28-Apr-2020 01:55 PM Digital Marketing
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” said Warren Buffet.
There are innumerable articles on the web about how to build your company’s brand online. Content and social media marketing is an opportunity to showcase your brand, gather leads, and sell something. It can also be used to deal with a crisis. You can reassure people, prevent and minimize panic among your employees and the community while you boost the company's reputation, unlike Walt Disney Japan.
The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki may have been necessary at the time, but we cannot say the same for a tweet sent on its 70th anniversary. More than 70,000 people died due to the bombing that Nagasaki marks with a solemn ceremony every year. On its 70th anniversary, a tweet was sent from Walt Disney Japan’s twitter handle featuring Alice from 1951 film ‘Alice from Wonderland’ with the words, “A very merry unbirthday to you,” a song from the movie.
However the same words with its words translated in Japanese read, "congratulations on a not special day," expressing congratulations on the bombing. Everyone in the world who could speak both Japanese and English were outraged and the tweet was deleted by Walt Disney Japan followed by an apology with a promise to be careful in the future.
There are many examples like this. Disasters, natural and unnatural, are part of everyone’s life. How brands respond during such times matters. During times like this, it is important that brands communicate internally and externally with tact, empathy, and mindful marketing.
Content marketing faces unique challenges to their current and future campaigns during crises. Already deep into lockdown, we thought we must share some general guidelines for marketing protocol during these challenging times.
Words are powerful and as a brand, every word is scrutinized. Ones that are insensitive are easily picked up by netizens. Though it can be edited or deleted, it cannot be washed away. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. For all you know, a screenshot would be taken and it would be doing the rounds. And speaking of screenshots, visual communication is powerful too, thousand times more than words. So it is important to think about the messages your brand is sending.
The images in our campaign may involve visuals that are irrelevant to the current situation. For example, with COVID-19 claiming lives globally, avoid visuals of crowds in casual or in an office setting where people are in close contact with each other.
In the current situation, messages that encourage interaction may get scrutinized. Marketers may as well avoid using phrases like “get in touch”, “get closer to customers”, and the like.
If you have visuals you think may be tricky to use for your current or future campaigns, swap to words and visuals that are relevant to current times and save the tricky ones for future use. You may also temporarily swap your banner images on your website too. However, since the logo cannot be changed, people may likely forgive it, but they may not forgive the timing of marketing campaigns.
During times of crises, our first step should be to audit what prescheduled content we have. Auditing what you have in the pipeline will give you an idea of:
What should be paused immediately and what can go. Reschedule major campaigns that may be eclipsed by the crises, or if the messaging is not right for the situation. These campaigns can be reinstated when the time is right.
Prioritize or pivot your campaign during crises. During this COVID pandemic, instead of using “Get in touch with customers”, you may use “Support your customers.” Audit campaign visuals as well.
Every pandemic has a different timeline. Which means, the virus spread in different geographical areas at different times. So, it is important to look at advertisements that go out during quarantine times.
There is always light at the end of a tunnel. Crises times subside and life will go back to normal. Your brand may start work on communication for the post-quarantine life and determine which content will be more impactful then.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA, Ford Motor Company, instead of advertising cars, offered payment relief on Twitter to those who are leasing or financing through Ford Credit.
It is okay to make people smile without stripping away emotions from your brand. There is nothing wrong in offering your well wishes and using imagery of people smiling. This is a good time to create employee-generated content. Take a poll on how your employees are spending their time, and what they are doing to keep themselves occupied when they’re off work.
If your employees are working from home due to lockdown, it may be the right opportunity to spotlight them. Though the team may be working remotely, they would like interaction through video conferencing. Read how Verbinden’s first week during quarantine was like.
During the global economic recession of 2008-09, millions of people lost their jobs and their livelihood. Many became homeless. During the peak of recession, many brands pivoted to promote hope and optimism.
At that time, AdAge’s Bob Garfield famously said, “There is always a bull market for optimism when there is a bear market for everything else.” Coke’s ‘Open Happiness’ campaign during that time brought smiles to people. It was not salesy.
Your advertisements can be refreshing; you can use nostalgic factors by recalling normal life, and be hopeful of the future in your messaging as well.
This applies to every crisis situation, whether it is government or corporate communications. It is important to keep people informed without adding panic to it. Most importantly, share news from credible sources.
During crises, people are genuinely concerned. Whatever your brand says, the message should be filtered with empathy and humility. No ‘COVID-19 sales’, or ‘Free until COVID-19 quarantine ends’.
Brands must communicate about their business as it applies to their business. You must communicate proactive measures that your brand has taken to ensure employee safety, how you will keep communicating, and how you will keep supporting your customers during the crisis. You may also communicate a crisis policy if you have it in place.
While you may also be careful about future campaigns, what about campaigns that have gone viral, especially on social media and into the times of crisis? Anyone who is expecting to read useful information may find your advertisement a real turn off. Revisit such communication pieces and decide if you have to continue it, tweak it, or pause it. Our vote says pause it.
The job of a brand is to provide value. If you have products or services that can help people during times of crises, bring attention to it. Communicate how your products and services will benefit customers. If you do not have anything that can directly help people, create helpful content that can help you deal with crises. Always be in the mode of educating and inspiring people.
There are many brands throughout the world that have offered their help and have also repurposed their manufacturing process to come up with products that are ‘essential’. Tata Group is famous for their world class and luxurious Taj Group of Hotels. When COVID struck. Ratan Tata opened up the Taj Group of Hotels for doctors, nurses, and health workers.
Crisis situations, yes, including the current COVID-19 quarantine, will not last forever, but your online behaviour will. So being sensitive pays off. Other measures you can follow regularly whether there is a pandemic or not are:
Put your resources towards helping your community. If you can donate perishable food items or groceries, please do so. If you cannot directly do so, engage with an NGO, your local government, or a charity.
Do anything that makes your clients happy (within reason), rather than just bombarding them with sales calls. Make it a point to actually care for your clients. Catch up with them on video calls. Use the down time to nurture relationships. This also applies to the PR firm you engage with, and also the advertising agency, your social media specialist, and other contractors.
Speaking of downtime, we have used our downtime to audit our website content and have planned for future ones. You can do the same. Make a list of every page on your website so you can go through one by one. Look at the Google Analytics page, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. See which page needs to be updated and what is useful. Make a list of pages that needs to go and which ones need to have additional content. Think about how you want it to look after the crisis situation has ended. Also start writing fresh content and think about a fresh look for your website. If you need help with either, you may consider calling us.
During a crisis, emotions run high and for a lot of people, it is about life and death. So, with our content marketing, we must add value to the world meaningfully. We wish everyone’s safety during this unusual time.