Advertising Success During COVID-19

Advertising Success During COVID-19

Lockdowns and stay-at-home orders across the globe required advertisers to quickly adjust their marketing strategies. Rather than tweaking copy and messaging to include “COVID-19,” many companies have taken the time to develop thoughtful content that instills a sense of hope or community with their audience. Consumers are more aware than ever of how brands react and communicate during times of crisis – and a global pandemic is something we as a society will remember for decades.

Subaru, Mastercard, Publix, and Indeed did an excellent job creating advertisements and content for COVID-19. Here we highlight what about their content stands out and discuss key takeaways you can apply to your own strategy.

Subaru – “Never Been More True”

Subaru hits home by communicating that love and giving back is the most important thing right now. The advertisement goes on to highlight that they are donating 50 million meals to “Feeding America.” There is a lot of unknown during the first global pandemic and many Americans are confused on how to feel about it all. Communicating that you should focus on love and helping your friends, family, and neighbors tells consumers that this brand is in tune with what’s happening in real life. Subaru’s focus lies in uplifting their audience and showcasing how they are reacting during a time of crisis.  A message that will last much longer than discussing contactless buying options.

Mastercard – “Apart But United”

Mastercard has always had a good grip on their content and almost everyone is aware of their “priceless” themed commercials. For COVID-19, they focused on the importance of staying home while also speaking to the pain we all have of feeling disconnected. They tie it up perfectly by including their brand phrase at the end; “Together, we are achieving something Priceless.” Speaking to customer pain points is a common marketing practice, but this goes beyond the product. They are providing the answer to the pain the whole world is feeling right now. “Yes, things are very hard right now, but we are doing it together and what we are doing (saving lives) is priceless.”

Publix – “Thank You, from Publix” and “Working Together”

Publix, a large grocery chain primarily in the southeastern United States, took it a step further and highlighted employees in their “Thank you, from Publix” content. It is 30 seconds of employees thanking customers for all their positive comments and actions while working on the front lines. Highlighting employees like this allows customers to relate on a more personal level. And speaking personally, I’m going to feel a lot better shopping somewhere knowing that the employees appreciate my patronage.

Their “working together” video takes another angle. The main goal of this one is to remind customers to be respectful while shopping and to highlight all the extra work their team is doing to keep things running.

Again, be mindful that the primary focus of both of these pieces isn’t to sell, it is to appreciate and communicate with their customers. It’s hard to track the ROI of a positive brand sentiment, but forget about that for a minute and think like a human. I’ve spoken to hundreds of salespeople and remember maybe 2 of their names, yet I remember almost every person who has helped me through a difficult time. Don’t sell your brand short. The way people think and feel about your business is critical to your success and goes far beyond the type of products you sell.

In more specific terms, we all have heard the stories of how crazy and chaotic some grocery stores have gotten. We can all agree that those types of occurrences are a detriment to both the staff and flow of the store, resulting in stressed out employees and less efficiency. We can’t say exactly how much revenue well-behaved customers brings in, but it’s easy to assume that the store is more efficient when people are calm and helpful, which will result in more revenue.

Indeed – “Here to Help” series

This is by far my favorite COVID-19 content. This isn’t just one video or advertisement; it is an entire content series led by Indeed CEO Chris Hyams and other company leaders. Every episode tells the story of how they and their teams adapt to the complexities of working at home, while guiding viewers through the challenges of the pandemic.

This is phenomenal for many reasons, but I’ll focus on two. The first is authenticity. These ads contain mostly unscripted content, showing reactions from real people at the company, not actors. This gives your brand a face, or many faces, for your audience to connect to. It is often said that the CEO is the “face” of the company, but how many CEOs do you see getting in front of a camera talking to their customers? You wouldn’t meet with potential investors without the CEO, so why should speaking to customers be any different? Yes of course, as an individual, an investor is much more impactful than a single customer. BUT when you have the opportunity to communicate with all of your customers and do what you can to make that feel like a 1:1 experience, the impact is incredible. Your company is more than a logo, but consumers do not always remember that. Breaking away from the logo and being human, even if it feels uncomfortable, is what encourages your customer to think “hey, they aren’t just a company focused on the bottom line. They are real people, just like me.”

In the ever-evolving digital world, data and trackable ROI can at times impede our creativity and what I like to call “common sense marketing.” We often rely on data too much to give us answers when we can simply look to ourselves, take a minute, and think about what content we would want to see if we were in our customers shoes. Historical data cannot help you during an unprecedented pandemic because… it’s unprecedented! It’s never happened before. Data is only actionable when you are comparing apples to apples. And I get it, that sentiment alone brings up the “deer in headlights” feeling from media buyers across the country, but companies and marketers were successful far before data was ever available. Yes, data is an incredible tool to your decision-making process, and I’d be the first to say that it should be one of your highest priorities – but use it as a guide, not as handcuffs.

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