Time to stop talking about wiping down surfaces
A veritable flood of email communication is heading outward by the minute from brands and retailers, serving mostly as a reminder of hygiene activity and safety practices. While doing so is certainly admirable, it abrogates the one maxim of effective communication that, now more than ever, must be observed to build consumer trust and relationship.
First, for clarity, we recommend the hygiene regimen focused emailing should cease. It serves only to remind people of the coronavirus threat. It is also placing the company at the center of the message rather than the consumer. Hygiene has its place, but not as a lead message.
Effective storytelling begins with observing these important criteria:
- How is my brand communication being helpful and useful to the consumer in the new conditions they find themselves?
- How can I help improve customers’ lives at a time when homebound stresses multiply, and families are living in isolation?
- What utility are you providing that earns permission for engagement and hence is seen as value-added rather than corporate interruption?
Successful communication places the consumer at the center of messaging
The consumer MUST be the hero of your messaging. Their needs, concerns, conditions and challenges are paramount at a time when anything else may be greeted as irrelevant or spam. Granted it’s important to provide information on safety practices and supply chain integrity. That said, you should lead content strategy with consumer-relevant stories over internal mandates.
What’s going on right now that informs messaging strategy:
- People are homebound and contending with the growing stresses related to confinement, absence of lifestyle options and restricted social activity.
- Children are out of school and disrupted from their learning routine and quality interaction with friends. Boredom is a real thing.
- The home is the center of the universe and meal preparation activity becomes a never-ending call to action.
- Online communication and contact are at a premium and is a threshold for engagement while screen time explodes.
- Economic uncertainty bubbles underneath as people grow wary of the quarantine consequences for business and jobs.
What to convey in your outreach messaging:
- Be empathetic. Put the brand in league with consumer concerns during this time of crisis. A human, conversational voice is essential. Edit out corporate speak or self-promotion.
- Offers and generous incentives are important as a thank you and to help ease the stresses on family finances. This may sound like self-promotion but it isn’t. It’s just a well-timed reward.
- At no other time in the history of modern cultural change has health and wellness become more important. Now is the time to weigh in on stories aimed at helping people take better care of themselves, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is your higher purpose right now.
- The kitchen is now the center of the home universe. This is the time to become helpful on menus ideas, preparation hacks, e-commerce ordering tips, interactive cooking experiences with the kids, recipes, pantry stocking advice, food freshness guidance, home baking (the most challenging of culinary skills), and ways to take the drudgery out of home meal prep. Pivot to online cooking classes with your corporate chef.
- Time needs filling with activities that have more going for it than consuming massive quantities of Netflix programming. Here are some ideas, advice, guidance on activities and pursuits that take advantage of the extra down time:
Reading and learning; podcast listening is on a tear
Exercise, yoga and online experiences to promote same
Meditation, mental health and wellness
Home repair and refurbishment
Pet behavioral training
Interactive activities with pets
Spring housecleaning tips
Organization and decluttering the home
Games, puzzles, and other hands-on moments of home-based entertainment
Online workshops for any of these
You may be asking what’s this got to do with my business, and the answer is, it’s about them and how marketing becomes useful to people in extraordinary conditions.
Unselfishness is put to the test
Ample evidence exists that earning trust and belief is best served when the consumer believes you are genuinely concerned about them and improving their lives. At its core this requires a move towards a less selfish form of marketing that puts their intrinsic needs first.
Given the incredible circumstances in which we find ourselves, this axiom is more important than ever. Reciprocity is the guiding principle that should help direct your strategic thinking. When the brand becomes an enabler, guide and coach, you are seeding the opportunity for a welcomed and appreciated relationship.
This will require a reorientation from traditional command and control forms of marketing. However, the more enlightened approach will put your brand in position to engage at a time when there are fewer distractions. People are looking for the voices that provide useful guidance in these uncertain times.
If you need help in navigating the right message and content, we’re here to assist.
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Bob Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Traditional brand marketing often sidesteps more human qualities that can help consumers form an emotional bond. Yet brands yearn for authentic engagement, trust and a lasting relationship with their customers. Emergent helps brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity, honesty and deeper meaning in their customer relationships and communication. For more information, contact Bob@Emergent-Comm.com and follow on Twitter @BobWheatley.