How brands can reinvent marketing strategies to navigate through uncertain times
The COVID-19 pandemic has put people, businesses, and governments on the back foot. The changes in consumer behaviour have made organizations re-evaluate their production, distribution, and marketing strategy priorities. The risks posed by the Coronavirus, stricter lockdown measures, and the unwillingness of consumers to spend more have thwarted the growth of many industries. These aspects point to a looming recession that would adversely impact the business ecosystem in the near future.
Although these present challenges and the potential recession will eventually recede, it would drastically change how consumers interact with you. So, whether you are a B2C brand or a B2B organization, you need to adopt a digital marketing strategy that caters to the changing behaviour of your audience to sustain during these trying times.
Is there a need to invest in a brand marketing strategy during this global pandemic?
This is a very prudent question being raised by marketers considering the present scenario. Its answer depends on multiple factors, such as the industry, location, and various characteristics of the target audience. For instance, if we focus exclusively on the APAC region, although the screen time in Hong Kong alone had increased by more than 10% in March 2020 compared to February 2020, this still does not give us a definitive answer.
As the lockdown measures will get lenient, the e-commerce industry will gradually pick-up its pace again. On the other hand, industries such as streaming and OTT apps, edutech, and healthcare have managed to amass a massive user base during this time.
So, to reiterate the answer to the question, it depends on your industry and your budget. So, even if you are a travel or hospitality brand, you can continue with your ad campaigns by changing your approach. For example, sales-y ads are a big no because they won’t bring you any results. Instead, focus on campaigns that can enhance the at-home customer experience (CX) of your audience. You can launch static or video ads that showcase your most visited destinations or create a series that lets your customers or travel bloggers share their travel stories. Instead of focusing on revenue, think of engagement and brand recall. This is crucial because although people aren’t going to travel for a while, they haven’t stopped thinking about their next-year vacations.
Similarly, e-commerce brands can run ad campaigns with discounts or coupons to boost sales in the short-term. Online stores with stringent ad budgets can invest in remarketing ads or lookalike audiences to bring their loyal customers back.
Now that we have addressed the key concern, let’s understand how brands can adapt their digital marketing strategy to navigate through these uncertainties.
6-Step process to readjust your digital marketing strategy to accommodate the changing times
1. Redefine business goals
COVID-19 has provided organizations with an opportunity to re-evaluate their business priorities and set goals accordingly. While the objective (i.e., number-driven) goals surrounding brand awareness, revenue, and engagement are crucial, this is the opportunity for brands to prioritize CX. Instead of just being a commodity in the market, see how you can project yourself as a brand that people equate with trust.
Trust will be a key component of brand experience in the post-COVID world and you need to ensure that your business goals revolve around trust, transparency, and customer loyalty.
Identify the role of your offerings in the lives of your ideal buyers and their corresponding touchpoints. For instance, if you are an e-commerce store, social media, email marketing, and paid ads are vital touch points along with the website. Find out the relevant touchpoints for your offerings and set goals for each of them.
2. Create empathy-driven content
The uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its impact will keep hitting its crests and troughs, and you need to help your customers through content to navigate through it. Create content that focuses on one of the four foundational content aspects, i.e., to inform, educate, inspire, or entertain the audience. Here are some basic steps you can start with:
- Content audit: Assess your existing content repository and find out the content that can be helpful. You can either update it with the latest facts and stats or rewrite it entirely. If you don’t have content that doesn’t address the current situation, you need to incorporate it into your content strategy
- Rethink your content home base: Your website, blog, and mobile app serve as a home base for your visitors and consumers. Ensure that all essential and relevant content is easily accessible. Make it easy for consumers to locate COVID-related or similar content repositories effortlessly. You can either use a header bar or highlight it in the menu
- Use distribution channels effectively: Use push notifications, social media platforms, newsletters, and other distribution channels to share the latest updates in your niche.
You could be a global brand, but it’s best to create localized content for each geography in such scenarios.
Realize that there’s going to be a lot of noise in the online space, and you need to be remarkable in your content efforts to stand out. By practising marketing storytelling, you’ll be interesting and can easily drive your point home. Diversify your content mix by incorporating video and audio (podcast). The growth of conversational AI (voice search and digital assistants) provides plenty of opportunities to create conversational and Q&A-themed content.
The early wave of marketing storytelling during the Coronavirus outbreak focused on practising hygiene, staying home, and social distancing. As this progresses, stay updated with the latest developments and tweak your content and messaging accordingly. While creating content, please be mindful of the fact that your communication needs to be empathetic, sensible, positive, and solution-oriented at all times. Fear, scarcity, or anxiety-inducing tactics should have no place in your marketing strategy for content.
3. Create an online marketing strategy that will build a community
Social media is a powerful online marketing strategy as it enables two-way communication. Use this feature to build a community that fosters dialogue with your audience. You can create groups on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn and create brand hashtags for Twitter and Instagram to invite your audience to participate in the discussion.
This community can also work as a focus group to gauge your marketing efforts and track audience sentiment. Coupled with social listening, you can understand what the audience is talking about and address their concerns, queries, and complaints promptly. These discussions will allow you to learn more about your audience while educating them and identifying high-value content ideas.
Brand advocacy shouldn’t be a goal weighing the seriousness of the current situation. But your educational and informational content can lead to content advocacy, where your audience is happy to share your content within their social circle.
4. Select the right channels for online advertising
The pandemic has forced people to make some lifestyle changes that are reflected in their online and digital device usage. As seen earlier, screen time has already gone up. In the recent pandemic stage, web browsing has gone up by 70%, traditional TV viewing by 63%, and social media usage by 60%. Users are also spending plenty of time on OTT and media streaming platforms.
Talking about mobile devices, users have downloaded staggeringly 22.5 billion new apps during the first quarter of 2020.
According to a research report by Statista, During Ramadan 2020 in Malaysia, 35% of the respondents shared that they are spending more time playing mobile games.
So, brands can now engage the audience on social media, OTT, and streaming apps prominently through mobile. In fact, PubMatic’s Quarterly Mobile Index (QMI) Q1 2020 report states that the video ad spend on mobile has been 67% (the remaining 33% was on desktop) in the first quarter, and the in-app programmatic marketplace (PMP) ad spend increased by 167% within the first five weeks after the lockdown in APAC.
5. Be mindful of the targeting and messaging
While all these things show better digital advertising opportunities, brands should trade waters carefully. Here are some suggestions to help you implement better ad targeting and messaging methods:
- Double down on mobile video ads
- Focus on contextual targeting to provide relevant user experience from both – publisher and advertiser’s perspectives
- Strive to instil trust in your brand as 65% of APAC consumers feel that companies need to be transparent with how they use this data. This may seem irrelevant, considering this isn’t exactly related to ads. However, this is the perfect opportunity to do so
- Don’t try to hack the system. Don’t run deceptive ads or con users into clicking on them. Google is cracking down heavily on policy violations, and you might get your account suspended altogether. And it’s never a good practice to use shady ad practices to reach your KPIs
- You can always rely on remarketing ads and expand your audience base through lookalike audience
6. Choose the right KPIs for success
When choosing KPIs for your brand marketing strategy, go back to your business goals. Along with awareness, engagement, and revenue goals, CX is also crucial. Therefore, it is worth observing metrics or KPIs like top traffic sources, most visited pages, engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares, etc.), and visit-to-conversion ratio.
You can further drill down to identify which traffic source has the highest visit-to-conversion ratio and so on. Apart from the conversion/revenue metrics, other metrics may seem trivial, but you are laying the groundwork for the future. For example, once you know the top traffic sources, you know where to capitalize your efforts to drive more value.
To sum up, you need to accommodate the changing consumer behaviour in your digital marketing strategy. Along with the strategies discussed in the article, fix the leaky faucets in your brand marketing framework during this partial downtime. For instance, if you have been meaning to enhance your social media presence or experiment with a new platform, do that. If a website redesign is long overdue, get to it.
To sum up, while the times are uncertain, don’t let them pull back on your marketing initiatives. You need to tweak your approach by keeping the current situation in mind. An empathetic and compassionate digital marketing strategy is the way to go.