By Simon Akers, founder, Archmon
We all know these are unprecedented times.
We know that brands are trying to show they care. We’ve sat and watched the in it together, here for you and thank you ads on each these groundhog days.
We also know that most people don’t really care that they are trying to care, not half as much as the brands think they do.
I only have to filter messages in my email ‘from CEO’ to see all the nonsensical CRM blasts in the last few weeks; self-satisfied comms from global leaders of hotels telling me how thorough they are at cleaning their taps and minibars.
Let’s focus on the word ‘trying’. There is trying and there’s the doers. Of course not everyone is in the position to be so benevolent, but the bigger coffer-swelled brands have a platform, and with that an opportunity to set the tone and do things right. And I don’t mean just COVID-19 related, but help move us along as a society, or resume some normality at least…
Do it, Don’t just say it
Iceland, as much lauded in the industry press, did the right thing, a relatively early mover in the response to the Coronavirus crisis. DID being the word; opened stores earlier for people who needed it most. In the currently prominent digital consumer environments, Deliveroo and the like are offering free meals and vouchers to NHS workers (there’s some profit hidden in there of course, but they are still there doing it, creating an actual outcome of differentiation, and utilizing their network capabilities). There are a mere handful of these; LVMH & Brewdog using their alcohol surplus to create sanitisers, and a few more. I say a few, as honestly there have not been that many.
Although there are no rules, there are certain marketing principles that have been shunned in favour of short-term sycophantic comms. E.g. going old school 4Ps, focussing on mere Promotion rather than thinking more about what they are doing/offering (Product).
People can see right through it. The thin veil of compassion behind the underlying panic of revenue driving comms, bubbling gently beneath the surface…
Furthermore, don’t say you are always there for people when you are not, again proof that actions speak louder than mere words.
Finally, it just alienates the audiences:
Alienation and superficial comms aside, it just feels like high time to focus on what you are marketing now. It is what you do that matters, less so what you say, how you say it, or who you say it to.
Let’s get back to normal
I think it is important to know what you are and what you are not. It is the cornerstone of any communication strategy. If you have not done anything to alleviate the plight, whether it be a strategic decision or simply a lack of resource, then surely you are best to say nothing, be sensitive to market, and empathetically sell in your core services with the right tone of voice. Things will slowly resume to normal over time we hope, but what is definite is people want normality soon again too.
The vapid alternative is to virtue signal that you are agents of compassion and change, when really we know that when the bank says you can use your online app ‘in response to social distancing’, or a search engine offers free advertising grants to small businesses, they are just framing what they usually do to achieve KPIs anyway but with some charitable sprinkle.
Speaking of cold-hard KPIs, we all know, pandemic or not, that short termism is not always the answer, and response has to be authentic to achieve longer-term marketing effectiveness. Performance measures should be maintained as part of a consistent measurement plan, just be mindful of the current consumer behaviours to nuance such benchmarks. Like any brand, we can surely only identify how effective a campaign has been after considerable time. Likewise, downtime may not be the answer; according to Kantar study only 8% were in favour of stopping advertising at this time.
Sell me your car, take me to a mythical world of driving along the pacific highway in hope for a better life and a beautiful spouse, this is bizarrely normal. Just don’t try to change the world unless you actually are. I have charities for that. Stay in your P&L lane.
If you are a money making conglomerate, be one. We know who and what you are, we’re probably never going to love you, but we like your products (and sometimes your service). Be true to that. Personally, I’d rather buy from a wolf than its sheep-clothing adversary.