In a world where many if not most people have a skeptical attitude about what the news reports, how can we possibly create marketing materials that people will believe? In the article, “How to Adapt Your Marketing Strategy to the Current Market,” Alex Gold makes some very fundamentally important points. The two main things that I want to focus on are his idea of leading with creative respect for the cultural mood and of providing some sort of help or value. How can we gain a sense of what people are thinking, wanting and needing? From that knowledge, how can we craft messages that serve the public? How can this all be done in the name and language of brands?
Marketing is a form of communication. Like all good communication, it depends upon listening and having something to say. There is a back and forth. In the social media age, it is very easy to see what is on people’s minds. All it takes is a little investment in time to do the research. Actively looking at social media with a mind to learning the cultural mood of the moment is a critical form of research. Without this, you are just drawing in the dark.
Gold makes the point that consumers care about brands’ values and thinks that this is even more important during a global crisis. Now more than ever, people are wanting to keep connected to likeminded people and brands. This can create some interesting challenges for brands that have messages not suited for the moment. Gold refers to Jeep ads that are “communicating the message ‘stay home’” despite their off-road character. Now is not the time to be encouraging people to get out and explore, and so even when it goes against core brand values there is good reason to adapt to the cultural mood.
The question then is: what do people want and need, and how does a brand help them with those challenges? In many ways, what people want is created by what they can’t have, so there is a desire for good health, for human connection, for freedom and for work. These are the things that are undergoing change right now, and brands who can address these needs will be able to deepen their relationships with customers.
Let’s take a look at each of those categories and think about how brands can add value during this time. When marketers better understand what the public wants and needs they can craft messages that fit the moment.
- Health: This is on the minds of almost everyone. How does your brand help people with their health? Does it promote a healthy lifestyle? Does it provide some form of emotional release? Can it promote mental health? Some types of brands that can provide value to people concerned about health include: any and all health providers, healthy lifestyle brands, fitness instructors, and any brand that promotes building up your immune system. People who are reasonably worried about their health are in need of help finding direction with their efforts. When we talk about health, though, it is not just physical health but mental health, too. Now is a time for mental-health-based brands to provide any kind of help they can. Whether it is guided meditation, yoga inspiration, home workouts or breathwork, there are lots of options and catering messaging to be as useful as possible is going to be very effective. Even if your brand is not based in these categories, bringing in some health experts to provide techniques to your workers and consumers could be very helpful.
- Human connection: We are social beings, even the most introverted among us. Being forced into confinement and kept from our friends is painful even for stoics right now. How can your brand help people to meet or to engage in conversation? What kind of conversation is going to avoid conflict and nurture connection? Some sort of fan forum could be cool. Virtual happy hours are popular. Finding creative ways to help people to connect over common ideas is key.
- Freedom: As so many of our normal activities have been taken away from us, there is a huge desire for freedom. What that even means is up for debate, but there are many approaches to finding some space of choice. When we have the ability to make certain decisions taken away from us, there is a need for some sort of control. Freedom and control are intimately connected. Without freedom, there is no control. Other people are in control. This is why Jocko Willink’s formula Discipline = Freedom is so important. How can brands help people to create space that they have control over where they feel free?
- Work: With the shutdown of most of the business world, money is on the mind of lots of people, but even more fundamental than currency is the desire to be productive. We need money, or the ability to purchase things, but what many people want is deeper than that: they desire purpose. Lots of people find their meaning in their work, so when the ability to work is taken away there is a huge hole in our lives. How can we fill that space and time productively to build our skills during this time to make ourselves more valuable when it is time to return to work?
These are some fundamental ideas to think about when you are crafting your marketing messages. Why do people choose your brand? What does it help them with in their life? How does this value fit into the current cultural mood? If you answer these questions, you will be on your way to creating content that will work during these Covid-19 times.