As a well-seasoned marketer, you’re probably accustomed to promoting your clients with aplomb. You know exactly how to help them sell their products or increase their web traffic. It’s certainly not news to you that Pay-Per-Click advertising is one of the most cost-effective digital marketing methods you can use to achieve results, nor are you a stranger to maintaining an engaging profile on social media platforms.
But while you may be a pro when it comes to generating leads and dealing with irate customers under normal circumstances, all of your prowess might go right out the window when it comes time to deal with a crisis. Whether it’s the ongoing pandemic, racial justice reform, or some kind of internal controversy, you need to know how to strike the right tone. Just as importantly, you’ll have to know which major mistakes to avoid. Here are a few marketing missteps to steer clear of when COVID-19, the Black Lives Matter movement, and other critical situations become a major concern for your brand.
MISTAKE: Focusing Too Much on Short-Term Concerns
In the midst of a crisis, it’s very easy to make decisions out of panic. That’s totally understandable when your company could stand to lose a lot of money. If the business you’re marketing relies on local foot traffic or is in an industry that took a major dive due to travel restrictions, it’s likely that the bottom line is of major concern. While it’s unlikely that the IRS would seize the opportunity to collect back taxes from your business (which it can do for up to 10 years after a business files its returns) during this time, you’re still probably worried about a lot of lost revenue.
However, you shouldn’t go overboard with your cost-cutting. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, some brands stopped marketing altogether. Although it might make sense to cut back in certain areas, you can actually solidify your brand presence by continuing to market — even if your business remains closed or severely altered by COVID-19, natural disasters, and other events. Since 51% of all web traffic comes from organic search, discontinuing your SEO efforts isn’t a viable option; it’s meant to be a long-term solution (and an effective one, at that), so it doesn’t make sense to pause your campaign. You might consider spending less on certain forms of advertising, of course, particularly if products are out of stock or services aren’t being offered at the moment.
But in general, try not to rely on slashing your marketing budget to make up the difference. Data shows that companies that continue to invest in marketing — or even increase their marketing efforts — during times of economic downturn can end up coming out on top. If your company is worried about monetary figures, it’s time to get creative with your spending (rather than stopping it completely).
MISTAKE: Not Aligning Your Messaging With the “New Normal”
Market conditions can change quickly, which is why strategies are always evolving. If you don’t take what’s going on in the world into account, your marketing message may be quickly viewed as out of date. This isn’t to say that every blog you publish on your site or every ad you launch on social media should be about the pandemic. But you do need to acknowledge what’s happening in some way and adjust your efforts accordingly.
Don’t allow your business to be counted among those brands called out for unfortunate product launch timing. If you’ve been preparing to launch a campaign for months but a recent event has made the concept seem cringe-worthy, you’re better off delaying what you had planned than dealing with a social media firestorm. Even if you have ads running on YouTube, streaming services, or various websites, you may want to rethink your messaging to ensure it’s empathetic and appropriate for the new normal we’re facing. Older TV ads or shows now seem strange to us when individuals aren’t practicing social distancing or wearing masks in public places. It’s often a good idea to at least reference what’s happening in some way to appeal to consumers who are in a very different emotional, physical, and fiscal state than they were just a few months ago.
MISTAKE: Using Tragedy To Your Advantage
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a marketer in the midst of a crisis is using other people’s suffering for your own gain. We’ve seen this with companies trying to price gauge masks and in performative activism posts from brands that don’t actually support racial equality.
It’s great to effect change from within your organization and let the public know about it, like companies that started producing PPE for healthcare workers or that made substantial donations to worthy causes. But your marketing decisions during a crisis need to come from a genuine place — and believe it or not, consumers can tell when that isn’t the case. If you attempt to use a tragedy like a devastating pandemic to make money or a social justice movement to get more followers, others will absolutely take notice. What’s more, they won’t be shy to call you out publicly.
In a recent Edelman survey, 71% of respondents said that if “they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, then they will lose trust in that brand forever.” In addition, 77% of respondents said “they want brands only to speak about products in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives.” You need to be very mindful about how you address any kind of tragedy or trauma, but you also can’t stay silent on issues that matter. Marketers can’t sit back and hope it’ll all blow over, nor can they make an empty statement devoid of action and empathy; they need to be proactive and compassionate during a crisis in order to retain any sense of customer loyalty or brand trust.
No one said that marketing during a pandemic would be easy. We all know that we’re living in unprecedented times — so no one had all of the right answers from the onset. But now that it’s clear what not to do, marketing experts can make smarter decisions that will help their clients and their own businesses to thrive during a crisis.