Think of the last time you felt connected to a brand. What was it that you connected with? Was it their humor? Their ability to get you “right in the feels”? Or maybe you felt like somehow they had reached through the television, your computer, or your phone to speak directly to you. Now think of a time when a message just plain rubbed you the wrong way. Did it feel cold, impersonal, or out of touch? That’s the power of a single brand message.
Especially during times of crisis, crafting the right message can mean the difference between sustaining (or even growing) your business and shutting your doors for good. The reality is that we will never live in a world without disruptions of some kind or another, whether it be the global COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in currently, natural disasters, shifts in the markets, or countless other reasons outside of our control. Rather than try to control the uncontrollable, it is important to focus on what we can control; how we respond.
Know Your Purpose
Here at epower at home, we have been emphasizing the importance of carefully crafted brand voice and audience personas for some time. It is in times of turmoil that these definitions become even more important. They are the foundation on which your marketing stands. By keeping your focus on your specific audience and staying true to your brand voice, you will have a clear direction to take your message from the start.
We often ask our clients how they would describe their business if it were a guest at a party. This is a great way to understand tone and voice. If your brand is already positioned as a trusted advisor, now is not the time to deviate from that. If your brand has always projected ease and levity, you may need to refine your use of humor, but it could be just the comedic relief needed right now. If you start to deviate from your established brand personality, it will feel forced and disjointed for your brand loyalists. Don’t leave your best customers feeling confused about who you are.
Apple is one brand that has had a very clear, consistent brand message for many years. They were well-positioned to leverage their existing tone and voice when faced with the COVID-19 crisis. Using their established brand personality, they were able to connect with customers in a way that was personal, but also very Apple.
You know who you are, but now do you know your audience? Now is undeniably the time to go back and revisit your buyer personas. How have the needs of your audience changed? Have you gained a new audience, or is there a segment of your audience that is no longer relevant? With so much of our lives disrupted, many are facing financial uncertainty and may have delayed plans to make a big purchase. Or rather than investing in experiences, your audience may be more focused on making smaller purchases that enhance their life at home. In order for your business to remain profitable, you need to anticipate these shifts in your audience and be ready with a marketing strategy to match.
Once you have clearly defined your brand and know your audience inside and out, you are ready to move to the next step, which is knowing what you want to say. Maybe you need to get the word out that you are still taking orders, but delivery times have slowed due to supply disruption or new warehouse safety standards. On the other hand, maybe you have a product that is in high demand as people stay home more and can expand your sales. Or maybe you just want to give back, create some goodwill and grow trust and loyalty with customers, like in the Subaru ad below. Whatever your message, make sure it is purposeful.
Make it Personal
We all know the golden rule – treat others the way you want them to treat you. The same goes for marketing messages. When crafting your brand’s message, talk to your audience the way you would like to be talked to. If you wouldn’t want a brand to constantly bombard you with “BUY ME NOW” messages, why would you shout that at your customers? As you go through the process of planning the type of message you want to convey during a crisis, make sure it will resonate with your audience. If possible, talk to people in your target market to get a sense of what will resonate. Look at your message from several angles and be open to criticism from others.
Part of making a message personal is the way that you address your audience’s pain points. Again, this goes back to really knowing your personas. There are so many “new normals” right now, and they all look different.
One way to illustrate this is through the Facebook Portal commercial that came out right before Mother’s Day. I felt this ad personally, and not in a good way. At the start, it seemed like it is going to be one of those heartwarming commercials that addresses my challenges as a working mother of young children during the pandemic. It starts by acknowledging that all of the things mothers are being asked to do right now “should not be possible.” I was sucked in from that first line, feeling like it was really speaking to me as it listed ALL of the things that are suddenly expected of mothers. That is, until the line of text that says “But right now, somehow, you do it.” It was like it was telling me that if I am not capable of doing what they call the impossible, I am somehow not doing enough. I could go on, but the point is, you don’t want your audience left with a similar bad taste in their mouth from your message. You need to demonstrate that you truly understand their challenges and needs.
Always be listening and learning
So what do you do if you have taken all the time to strategize internally, going through all the steps of knowing your brand, your audience, the message you want to convey, and after it all comes together, it falls flat? One pitfall that is easy to fall victim to is being too invested in a strategy that isn’t working. As humans, we have a hard time accepting our failures. But without failure, there can be no growth. One of the phrases that struck me most in my marketing classes was “fail fast.” While it may sound negative, failures are actually an opportunity to learn and grow. And in digital marketing more than other marketing mediums, failure is pretty cheap. Test different messages and narrow them to the ones that work best.
As marketers, we know that getting a message to our audience is by no means the last step. We need to constantly assess and adapt our strategy based on performance. We can’t be too proud to admit mistakes (we are only human after all) and learn from them. Sometimes that comes in the form of direct feedback on social channels, other times it may come from the metrics and numbers. That is why digital marketing is just as much an art as it is a science.
As we all navigate our ever-changing landscape, we need to be ready to pivot strategies that are not resonating with our target audience and double down on the marketing efforts that are. It is important to document these lessons as we go, not only to help inform our efforts in-the-moment but to inform our efforts the next time we are faced with challenges or disruptions.
Could you use some help navigating your current digital landscape? We’re here for you! We’ve been focusing our digital marketing expertise on the housewares industry for years + we’re ready to talk to you! Whether you’d like a fresh perspective on your target audience or help crafting the perfect marketing campaign, let’s talk!