There’s a saying in politics that you should “never let a good crisis go to waste”.
It’s the ultimate advice for anyone who favours expediency over emotion, and has been attributed to everyone from Winston Churchill to Niccolo Machiavelli.
In the case of the coronavirus crisis, however, you should tread very carefully.
A recent study from data-driven media consultancy giant Kantar found three quarters of people surveyed felt companies should not exploit the crisis to promote their brand. That sentiment is likely to remain as we return to something approaching BAU.
So how should you market your business when the country and the world emerges blinking from its enforced hibernation? How do you acknowledge the changed dynamic, without appearing or being Machiavellian?
It is always advisable to stay true to your brand’s values, voice and professionalism. But there’s definitely scope to adopt a softer approach and show your customers, staff and suppliers the human face of your business.
Check out this update Vodafone NZ emailed to its customers this week. The telecoms company is a subsidiary of London-listed multinational Vodafone Plc. But it’s not afraid to blend kindness into its helpful messaging.
Connectivity has never been more important to Kiwis. Staying in touch virtually with loved ones and workmates is super important for our nation’s wellbeing and economy as we weather the COVID-19 storm.
Our teams are working around the clock to ensure we keep New Zealand connected via our awesome mobile and broadband networks. We have added extra capacity wherever possible and are continually looking for ways to optimise the networks as much as we can. Voice calling is up over 60% and data usage on our mobile and broadband networks is up 20-50% but our networks are managing fine.
We are well into week three of the New Zealand lockdown and our friends in Vodafone markets across the globe tell us this can be the hardest week for people as the isolation gets a bit much. I urge you all to be kind – with yourself, those in your bubble and those you interact with. Remember that it is okay to not be okay and reach out for support if you need it.
Kia kaha. Nāku iti nei, nā.
This is a message in the middle of the lockdown, but it provides something of a template for post-Covid messaging.
Here are our top tips for adjusting your marketing communications messages for the new BAU after lockdown.
Be human. Be helpful. Be positive.
1. Be human.
Covid-19 has been a traumatic experience for many people, whether directly, such as worrying about your elderly mum, or indirectly, watching drone footage of mass graves being filled in New York. Isolation from friends, colleagues and the absence of normal social interaction is also taking its toll.
On a positive note though, the economic shutdown has also gone a long way to breaking the wall between a brand and the people behind the brand. The Government’s wage subsidy, shuttered shops and empty tourist attractions have made the public realise that a business is, in fact, a workforce of committed people who come together to provide a paid-for service. Those companies that have supported their people through the crisis have also fared better in public opinion too.
All in all, it’s highlighted what it means to be human and the bonds that connect us, even through the business sphere. So any messaging that is more human, as opposed to coldly corporate, is likely to be well received. A more colloquial tone and direct approach is an option. And put your people front and centre, especially in any video content.
2. Be helpful
Altruism isn’t one of the first tenets of many businesses, but those who have provided value for their customers throughout the crisis will be remembered afterwards. Within days of the Covid-19 obliterating the sporting calendar, Spark Sport sent out a message to subscribers saying: “We’re covering the cost of active subscriptions until your next May payment.” The company even messaged customers who had cancelled their subscription, inviting them back for free.
Post Covid-19, companies that show how they’re providing value for the financially-stressed population or existing customers, how they’re working to improve their services and help others, and how they’re adopting different practices, especially anything hygiene-related, will be noticed. That doesn’t mean you should pious and self-congratulatory, but informing the public in a straightforward way is acceptable.
There’s also the opportunity to provide helpful advice or tips for the public, if your business specialises in something that can be of help to everyone.
3. Be positive
Any company that can give people a taste of normality and rejoice in the fact we’ve come out the other side of a crisis will put a smile on people’s faces and attract customers at the same time. Socialising will never have felt so good. People will even celebrate going to work, rather than Zooming from un-ergonomic bedroom office set-ups while their children demand snacks in the background.
Covid-19 has been nothing if not a collective experience, especially in New Zealand where lockdown has been strict and so far, fortunately, relatively successful. So when it is over, especially when the world gets a grip on the virus through a vaccine, there will also be collective joy. That can be reflected in any business marketing, the fact it’s time to get on with enjoying life again.
And, finally, there’s also room for some playfulness, as long as you can strike the right tone.