Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Marketing professionals and organizations across the globe are doing their best to navigate this new, unprecedented and sometimes tricky landscape. Yet, the path forward is not entirely clear—and its not the same for each brand and organization. Here are three questions that will help guide your marketing organization and how it handles its key brands amid the pandemic and beyond.

street sign 562573 640small1 - Should you relax brand guidelines and positioning during the pandemic?

Toyota, for its part, recently did something it never had done before. It created a “top and tail” advertisement using Zoom. ‘Jan’ from Toyota started and ended the commercial, with variable content in the middle to be localized for specific markets.

Firms that had not used user-generated content before are now doing so. Others that had strict production guidelines for video are relaxing them in the current environment. Still others are altering their social media guidelines to allow executives and firms to push out more personal content in an environment where the goal may be simply to stay in front of consumers as opposed to making a sale.

Burger King CMO Fernando Machado told DigiDay in a recent interview that it has relaxed some of its guidelines. Rather than just pushing out ads, they sought to help people impacted by the pandemic. “Brands should be trying to help communities by doing things—real concrete things that are going to help. They should be helping and doing so in ways that aren’t opportunistic or exploitative. For us, we’ve stopped being so strict about whether or not something makes sense for our brand positioning. We did what we thought would be helpful to people,” he said.

Machado said Burger King has been making donations to healthcare workers, providing free food to first responders, and giving away free meals to help families who would normally have their children fed at school, among other things.

2 - Do you want your content shown near coronavirus content?

With coronavirus dominating the news—and many people following the news more closely than normal—brands have to decide whether or not it makes sense to have their content appear within or alongside news about the pandemic. Yes, the coronavirus news is getting lots of eyeballs, but the news is often stress-inducing for readers, which is not an emotion marketers want associated with their brand.

Choosing the right context for your brand is crucial and marketers are likely reassessing their media plans. For his part, Burger King’s Machado told DigiDay that “instead of relying on a block list, I would personally rather have us focus on making sure that whatever we put forward takes into consideration the context and that’s exactly what we did.” Machado said he is monitoring the situation though, and Burger King’s approach could change.

Technology can, of course, help brands control the proximity of ads to COVID-19 news. “Regardless of the strategy each brand sets, our internal research shows that there are media opportunities to support news coverage of the pandemic, as well as media opportunities to bring consumers much-needed entertainment, business utilities, social engagements and education,” Philip Smolin, Chief Strategy Officer of Amobee, wrote in a recent column for MarTech Advisor.

3 –To email or not to email?

In the immediate aftermath of stay-at-home orders across the country, many brands defaulted to the “We’re here for you” message, with some providing e-mail updates about what they’re doing to keep customers safe in their physical storefront locations. There wasn’t much else they could say amid a global pandemic that wouldn’t seem either tone deaf or opportunistic.

After that first wave of communications, some brands have slightly morphed those messages to mix in those safety updates with product pushes. Others have simply sent too many messages about coronavirus, apparently unaware nearly every other company on the planet is also providing email updates. Firms that are not providing essential services but that are overcommunicating risk annoying customers or appearing opportunistic.

As we move further into this crisis, firms may have to assess, despite any financial pain they’re feeling at the moment, whether they’re doing more harm than good with their communications. 

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