Marketing Matters April 2020 – Surviving a New Reality

With coronavirus disrupting the pattern of everyday life, businesses need to use their ingenuity and work smart in adapting their marketing in a time of crisis says Ashgrove Marketing’s Terry van Rhyn

If there is ever a time to recalibrate our thinking as marketing and businesspeople now is a good one. Whether you believe the coronavirus pandemic is going to “blow over” soon or stay with us for years to come (or until they find a vaccine), the fact remains that our world as we know it has changed…at least in the short term.

We do not have an option to faff about if we are to survive this crisis on a personal or business level. The ripple effect is crystal clear: no one will be immune to accepting and adapting to change. Ask any T-Rex…

So it’s great to see businesses already adapting right here in the Isle of Man. Hats off to our local Fynoderee Gin distiller for jumping right into it by producing hand sanitiser to help combat the shortage of this product in stores and to the hospitals. (Likewise with Dyson stepping up to the call for more ventilators in the UK.)

Kudos also must go to Nic and Jess from local web designers Afundi for reacting to the plight of restaurants and pubs having to close their doors. They immediately put their digital expertise to good use in developing an online platform where these businesses can tap into a home delivery service.

With the real estate sector in jeopardy, agents are now able to “virtually walk” their prospective buyers through a home by using their phones. For the ultra-cautious, homeowners can make their own video without allowing even agents in their home. The same is true of car salespeople: they can take exterior and interior videos of all their vehicles and post those for customers to view.

Elsewhere nightclubs have taken their themed “Absolut Vodka Nights” online. The DJs still perform their sets as usual and people party in their homes to “cloud raves” instead.

Some musicians who have the power to reach millions have posted their unplugged or “isolation” renditions of their hits on social media – some even doing these without make up. (In many cases it appears they have just woken up and pressed the record button, bless them.)

Home entertainment is clearly very important but while Netflix, Amazon, Apple TV and others are already there to fill some of our time, we can’t just all stay on a couch and watch TV, movies, play games or binge-watch a series – there is more to isolation than TV! We need to literally think outside that box.

Successful brands that are on the ball will adapt quickly to customer lifestyle changes and buying behaviours and patterns. They will look to change their model to work with the new reality, whether that’s ramping up online, moving to delivery/click and collect, pay it forward or some other variation of normal service in a time of crisis.

They will already have learned that a kneejerk cut to the marketing budget, so typical during stressful times, is not necessarily the best option.

Of course you would expect an ad man to be championing marketing budgets, but keeping communication going with your customers during times like these is essential. This is not only relevant to Governments sharing up to date information with the public, it also includes companies informing staff, customers, suppliers and clients of their status and/or actions.

While workforces may be interrupted and business more difficult, there are lots of good online tools that can be used to keep the show on the road. At Ashgrove we have decided to use Zoom and we conduct our all-agency production meetings at 11am every day. It is a quite wonderful way to maintain the agency spirit and not only review our work in progress but to also catch up on the latest gossip!

Those businesses that are quick off the mark in reacting to these strange times are likely to gain advantage and those who can cut through the information overload with crisp concise and relevant messaging will do best.

Taking the bigger picture into account, our whole economy will rely on us to quickly figure out how to effectively promote useful products and services at a time when everyone is in panic mode.

The key rule is DO NOT be opportunistic but rather see this as a way to show what you are made of as a business. If you have a good idea that will benefit people, there is nothing wrong with making a profit – just don’t exploit. This is chance to enhance your brand reputation, not destroy it.

People are looking for businesses and individuals to step up and develop products and services to reflect our current reality and to find clever ways to improve or even save lives. In particular, anything we can do as a society to support and assist our health professionals is first prize as they will need all the help they can get.

So this is a clarion call to those with the big ideas to step up and change the world! It’s also a call to all businesses to think smart about how you can do things differently and evolve your model to the present times. Your customers – and your employees – will thank you for it.