In retrospect, perhaps we should have expected it. Ours is an age of disruption, begun with a technological leap forward – which in turn has led to radically new business models, massive social movements, and political upheaval around the globe. This century has already seen several extreme weather events, with new surprises seeming to impact our global community with increased regularity.
This one could yet be the biggest. With COVID-19 now upon us, our public and private institutions are facing a major stress test. Most will bend. Some will break. We all must do our part to support each other, and society as a whole, so that we can get through this thing together.
That means recognizing our new roles and responsibilities. Below we will outline how Lexicon has adjusted to the new situation internally, to provide a safe environment for our people as well as our clients. We will also offer our thoughts on the new directions that businesses and other organizations may want to consider during this unprecedented time.
New policies at Lexicon
- Office presence is now optional for our team. Most of us are now working from home, using a new set of remote working tools that we have adopted and adapted for the purpose. Some of our staff had arranged to work remotely in the past, but the current setup has us applying this method at a larger scale than ever before.
- Wherever practicable, we now conduct our meetings remotely. This policy applies to both internal and client meetings – to protect ourselves, and to protect you. We miss the feeling of connection that we get from a good handshake, but it seems a small sacrifice given the present situation.
- We have held extended meetings with our own staff, to discuss the current situation and our response to it. These meetings have allowed us all to stay informed about COVID-19, its effects, and the importance of keeping its spread to an absolute minimum.
- We have all pledged to honor the social distancing recommendations made by health experts around the world. We love friendly gatherings as much as anybody – but in the current environment, the biggest kindness is to keep a safe distance.
- We are using workarounds for other types of interactions. Two of our managers were scheduled to speak at a special event last week; that event instead took place remotely. Previously written video scripts, involving person-on-the-street interviews, have been revised and restructured to avoid social contact.
We intend to keep all of the above measures in effect as long as the health risk for COVID-19 in Bangkok appears to be high.
The policies described above come in addition to our standard employee contract, which includes 12 days of Annual Leave, 14 Thai National Public Holidays, and up to 30 days of additional Sick Leave – as well as 10,000 THB of medical coverage for everyone on staff. We put the health of our team first.
A New World Needs New Ideas
Any kind of disruption requires fast action on the part of business. As we witness the spectacle of doors shutting and businesses closing all around the world, the idea of marketing may seem pointless – even silly.
It isn’t. The direct advertising approach may have a weakened effect in the present environment, but there are still plenty of ways for businesses and other organizations to provide valuable content to their audience. With creative ideas and the right follow-through, businesses can make new sales during this period, even if they are closed to the public. In fact, during this period of uncertainty, it is arguably more important than ever to have the right marketing approach.
Consider the following scenarios, and how companies might address them.
Problem: A restaurant has to close for reasons of public safety. Its owners can’t afford to pay rent on their location, and pay staff, if it discontinues operations for an extended period. Yet it is locally run, and loved by the community.
Solution: Create a gift card / voucher program. Tell the community exactly what happening, and that the restaurant can’t survive without their support. Sell vouchers that are good for up to 2 years, and offer discounts for purchasers, so that by buying a $10 voucher today, you’ll be entitled to $15 worth of food and drinks at the restaurant when it opens up again in the future. Remember the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life? For all the goodwill you’ve built up over the years, let your neighbors return the favor by giving them the opportunity to support you.
Problem: A clothing store needs to shut its doors, because the government doesn’t want shops open during the health crisis. It, too, faces financial ruin if business stops.
Solution: Go online. Take orders through the website or Facebook, and deliver items directly to people’s doors.
Problem: A supermarket wants to help its elderly customers, who have real trouble getting their shopping done when there are crowds of other people getting items at the same time.
Solution: Open one hour early, each day, for all customers over the age of 60. Older people are at the highest risk level for COVID-19, and giving them a chance to do their shopping early – after the store has been cleaned overnight, and before crowds of people fill the aisles – could save actual lives. Also, because the store will be less crowded during these times, staff could provide a higher level of assistance of their older customers need help reaching items off the shelves.
Problem: A shop, restaurant, transportation company, or hospitality company stays open during the crisis – but has trouble getting customers, due to public fear over the virus.
Solution: Show your customers how you are keeping your property clean and safe. A well-made short video can illustrate the point quite well, and such a statement can be accompanied by an additional message: That it may even be safer to be on your property than to stay at home. Especially for those who share a home with older people, staying separate – and in a hygienic environment – may be the most health-conscious option of all. In terms of hospitality, older people can live in comfort and safety if they take advantage of longer-stay options at hotels.
Problem: A popular business has many online followers, but does not know the right tone to take for their advertising during this uncertain period.
Solution: Organize an online watch party. Find a movie (documentary or feature) that can easily be found online. Tell your followers to start watching the movie from their homes at a specific hour, and also join a live chat at the same time. That way, many of your fans can come together, share an experience on an interesting topic (if you are a travel company, then perhaps it could be a nature film; if you are a technology company, then a sci-fi film), maintain interaction, and answer customer questions and concerns in a semi-public forum. This way, you can keep your following, spread any important messages you may have, and retain good will among your existing fans.
Problem: A company makes products for kids, but doesn’t know the right messaging approach to take with them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Solution: Help them understand what is happening, by speaking directly to them. They will feel much more included, and their parents will be grateful that someone is stepping forward to speak honestly and carefully about the current moment.
Problem: A company wants its customers to know that it is still active, but is conducting business differently during the current pandemic.
Solution: Adopt a temporary logo, or build a special microsite, that reflects the current environment. Use this time to show off some of the inventive things that your employees have come up with – through talent and organization – to help get through this period with a positive spirit. Post updates that illustrate how things may have changed, but also to remind people that you are still there, and still ready to engage with other people. Or simply act as a beacon of clarity and assistance for the community, as long as you double-check your sources.
Problem: None of the above marketing ideas is a smooth fit for your company or organization.
Solution: Think about what people and society need, and try to provide it. Add a Stories For Kids section to your website, to entertain kids who are staying home from school – and to take some stress away from their parents, who are running out of ideas to keep their young ones busy and learning. Organize a babysitting club, exclusively for health care workers (and other emergency responders) who have kids that can’t be in school. By giving these kids a place to go, their parents can go back to the front lines and continue their work of protecting the community.
These and plenty of other ideas are out there, free to use and relatively easy to adopt. They may also earn your business some positive media coverage. But you must take the initiative and execute well.
In a changing world, success is all about adaptation. We must continually remind ourselves to act according to the world that actually exists, rather than the world we would have wished for. A 2019 marketing strategy may not have as much value in 2020, so the faster you can re-position your sails, the better. All you need is a good idea and the right team to make it happen.