A week into the lockdown and life has turned on its head for almost everyone. It is imperative for businesses, brands and consumers to quickly learn the new way to operate in the coming months.
The lockdown has disrupted consumption patterns. Work from home and isolation have resulted in New Online Behavioral Shifts Beginning to Take Shape. Some of these patterns are changing for the long term. Marketing has been disrupted. Many organizations are taking a step back into a blackout, while others are seeing it as an opportunity to build trust in their brand values and improve their relationship with their consumers.
According to a study by BARC-Nielsen, smartphone usage has undergone a sea change.
One thing is clear, brands acclimatizing and innovating to make the best of this bad situation are the ones who will come out on top.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not about opportunism but achieving synergy between consumers who are under lockdown and starved for engagement and the brand that they love. Live sport is cancelled as are new movie releases, there are no parks open, walks are prohibited, and parties, events, both large and small, are cancelled. Work from home is adding to the isolation and cabin fever is setting in rapidly.
This mandatory isolation has resulted in increased day time viewing and consumption of online content, especially videos. Online communities, like Facebook groups, have witnessed increased activity, ad costs on social media have dipped, DIY content is exploding as people move to hobbies to keep themselves engaged, OTT is booming, and conferencing apps have seen a surge in usage. The increased engagement in online groups could make them even more significant, connective elements, and prized tools for support and assistance.
Brands should instead rework their marketing strategies to focus on long-term brand building within the limitations of the current climate, but they should also shift strategies to follow new media consumption patterns.
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Content marketing becomes necessary at the very least. It needs to be around responsible messaging and educating your consumers. However, content marketing can become an effective way for you to remain in touch with your customers and boost pipeline generation while supporting customers emotionally. Focus on the awareness and consideration part of the funnel. People are looking for support and a semblance of normalcy amid the pandemic, and they’re turning to online communities for this purpose. The loss of interaction has been phenomenal with catching up with friends at a local hobby group or a sporting team or running into friends down at the local restaurant becoming no longer possible. That loss of community connection has left a significant gap at a time when people need to feel connected the most. At such a time, brand marketing turning to meaningful community support will find long term value. This is the right time to rejuvenate the online community you support or even form a new one.
Digital events. Digital events can go a long way in reducing the cabin fever impact and can give wings to your consumer outreach initiatives. Consider virtual parties for your customers and employees. Your brand ambassador could host a specially designed Spotify list, a virtual pyjama party. There are many possibilities where your brand values can converge with current consumer needs.
B2B community support: B2B brands webinars, email marketing, chatbots and support groups are useful measures to help SMB customers when every business is struggling to keep its head above water. There is no precedence to the situation we are facing. Simple, empathetic support with guidance on data security, WFH tools, access to information, and in many cases, future-readiness is crucial, because when this is all over we must rally as businesses, teams, brands and a nation to get back on the economic track with a new understanding of the digital workstream dynamics.
Gamification : The longer the crisis lasts, the more people will need connections and engagement, as prolonged isolation could lead to significant interactive shifts, moving more and more of our community engagement into digital realms, and further altering how people communicate and engage. With supply chains disrupted and non-essential goods movement at a standstill, brands can not only use this opportunity to engage but also to reward their consumers, and gamification can play a vital function in your marketing strategy.
Teach a skill : Brands have spent millions on “how to” and DIY content around product usage. This is an excellent time to build relevance and start an IG TV show for example or get a CGM campaign going, whatever be your brand poison there are possibilities of inspiring hobbyists around your brand and product. Get people engaged. They may not be buying right now during the lockdown, but this will pass, and the markets will open, life will find its new normal and the relationship that brands build will return as brand love.
Tough time for HR : The Human resources departments in all organizations are under enormous strain. While most organizations quickly put in place the tools needed to WFH, this new work environment has bought a unique set of challenges in keeping employees motivated and engaged. It is possible to improve the employee engagement levels and erase the cabin fever syndrome within your teams with the help of technology and content marketing.
Future-ready : The lockdown has brought war protocols to the forefront. As campaigns have stopped mid-track, budgets are lying unspent due to cancelled events and sponsorships, advertising productions are stalled, sales have come to a standstill and marketing plans being re-calibrated, it has all come down to planning for the future. The loss of effort is substantial, but there is an opportunity. When we beat the virus, and we will, it’s a matter of time; there will be a rush to reclaim our lives, people and brands alike. Those who are better planned will gain with a faster, more relevant go to market strategy, one which takes into account the consumer behaviour shifts during the COVID-19 lockdown. This is the time to work on the basics, get the SEO in order, revamp the brand website, get those landing pages optimized and live, develop sales tools and calculators for your sales teams, focus on community building and lay particular emphasis on the awareness and consideration part of the funnel. There would be seasonality in most product cycles, which are going to be disrupted. In a best-case scenario, your plan A should be ready for a quick go to market. Humanize your marketing, and plan, plan, plan with your partners and agencies. If partners, agencies and production companies are on the same page, much can be achieved from the safety of wherever they are.
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Ambika Sharma - Chief Strategist at Pulp Strategy
Chief strategist @pulpstrategy, entrepreneur, consumer engagement designer, writer, adventure traveller, diver, HOG, SuperBiker and speed buff