Lead Forensics

Marketing during a crisis: four key questions for your business

15 April 2020

With lockdown measures set to be extended, business leaders are faced with a dilemma: how, and to what extent, should they market their brands during the coronavirus crisis?

By now you will have seen arguments for reducing, maintaining and increasing your marketing budget. But there is no one-size-fits all answer.

For some, the impact on demand and supply chains means escalating activity is a non-starter. Others may simply be unable to summon the costs needed after safeguarding staff welfare. Indeed, in these challenging times it could be all about survival; for any brand right now, it’s imperative that responsibility and compassion take precedence.

If you are fortunate enough to have the financial resources and capacity then it boils down to four key questions:

  • Will consumers want to hear from you?
  • What kind of marketing message is needed?
  • What will the short- and long-term implications be?
  • How has the pandemic affected media consumption and availability?

Let’s address each one…

Consumers do want to hear from you

New research from Kantar has found that just 8% of global consumers think brands should stop advertising during the crisis. Indeed, as this graph from the IPA demonstrates, the majority of people want to hear at least as much as they have done previously from brands, regardless of category.

But what kind of message will they respond positively to? What tone and angle should you be adopting?

Sensitivity is key

According to Peter Field, emotional advertising is considerably more likely to resonate with people during times of crisis than rational messaging.

With fear, confusion and anxiety widespread, the public is looking to brands for reassurance and positivity. People want hope; they seek solace in the certainty of others that things will get better. Businesses are perfectly positioned to provide this.

But consumers also want to see sensitivity and authenticity. They’re looking to hear from real voices and about everyday acts of kindness. They also want people of authority and expertise to give them confidence.

Additionally, according to Kantar 78% of those surveyed believe brands should be helping them in their daily lives. What’s more, 75% want businesses to inform them of the ways they are supporting communities and government during the pandemic. Indeed, acts of generosity and humanity are likely to reverberate deeply at a time when people are joining together in solidarity to overcome this adversity.

Crucially, 74% of respondents also said brands should not exploit the situation. Though they want to hear from you, they want to see that your business is adding value to society. You cannot just talk the talk; your behaviour must correlate with your messaging.

Don’t panic, think long-term

With a recession all but guaranteed, business leaders might think marketing falls into the ‘non-essential’, discretionary expenditure column.

This is wrong.

If you are a marketer who has worked through a recession before, you will know that it is the brands that commit to growing their share of voice during downturns that benefit from a larger share of the market when things improve.

Yet, research from Marketing Week and Econsultancy recently found that 60% of 900 UK brands are cutting or reviewing their marketing budgets in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s a lot of competition suddenly going dark.

Now, whether you cut, maintain or increase your budget, you’re unlikely to see profit increases in the short-term. That is something we all have to deal with.

However, if you maintain or increase spend, you’re likely to see sales grow much faster in the long-term. This is because you’ve increased your share of voice and capitalised on the caution of others to lay the foundations for a higher market share. With less noise out there, your campaign becomes louder.

It’s important to recognise that this is a window of opportunity; whilst brand building should always be part of your marketing strategy, its effects during recession are amplified by the inactivity of others. With advertising rates guaranteed to inflate once we reach the other side, the same approach will not bear the same fruits in a few months time.

But to capitalise on this opportunity, brands need to think beyond short-term ROI and look at the bigger picture. Holding your nerve and being proactive during times of great uncertainty will help your prosper once the good times return.

Opportunity abounds

Like any other market, advertising works on a supply and demand basis. Right now, with many brands cutting their marketing budgets, the drop in advertisers has seen prices slashed across various media.

Take TV as an example: though viewing figures are currently up by 32% year-on-year across all audiences, the cost of advertising during April is 44% lower than in 2019. This is primarily down to the fact that there are currently just 644 advertisers on air, compared to 1,385 in March. May is expected to follow suit.

Radio, too, has seen increases, with listening via connected devices rising by 15% and the likes of Virgin Radio’s breakfast show experiencing audience growth of 40%, compared to the previous eight weeks. Online listening in particular is significantly up, as TALKRadio’s 117% YoY surge demonstrates.

Factor in the discounts being offered by various newsbrands – with both online and print exploding as sources of trusted news coverage – and it’s clear that now could be a great time to mobilise.

So, if you believe your business is in a good position to bring value to people’s lives and increase share of voice during these strange times, why not get in touch? We’ll help you pinpoint the most cost-effective media strategy so that your budget goes further.

The long-term benefits could be significant.

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