HOW BRANDS ARE TAKING ON THE INVISIBLE ENEMY
BRANDS VS CORONAVIRUS
The world is at war with the unknown. An invisible enemy.
Rationing of groceries, conscription in health services, change in mass manufacture to produce ventilators and hand sanitiser, social isolation, policing on movements, and huge disruption in commerce with predicted recessions imminent but with heroes abundant and in all shapes and sizes. The main difference between the 1940s and now is the pace at which we can communicate. The digital age has made the lockdown a quick learning curve for society and commerce alike and in order to adapt quickly there have been a number of shifts in the marketing world that we’d like to share with you...
Shift in media focus
We’ve already seen it. Glasto, SXSW, F1, Euros football, Tokyo2020. This was a year full of promise but with increasing stringency placed on public gatherings, events and experiential activations are being thrown into disarray. Whilst this has caused an initial bout of panic within the industry, we can look to China for reassurance. During the peak of the coronavirus outbreak 45% of marketers surveyed by Dentsu Aegis’s survey of 155 Chinese clients said their sales had been significantly impacted, but only 7% had stopped ad spending completely.
This is with 14% stating that they moved their budgets from offline media to online with the increase in people staying at home. Smart, right? It’s predicted that Chinese e-commerce advertising spend will grow by 17.7% and social media spending by 22.2% in 2020 alone. Perhaps this number will be even more exaggerated in the UK market, where the likes of social media are less regulated, as Econsultancy and Marketing Week researched in their survey of 2200 UK Marketers. 91% of UK marketers anticipate an increase in the use of online services; 77% in social media and 70% in ecomm usage (although you must’ve heard that Amazon Prime deliveries are now taking a week, and Ocado deliveries about a month). As well, the demand for live action has seen us doing PE lessons with our kids in our front rooms, and even Class Pass has us namaste-ing the evenings away as if we were in our very own zen studios. It is a huge opportunity for livestreaming to display its utility in day-to-day life - and beyond this isolated life we’re leading. In these trying times, investing in online marketing and finding new ways to interact with people is key to keeping customers engaged with your brand.
Shift in timely focus
55% of UK marketers are delaying product and service launches, meaning there is no place in the COVID climate for short-term thinking. The shift is most definitely long-term and the goal is to sustain brand identity. As brand consultant Mark Ritson points out, it’s important to “keep the brand light burning” because “the cost of snuffing it out... then trying to reignite it next year is gigantic.” Whilst some marketing budgets are being slashed in half, Cheuk Chiang, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Greater North Asia suggests “there is a bank of studies from previous downturns to show that increasing investment sustains brand long-term growth.”
PHD’s Chris Stephenson (Regional Head of Strategy and Planning APAC) points to historically similar events in order to forecast the outcome of coronavirus: “during 2003 SARS, FMCG revenue YoY growth slowed from 16% to 10-12%. The slowing down lasted for two months and ended after the relief of the epidemic. Explosive growth then subsequently happened in the following quarter,” so whilst maintenance of your brand voice is key during this time, preparation for when the market begins to change should be your focus.
Shift in importance of reactionary content
Brands that react quickly, take a lead role, and make public decisions - moreover, publicly beneficial decisions - will profit the most. It’s about seeing which brands successfully transfer the rhetoric from “us” to “we.” For instance, LVMH changed their manufacturing process to focus on hand sanitiser for health services instead of perfume. More recently, luxury fashion brand Prada have begun to create face masks as well. A brand’s reputation will stand the test of time; when M&S manufactured WWII ration clothing for the British public, they subsequently enjoyed longstanding popularity well into the 60s and 70s. The important thing is to be doing something.
We have already seen positive reactions from Iceland and Sainsbury’s, with their designated accessible shopping hours for those vulnerable to COVID and of course our heroic NHS staff. Other brands like EasyJet are (for once) being reasonable and allowing people to change flights free of charge until February 2021. AirBnB has stopped charging for lost bookings, Class Pass allowed for full freeze, Deliveroo has organised contactless deliveries and Pret offered free coffee to NHS workers. Ford US have discontinued their national ad campaign in favour of a campaign they created with W+K in a week which champions the Ford Credit programme. This programme supports people unable to repay their car payments during times of natural disasters, which they’ve now extended to those directly impacted by COVID-19. Eschewing profit and recognising consumers’ needs is actually helping brands achieve that much sought after status of being “human.” There has been a lot of pressure on brands to appear more human in recent years, and crises like this offer a chance to display humanity. This in turn will build the much sought-after loyalty, trust, and confidence we’re all searching for.
In this unique set of circumstances, don’t forget who you are and what your brand stands for. Don’t shy away from having a voice. One of our favourite quotes is from Mark Ritson: “great brands build their equity during crises like these… they stand out by actually exemplifying their brand values in the face of crisis that surrounds it.” There’s something to think about on your indoor morning commute from the bed to the desk, or during your singular government-sanctioned outdoor exercise.
WINGers Top Three Pieces of Quarantine Content
The mega brand get the tone (and beautiful copyrighting) exactly spot on every time. This doesn’t feel like sales, it feels true and yet still you want to own and wear their kit. Smart and considered UGC dealt quickly and just rough enough around the edges to feel real.
Jeroen Gortworst - Quarantine day 14 got me like...
Fun creativity from this guy bored or baked at home and thinking up hilarious use for his washing machine and lever arch file.
NHS on TikTok
Shoutout to our NHS heroes, fighting this disease head on and risking their health to save lives. Their message is clear - stay home!