Digital MarketingStrategiesMarketers’ playbook for recovering from COVID-19

Marketers' playbook for recovering from COVID-19

Jon Schulz, CMO at Viant, discusses the key considerations for marketers as industries get a handle on the immediate crisis of COVID-19 and start looking to chart their next steps.

30-second summary:

  • Rather than waiting until the dust completely settles, the savviest brands are looking ahead to what comes next and how to get there, much like the government plans.
  • Every brand will need to send the message: We’re open for business. But waiting until we’re fully back to normal before reaching out to your target audiences is a mistake. Instead, stimulating demand during the reopening process is the key.
  • The reality is, now is a perfect time to connect with your audience. More people than ever are still largely at home, and as a result, they’re consuming more content than usual.
  • While creating demand is the goal, “buy now” messages probably aren’t the best way to connect with audiences. Be optimistic in your approach as we all long to get back out there – join the conversation and be part of the solution.

President Donald Trump recently announced new guidelines for reopening parts of the country, one of a number of positive signs that we’re getting a handle on how to manage the COVID-19 crisis and can begin to safely forge a pathway toward normalcy. For marketers, that means the time is now to be doing the same.

Rather than waiting until the dust completely settles, the savviest brands and marketers are looking ahead to what comes next and how to get there, much like the government plans.

While many brands are doing well to survive this pandemic, the key is to figure out how to return to thriving as the country begins to reopen – and the work toward doing so must happen now.

Even though it isn’t the case for all industry verticals (it will take more time for airlines, hotels, and cruise lines to rebound, for instance), most brands that embrace a forward-looking strategy will be in a much stronger position once we return to a robust business environment that we all long for.

Demand generation is key

The No. 1 priority for marketers as the country reopens is going to be generating demand for their products and services.

Every brand will need to send the message: We’re open for business. But waiting until we’re fully back to normal before reaching out to your target audiences is a mistake. Instead, stimulating demand during the reopening process is the key.

Think about it this way: When an automaker launches an all-new vehicle, they don’t wait until dealers’ lots are fully stocked before revealing the vehicle.

They build anticipation and demand by previewing new models at auto shows or via online reveals well before they ever start producing them en masse – so as soon as those vehicles are built, customers are clamoring to drive one home.

This strategy will serve marketers well as they navigate the pandemic and their response. Even if you don’t know exactly when you’ll be able to fully reopen your businesses or start welcoming customers back in large numbers, you know that you will, and that creating demand is a big part of getting back to work.

It’s about time

The reality is, now is a perfect time to connect with your audience. More people than ever are still largely at home, and as a result, they’re consuming more content than usual. In fact, Nielsen estimates that sheltering at home could lead to a 60% increase in viewership.

What that means is that it’s now a buyers’ market for advertisers. Inventory is more affordable than ever, and noise level from competitors has decreased, creating a strong opportunity for brands to increase their share of voice.

In addition, brands that project an image of stability during an unstable time will surely reap bigger benefits as the economy recovers.

Of course, it’s important to make sure your messaging matches the current environment.

While creating demand is the goal, “buy now” messages probably aren’t the best way to connect with audiences. Be optimistic in your approach as we all long to get back out there – join the conversation and be part of the solution.

Being a good sport

One large part of our culture that will be slower to return to normal is professional sports. The 2020 Olympics are postponed to 2021, and it’s anyone’s guess when or if we’ll see football, baseball, basketball, or hockey again this year.

Even golf, one sport that’s beginning to plan for its return, will be played at gallery-free courses, as viewers will only be able to watch from the safety of their homes.

But while sports are off the air temporarily, all is not lost. Brands that covet live sports audiences can still reach them.

Viewers who would normally be watching the NHL or NBA playoffs aren’t turning off their TVs. Instead, research shows they’re watching other programming like SportsCenter, American Idol and ABC World News Tonight at high rates.

The takeaway here is that the brands that emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic in the best shape will be the ones that will successfully let people know that they’re open for business.

The way to do that is through planning ahead, taking advantage of inventory deals when they can be had, and gaining in share of voice when possible – making advertising a key part of the recovery process.

As Chief Marketing Officer at Viant, parent company of people-based DSP Adelphic, Jon Schulz is a member of the executive leadership team and heads brand and product marketing, communications, strategic partnerships, research and creative services. Jon is a recognized industry thought leader in automotive marketing, digital advertising and advanced analytics. During his tenure as CMO, Jon has led a comprehensive company rebranding and repositioning initiative. As the lead marketer within a company focused on leveraging big data and analytics to drive efficient media spend, Jon oversees numerous research initiatives designed to provide actionable data to brand marketers using Viant’s people-based insights.

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