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Why COVID-19 shouldn’t mean doom-and-gloom for brands

Why COVID-19 shouldn’t mean doom-and-gloom for brands

We’ve potentially seen the first big-brand casualty since the COVID-19 crisis began, as PR Week reported this week, Coca-Cola have allegedly suspended all marketing activity until further notice. Let’s be honest, they’re probably not the first, and certainly won’t be the last.  Only being able to leave the house for essentials, a negative consumer mindset, uncertainty around key sponsorship events – to some, it’s a sensible, logical decision. 

With mandatory shop closures and other restrictive measures, physical retail stores take the hit here. Not to mention, out-of-home campaigns which are unfortunately rendered ineffective.

But while this is damaging in some ways, it presents a whole host of opportunities in others. With an estimated 50% increase in internet usage across the UK, the opportunity in the digital space is more prevalent than ever before. With an uplift in content dwell times, digital content is performing better than ever. But equally, with a shift from offline to online advertising there’s also a case for digital saturation. In fact, it requires more effort than ever to get meaningful cut-through to consumers.

This week we’ve seen gaming sales are up 75%, cycling sales are up by 15%, you can’t buy home gym equipment for love or money and online bookstores are busier than ever. Now if you’re in a sector that’s now thriving, because of this imposed sedentary lifestyle, then you’re incredibly lucky. But for businesses that aren’t, there’s so much we can learn from this change in consumer behaviour. Bringing elements of the outside world indoors, like Brewdog’s Virtual Bar, Joe Wick’s Home PE Classes; consumers have options to beat the boredom at home. With time being less of a constraint, we’ve also seen gamification being woven into campaigns very effectively. And for those who don’t want to pass the time so idly, we’ve seen a real spike in consumers wanting to take up a new hobby, whether that being gardening to learning a language. Educational content dwell times are increasing and driving awareness through instructional pieces of content is a great way in for brands.

Influencer marketing is also an avenue that shouldn’t be ignored either. In the sporting sector, with no professional sport taking place, sporting talent and fitness influencers are more open than ever to activations. It goes without saying, it’s important not to ram sales-talk down consumers’ throats, but to use talent to connect with your audience in a heartfelt, authentic way which promotes a ‘how can I help?’ message.

And if launching new campaigns is an absolute no-no during this period, there’s room to prepare for when we beat COVID-19. Alas current media consumption trends are a little unconventional, but with consumers glued to their phones and video-streaming services, this is a perfect opportunity to understand our respective target audiences. While organic content may not get as much cut-through as before, using paid ultra-targeted audience segments to understand how specific consumers interact with different types of content is a perfect way of maximising this period of uncertainty. 

It’s important to understand how we create meaningful connections with consumers while they’ve got the time to listen. We know this situation isn’t permanent. So, when the time comes for the world to restart, we should be ready to hit the ground running, faster than ever before.