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Covid-19 has cut off many paths of traditional advertising, leaving brands unsure about how to reframe marketing. This is the second time I’ve encountered a Covid-19-like moment. Fortunately, the first was a drill, a brief from a client years ago: What should we do in a world without paid advertising? What should we do in a world gone dark?
Experiential doesn’t work if you can’t have crowds. Out of home doesn’t work if you’re staying inside. Radio advertising doesn’t work if you’re not in a car. Even performance marketing is limited if people have lost their jobs and are afraid to spend.
In order to navigate the new world, you have to first identify the many facets of non-ad value that give a brand its true meaning—from purpose to packaging and distribution to content creation and partnerships. Then ask how you can create new customer benefits through brand behaviors rather than interrupting them with ads.
Envisioning such a place—a disruption to our industry—requires us to reframe marketing entirely. Here are five places to start:
Whether retail, direct, digital or shared, the solution is speed. I have been inundated with home delivery services the past few days, and the majority are small, local companies I’ve never heard of. These businesses moved from brick-and-mortar to a delivery service model in a matter of days, and they offer me a moment to feel positive about helping the little guy. Their service has become their most powerful (and to my knowledge, only) form of brand message.
Reframe brand utility
Brands must create additional value through packaging, distribution or usage. This crisis has given brands a million ways to be useful. British billionaire James Dyson, for instance, announced his vacuum cleaner and hand dryer firm would start designing and making 10,000 ventilators, with more to come. Other opportunities to help await.
Brands must legitimately use content to enhance customers’ lives now. Planet Fitness is a company built around a community experience of fitness for all. So given a situation where they had to close all gyms, they quickly developed a daily work-in video available to everyone with special workout hosts, viewer participation opportunities and family gatherings. Although Planet Fitness isn’t actually open, brand sentiment and favorability are up.
Reframe the competition
Opportunities also lie in partnerships with the competition to create a better world through technology, design, services and operations. Distilleries are banding together to make sanitizers, which provides a great moment for unity by sharing best practices and resources. Both Ford and GM are collaborating to help GE create simplified ventilators that don’t require electricity.
Reframe your model
Explore new and unexpected brand partnerships, even by partnering directly with consumers. Lego, for example, has offered a lifeline to parents facing the abject terror of home-schooling during the crisis with its #ExplainedWithLego videos that teach everything from animal facts to genetics. TV viewing is erratic, but audiences can be found with the audience as the real value. You may have your own communities through subscriptions, members, video viewers and lists. You can grow and strengthen those communities. Don’t think like an advertiser—it’s time to think like a network.
These are not questions for the next three months. Many of the consumer behaviors that emerged during this time could be permanent. It’s time to reframe your thinking, to get creative, get practical and help people through this difficult time.
That’s what powerful modern brands do. And that’s what people will remember about you in the long term. Times like these reward the brave. Let’s get brave.