COVID - Washing

No, no, I don’t mean you should stop washing your hands.

I’d like you to stop desperately trying to make yourself relevant to the audience by dragging in the C-word.

The current crisis affects each business uniquely, but I’ve sorted them into four major categories and then listed what I think is the appropriate marketing response in these unusual times. Goes without saying that in these hard times choice itself is a privilege, so let’s use it wisely.

There are four types of products:

1. Business as usual: These are products, services and brands that continue to operate as usual with no real connection to COVID-19, except to the extent that the world is in general impacted by these unusual circumstances.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the “Business as Usual” category please continue to do whatever it is you do, and no need to shout from the rooftops. Communicate as you normally do and provide support to your customers as they adjust to their new circumstances. Yes, if you communicate stay topical but don’t stretch it. A great example of this is Amul rerunning its old ads from the days when Mahabharat and Ramayana first aired. They are famed for their topical ads but right now the only thing that people are interested in is COVID-19 and beyond a week or two harping on this is not that memorable. So it’s a great idea to latch on to nostalgia. I also liked MIT launching a sprayable user interface – it’s just cool, with no connection whatsoever to COVID. Or Knowlarity announcing the hire of a new CXO team.

2. Heightened interest: These are products and services which are seeing an increased demand because of their relevance to the COVID-19 situation of their clients and customers.

If you’re in the set of extremely fortunate businesses who are seeing heightened interest, feel free to promote yourself in as tasteful a way as possible. Do bear in mind as you do your planning that the spike may not continue and that you are likely to see a drop in demand once the situation returns to normal. If you’re getting a lot of new adoption and you believe it can deliver value beyond the crisis, stop the victory dance and work on making yourself a habit. Be mindful that in a large business some bits may be more relevant than others. I can’t quite understand why Nike does feel-good masterbrand ads when its Nike Training Club app must be seeing a huge spike in adoption as people resort to home workouts. They’ve made the premium version free, which is super cool too.

3. Negatively impacted: Seeing a drop in demand or ability to fulfil due to COVID-19 restrictions

There is of course the must-do communication with your customers to reassure them on the actions you have taken/will take to manage. But beyond that I don’t see why you should run campaigns given that the “call to action” cannot be completed. I’d say it’s more important to conserve cash. Generally speaking brands can weather three months of being off-air before customers start to forget, so there’s no need to panicvertise. I’d imagine that construction and home renovation has taken a bit of a hit so I don’t quite see why RR Kabel needed to advertise…the press release started with “At a time when safety and precautions are at the top of everyone’s mind, RR Kabel, India’s leading wire and cable brand launched its newest integrated marketing campaign under the hashtag serial killer (#serialkiller)”.  A google search does not show that they are doing anything to help their user base through these difficult times.

4. Pent-up demand: Will see an increased demand once the COVID-19 crisis wanes

There are lots of things we would like to do once the lockdown ends both personally and as a business. This is of course for those privileged enough to emerge from this without significant damage. It is not a bad idea to move from daydreaming about that day to actually designing a business strategy to address it. Right now we don’t know when that date will be, so communicating it would be too hasty. But we can get it nicely packaged and ready to roll.  And maybe work on the content and media buying now when prices are a bit, er, low. I’ve been getting mails from Tourism Ireland and others on the beautiful places I can’t visit. Indigo is running a Twitter contest to identify their destinations. Spicejet is sending out discount offers for future bookings. But without visibility on when travel will resume again or our financial ability to fund such travel, these are made-by-marketers-for-marketers campaigns.

I get that idle marketing minds tend to look for activities to occupy themselves. My small suggestion is that we do good, invest in ourselves, relook at our personal and business priorities and take a few deep breaths.

Wishing those who celebrate it a blessed Easter and everyone health, wealth and happiness.


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