Digital MarketingIndustry DevelopmentsThe COVID-19 effect on the marketing world

The COVID-19 effect on the marketing world

InnoVision Marketing Group's CEO Ric Militi, discusses the three periods of the COVID-19 effect on the marketing environment and how to market during each of these phases.

30-second summary:

  • If you do persuade a consumer to make a purchase during the quarantine period, adding a humanitarian layer to your communication and offer will strengthen your brand and build post COVID-19 loyalty.
  • People that ordinarily didn’t participate in social media are finding it as a way to stay connected and informed. When people are watching TV, they’re watching news and live programming or viewing app-based programming (OTT) and escaping into their favorite on-demand shows.
  • Businesses will need to continue to use the same marketing strategies outlined in “The Fear & Quarantine Period” with slight modifications based on the business levels they are experiencing during this period –especially when it comes to giving them the greatest value with any payment deferments for large ticket items.
  • By the normalcy period all COVID-19 messaging should be abandoned. People will not want or need you to remind them of the darkest period in the modern world. You should have a robust and strategic marketing plan that plays well into the new post COVID-19 normal.

As a marketer for over 30 years, I’ve seen many good and bad times but nothing so dramatic and life-altering as the COVID-19 global pandemic. So, in the past weeks, I have immersed myself in reading research studies and various articles, reflection and talking to clients.

Based on what I’ve gathered so far, combined with my instinct, below is what I have surmised as to how consumer-buying attitudes will unfold over the coming months and what we as marketers and business owners might expect.

The fear, panic and quarantine period

This period started in early March 2020 and will continue through the lift of the quarantines.

The three marketing hurdles that the majority of businesses, those that offer non-essential products and services, must overcome, communicate and address in their current advertising and messaging:

  1. “Right now, I only need the essentials (food, water and shelter), so tell me why I should buy your product now?”
  2. “I fear I may catch the COVID-19 virus during any unnecessary interactions, and my primary concern is protecting myself and my family from being infected. So, tell me how you’re going to make my interaction with you safe and how you’re going to take every precaution to ensure you are not going to infect me with the virus?”
  3. “I fear spending any money now, especially on non-essential products and services as I am not confident my income stream will continue, so tell me how you’re going to address that by offering me deep discounts, value, free delivery, deferred payments, no interest, etc?”

If you do persuade a consumer to make a purchase during this period, adding a humanitarian layer to your communication and offer will strengthen your brand and build post COVID-19 loyalty.

Communicate often and in the right places with messages that clearly demonstrate your understanding of the crisis and how you are addressing it.

Offer relevant and truthful content to establish yourself as a compassionate and helpful brand. During this time, what would ordinarily be considered excessive posting on social media platforms is acceptable, especially for essential businesses such as food outlets, etc.

So create relevant, helpful and informative posts that are timed strategically throughout the day to keep your customers informed daily and often. The tone of your communication should not be depressing or have a doomsday feel or sound – it should be positive and optimistic.

Digital Media and live TV is where you’ll find people during this period. With everyone quarantined, people are sutured to their phones, browsing for any tidbits of good news they can find in articles and on websites.

People that ordinarily didn’t participate in social media are finding it as a way to stay connected and informed. When people are watching TV, they’re watching news and live programming or viewing app-based programming (OTT) and escaping into their favorite on-demand shows.

Companies that market effectively, strategically and compassionately during this period will be the big winners when this nightmare is over. This takes a strong stomach and a solid backbone, but staying in touch is a true sign of a great friend – and treating your customers as friends is a great marketing strategy in any marketing environment and even greater now.

The reprieve period

Begins immediately when the quarantines are lifting, and people can begin to resume normal activities. This period could continue for up to six months and barring any resurgence from COVID-19, will diminish with each day.

People will continue being fearful and anxious, causing them to behave in a leery manner and to be reluctant to put their defenses and fears aside.

Businesses will need to continue to use the same marketing strategies outlined in “The Fear & Quarantine Period” with slight modifications based on the business levels they are experiencing during this period –especially when it comes to giving them the greatest value with any payment deferments for large ticket items.

The businesses that build relationships and trust during this period will be the winners when normalcy returns.

  1. Use this period to build your brand and demonstrate to your customers that you care and that you will go to extreme measures to help them regain trust by creating unique and special offers with high value.
  2. Continue with sincere, authentic and altruistic messaging and do it often. This is your opportunity to build an unbreakable bond with your costumers. Show them you care more about them and their families than you do about your company’s bottom-line.
  3. Begin to shift your communication away from COVID-19 and to messages that demonstrate value and your brand. The consumers you’ve created trusting and caring relationships with during the previous months will repay you with their loyalty and their pocketbooks.

The back to normalcy period

Business levels have resumed to normal or better.

By now all COVID-19 messaging should be abandoned. People will not want or need you to remind them of the darkest period in the modern world.

You should have a robust and strategic marketing plan that plays well into the new post COVID-19 normal.

What that is, remains to be seen…

Ric Militi is an accomplished marketing professional who has been working with global and major brands for over 30 years. He is currently CEO and Executive Creative Director for InnoVision Marketing Group, one of San Diego’s largest and most successful advertising agencies.

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