If you’ve read a blog post, press release, news article, or just your social media feed at some point in the last 18 months, you will have heard that we’re living in “unprecedented times.”
Of course, you did know that: you’re living in them! It baffles me how this one phrase has become the calling card for businesses world-wide trying to push new products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But it got me thinking about the ways we market during times of crisis. How do we know what to say? Should we acknowledge the crisis, or just ignore it completely? Should we be sensitive, or lighthearted?
So I did some digging into what’s been connecting genuinely with audiences, both in my personal circles and around the world - here’s what I’ve found.
The Business Side
When you work in marketing you get to know a lot of business owners from a broad range of industries. Both in the professional world and in casual chats with friends, I’ve been seeing an equally broad range of strategies for surviving during the COVID crisis. But as the last few months have shaken out,
I’ve seen one strategy that works more than any other: agility.
Whether it’s a local restaurant moving to take-away/delivery only, or a global sportswear brand providing free home workout classes, pivoting both the product and the brand to allow for the circumstances means your already-loyal customers will be able to keep supporting you. Of course, pushing your great new service too hard can come across as pretty insensitive, so there is a balancing act here.
There’s a lot of factors to consider - from financial to social to medical - and you need to find the way to walk that line carefully. Nobody wants to look like they’re profiting from a crisis.
The Personal Side
Things like pandemics create a lot of (very understandable) anxiety. I’m lucky to be living in a part of Australia that has dodged the worst of COVID, but I can still see the global state of things, and it can be scary. Which is why I appreciate it so much when brands offer comfort and support in their messaging.
I’ve written a lot recently about how being clear, honest, and genuine in your marketing is the best way to secure an audience, and that’s only become more true in the last 18 months. So seeing a brand acknowledge that life is pretty daunting right now, even if they use the trite “unprecedented times” line, does go a long way towards building that empathetic connection.
And like I mentioned above: be genuine. If your product genuinely helps an audience, tell them how, but don’t rub the cause of the problem in their face. If you’re capitalising on people’s weaknesses it won’t be forgotten!
Obviously, selling your product during times of crisis isn’t easy. Hell, buying products during times of crisis isn’t easy. As somebody trying to keep a business afloat, you need to learn to be open, sensitive, and understanding of the position that the crisis has put your audience in.
Don’t force your products and services down their throats - gently guide their hands, tell them you understand, and maybe have a way to make life just a little easier.