by Dan Matthews | Guest Contributor | Digital Marketing
In the last few years, it feels like there have been so many forces working to divide us, we might never find common ground again. But then the coronavirus hit and suddenly we rediscovered what truly connects us: our love of home, our love of family, and our determination to fight, and to defeat, this common enemy. Together. Whether you or someone you love has been infected, odds are good that COVID-19 has directly touched your life in some way. And, no matter what our differences may be, that is a powerful and enduring bond.
When it comes to the physical, the financial, and the social impacts of coronavirus, no one, it seems, is unaffected.
And if you’re a marketer looking to connect with your audience in these extraordinary times, then the reality of COVID-19 is something you’re going to have to contend with. No matter how many years of industry experience you may have, no matter how deep your connections with your target audience may be, thanks to the pandemic, the marketing field is vastly different now than it was six months ago, in ways both good and bad.
This article explores how COVID has changed marketing and what you need to do to deal with those changes.
A Whole New World
No question about it, the coronavirus pandemic has infiltrated our normal daily lives. It’s changed not only how we work and learn, but also how we spend our leisure time, including how we “socialize” with friends and family outside of our immediate household.
And that means that the business world has had to race to adapt to rapidly changing market needs, with considerations of the virus at the heart of those needs. No matter what service or product you may be marketing, questions of health and safety will most assuredly need to be addressed. That might include anything from addressing hygienic practices in manufacturing and shipping to promoting social distancing regulations in delivery.
Your marketing approach is also going to need to accommodate your target customers’ new concerns and new behaviors. Now, more than ever, we are living, working, and seeking our entertainment in digital environments. And your new marketing strategy will need to take into account the new importance that the online world is likely playing in your target customers’ daily lives.
That’s requiring companies in practically every industry to significantly up their online game. Business leaders today should be focusing not just on e-commerce, but also on building a robust, multichannel virtual presence and ensuring that the tech is on-point to deliver an optimal customer experience online.
And that is where you’re going to come in, because you’re going to be marketing to customers who are now living pretty much their entire lives online, at least for the time being. Your marketing strategies will need to recognize how taking the business relationship entirely online is going to impact your customers’ needs and experiences.
Your strategy, for example, will need to promote the utility, functionality, and desirability of the company’s online operations. You’ll also want to emphasize the pleasure and functionality of browsing and buying from the company online. And you’ll want to market the ease and enjoyment of communicating with the company and fellow customers through diverse digital platforms, even when traditional brick-and-mortar isn’t an option.
The More Things Change
While the sudden shift to digital operations exclusively might have changed the world of business, and the marketing approaches that support it, not everything is different.
Social media and e-mail marketing are, without a doubt, immensely effective in today’s digital environment. But they are by no means the be-all-end-all. They are vulnerable, for instance, to cyberattacks and to online trolls. E-mail promotions can be easily lost in a spam filter or discarded with the click of a mouse.
So it’s never a good idea to go solely digital, even in this era of COVID-induced online living. Instead, a multimedia strategy is going to be your best bet, especially if your target audience extends beyond digital natives.
If you want to reach middle-aged and older adults, as well as youth, try a hybrid approach that combines digital marketing with traditional media. We’re spending more time at home than ever nowadays, which means that it’s going to be easier to reach your target audience at home, through television, radio, and print, as well as online marketing.
Watch Your Language
If you’ve been in marketing for longer than five minutes, then you are already well aware of the vital importance of language choice in connecting with your audience and delivering your message effectively. That’s always been key to the work we do. But it’s even more important now in the age of corona.
The first and most important thing you need to do is to focus on precision, clarity, and accuracy in your terminology. The media today are conflating a lot of terms related to the virus and public policy, and they’re using a lot of terms inaccurately or inappropriately.
That’s not just ineffective and often misleading, but it’s also potentially dangerous. For example, the careless and pervasive use of phrases such as “lockdown,” “quarantine,” and “shelter-in-place” has given rise in some parts of the country to fears of more drastic government measures, such as marshal law, being imposed.
Marketing in the age of the pandemic means that we must not only be effective, but socially responsible. And that means using language that is measured, deliberate, accurate, and humane.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it. And if we are to continue to reach out and build relationships with our target audience, then the practice of marketing must change as well. That means recognizing the increasingly important role of multi-channel digital communications, while also capitalizing on the benefits of traditional media. Above all, it means respecting more than ever the immense power of language and using it responsibly to inform, educate, comfort, and connect.