Are they more worried about the virus, or making their rent payments? Do they have too much free time now? Do they need psychological comfort? How have they altered their daily and weekly habits as a result of the COVID-19 situation?
Brands must ask themselves how customers will behave when the situation settles into a ‘new normal’. Many industries are expecting to see a surge in sales, as a result of revenge spending – a term for the kind of retail therapy that shoppers pursue when they’ve been kept away from stores for too long. A failure to understand your customers can leave you unprepared for this surge … or overconfident that such an increase will be permanent rather than temporary.
For these and other reasons, brands should reassess their client base and determine whether they were able to reach new audiences during the crisis. A good customer experience depends on building a tailored strategy for a known market segment. These interconnected goals are by no means easy to achieve, but a dedicated approach to social listening and analytics can make for a good start.
These processes involve tracking the online conversations of your potential customers, as a way of getting insight into their interests and mindsets. They can also show how your brand is being perceived, and how best to react to those perceptions. The ultimate goal is to connect with the right audience, so you can deliver a relevant message and an appropriate call to action.
Key takeaway: Listen closely to your customers in order to build an effective strategy for the long term.
One step at a time
Psychology makes up a significant part of the friction we now face as a civilization. We were taught to believe in continuous progress across all sectors of society, leading to greater human flourishing and well-being. Most of the time, that prediction holds true.
Yet the specter of COVID-19 now hangs over us. The invisible virus arrived suddenly, disrupted everything, and caused millions of jobs to be lost in the space of a few months. Health officials tell us that our old lifestyles will not return, and economists say we have lost years’ worth of economic gain.
At the start of this young decade, many expected to continue riding an open-ended wave of prosperity. Each of us has since had to make the uncomfortable decision to shift our mindset to one of scarcity.
Even though businesses must take a posture of leadership and initiative, they must recognize that their customers will need some convincing. For these delicate efforts to succeed, empathy and understanding are foundational. So is patience.
We’ll get back to androids and space travel eventually, but it’s going to take a bit longer than expected. In the meantime, the immediate task at hand requires real focus. When things around you go wrong, only a solid plan with skillful execution can set them right again.