Marketers are in a Bind

by | Jun 11, 2020 | Business, Marketing, pandemic, Strategy | 0 comments

Marketers are in a bind.

Most likely because they set their marketing strategy before March – meaning it’s probably irrelevant now, or at least lacking in their ability to meet these changing times. 

I began writing this post in mid-May. Since then, George Floyd was killed, and protesters have taken to the streets for mostly peaceful and lawful reasons. This crisis of America’s soul is heaped on top of an already fragile society, forcing marketers to double their efforts by listening and responding to the realities on the ground and the fear and anger in the hearts of Americans.

So, marketers are in a bind. Their companies desperately need sales. Yet Americans seemed reluctant to shop even as stores open. Others now fear to go out because of the protests and their repercussions.

Here’s the situation and three ideas every marketer needs to deeply consider.

  1. What do we really need?

Recently, Nicholas Wilton a noted artist and teacher from the Bay Area sent his weekly video with a subject line of, “What can you use again?”  It’s a short video that I hope you’ll watch. Click here.

In it, he shares, “I’m not buying anything. I’m resisting it. I’m just using up what I already have.”

We’ve also seen resistance as states have opened places where people have traditionally gathered, restaurants, parks and malls. In some areas there have been huge crowds, way beyond what medical experts say is safe, and in other areas there has been little retail traffic.

Where does your offer fit into this more needs-based time? If you’re selling aspirational goods and ideas, how/can you re-position your offerings? And if that’s not a strategy to pursue, how do you create demand without insulting our simplified purchasing habits?

  1. What is the right tone for this time?

Too aggressive is a complete turn-off. Too sad and serious? We’re seeing enough of that in real life. So, please!

Striking a balanced tone of reality and hope is a delicate dance, but one that must be achieved to have any hope of making a real connection with the human beings you want to buy your stuff. We’re expecting a new kind of authenticity and transparency, and we can smell a phony six states over.

“We’ve talked about the death of irony before, but I think this could be the death of bullshit.”

Colleen Decourcy, Chief Creative Officer, Weiden+Kennedy

To read the entire article on post-Covid19 truth in advertising, click here.

I’ve noticed myself reacting to TV spots that six months ago would have gone un-noticed. What am I reacting to? The tone, the relevance, and the old ‘consumer’ buy, buy, buy mentality.

For almost three months, we have, largely, not spent money. For some it’s because they have no money. For others, shopping just isn’t easing the itch and for many, it’s because they’re pre-occupied, worried, and afraid of what the future will bring them.

Consider your target market. Let’s say his name is Paul. What does Paul need to hear from you right now, and how does he need to hear it? This is the deeper work that is now needed by forgetting the stereotypes and your brand personality for a moment. Put yourself in Paul’s shoes – is he afraid, and of what? Losing his job or status? Being broke? And if your target audience includes women, remember that we make decisions differently than men, so you’ll have to adjust accordingly.

  1. How relevant are you and how relevant is your messaging?

Our needs have changed at head-spinning speed. Our preferences became needs that led to panic over toilet paper. That panic-struck person doesn’t use the same criteria for purchasing decisions as they did pre-Covid19. They have new priorities. Promotion of purely discretionary items will find it the toughest, as we have dropped down to the basics in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Of course, everyone is on their own journey, but it is safe to say that most people have dropped down a level or two. Settling into the zones of safety and physiological needs.

Adjust your strategies because this shift requires a more thoughtful approach to copy and creative if you’re to remain relevant to your prospects and customers.

So, the dance continues for marketers. But now it’s gone from a relatively easy foxtrot to the highly technical tango.

As you rethink your marketing strategies, and I trust that you are rethinking all of your strategies and goals, consider these new filters. Figure out how your brand can connect in a more authentic way now.  

To release this new bind, marketers must listen, then adjust their marketing strategy to find relevance, the right tone and see the real needs of their customers and clients. That must be your only goal. We have a new set of values now. 

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