Media comms during tough times is a balancing act
Think about how you as a brand can help. Do not think about how you can sell.
Q4 will be a tough period for many people by facing sky high costs for energy and ever increasing costs for other daily essentials like food.
About 2.5 years ago, at the start of the pandemic, people in general faced hard times too
Back then it was a lot about uncertainty about personal health, being on furlough or the prospect of being made redundant due to business being completely shut and being socially isolated.
Now the thread to many is a higher existential thread where people are facing an unbearable choice between keeping warm or putting food on the table.
Although the challenges are different we can take learnings from that period.
Smaller business and brands will face tough times too
While individuals will suffer hard, some businesses will too. Some are predicted to go out of business because of a combination of increased costs of running the business, offering supply and staff shortages.
Some other businesses might be able to bear the increased costs of running their business, producing and selling their goods. And these business will get to make a decision whether or not they should cut their marketing budget.
I get that marketing budgets can feel luxurious during tough times. But as proven during previous hard times like the financial crises or very recently during the pandemic, keeping the communication lights on is crucial for brands to get through the crisis and come out strong.
Any period of going quite eats into the brand awareness and brand perception that has been built up with a lot of resources and effort. A brand is a crucial asset for a company to attract customers and keeping them.
A continuous investment is crucial, too. Pulling everything brings a cut to your investment that is media and a short-term crisis shall not determine long-term strategies. Be agile in a crisis but don’t lose sight of the long-term goal.
Especially smaller brands need to keep investing in the brand or otherwise they will lose growth and need to invest significantly more afterwards to catch up to the level they have been before they went dark with their comms.
Of course, business cannot go on like usual. There will be decisions to be made to invest into your brand smarter and to align owned, earned and paid media more to be more effective.
A critical audit of existing comms is advisable to see which channels are the most effective and hence vital ones for the brand and for reaching your (potential) customers.
Find a genuine empathetic message with substance or leave it
That is one thing to look at. The other thing is the message. Some people, as mentioned earlier, will face really hard times, others might feel a strong pinch but do not have to make such tough decisions. However, their spending will be more cautious and conscious.
Empathy for the situation of the real terms customers are facing and kindness are very important.
Think about how you as a brand can help. Do not think about how you can sell. Sales messages won’t hit on receptive ears (unless you are a supermarket brand or brand for daily essentials that help buy cheaper than elsewhere).
But, neither do blunt all-the-same, empty phrases like we have seen during the pandemic.
“We are all in this together”. It was shouted from the rooftops and ads from all kinds of brands have been created that were interchangeable to a very concerning degree.
These hollow messages do nothing good for your brand. At best they will be ignored. At worst they will reflect a negative image of the brand as being out of touch and condescending.
To really be on the side of consumers think about how the brand and it’s product and legacy can actually make a positive contribution to people’s lives. If there is no genuine support option or message then don’t say it. Don’t force it. But keep communicating then in a non-salesy way.
Keep talking to your customers in a sensitive way to ensure resilience, differentiate yourself and be meaningful and continue strong after the crisis. It is about keeping your brand awareness alive, so that when times get better, people will have a positive image of your brand which in the long term feeds into sales, once people are ready to buy.
Be kind and keep talking.
Nina Franck is an independent comms and media planner