What Has Lockdown Taught Us About Marketing?

These are unprecedented times. Now, more than ever…this too shall pass. Sick of hearing marketing speak? You’re not alone. While the ongoing COVID-19 crisis has taught us what we can do, i.e.:

  • Live without going outside
  • Make banana bread
  • Not kill our partners…

…it’s also taught us about marketing.

I’m not going to echo what the behemoths are saying – the need to carry on marketing is obvious. Rather, these are my personal takeaways from being told to stay home, and how the nation is reacting.

You cannot please everyone.

We’re all united in the fact that this virus is kicking us in the proverbials, but we are all very different. Every single person affected by this has an individual circumstance. That’s why, when Rishi Sunak announced the Job Retention Scheme, there was a national outcry from freelancers. When he offered support for self-employed people, there was an outcry from single-person limited companies.

Frontline workers are overlooked. Zero hours contracts are overlooked. There is always somebody who will feel forgotten, so there’s no one catch-all solution in marketing.

Hyper-segmenting your customer base

On the flipside, we could see this as an opportunity. Rather than casting our net wide, we could focus on the individual customer segments that need our services most, however small they might seem.

You’ll see just how many different kinds of support there are for all sectors, employment contracts and taxpayers. Just as the government needs to keep updating these, we too should consider every segment in order to meet our audiences’ needs.

No marketing comes without trial and error.

If you’ve launched a campaign and it becomes an instant hit with no tweaks, bravo. Not very likely though, is it? The last few weeks have taught us that testing (both in a medical, and marketing sense!) is essential. Just think about how the government guidelines have evolved as time has moved on.

Five weeks ago, we were told to wash our hands for 20 seconds. Four weeks ago, we were greeting people with elbow touches. Three weeks ago, we were still naively attending public gatherings. The stronger the limitations get, we hope, the sooner we can “flatten the curve”. But this is not without trial and error – and we also shouldn’t ignore external data. Figures from Italy served as a stark warning in mid-March. Look where we are now.

It’s a very glum way of looking at it, and by no means should we trivialise the impact, but it goes to show – we should always seek expert sources before we commit to anything. (I’m looking at you, tiny hands.)

Somebody will always win in a crisis.

JFK talked about the Chinese word for crisis, and how we should also see it as an opportunity. Well, there’s a time and a place. We have the good – Ford turning its hand towards making ventilators. We have the bad – just look at this ‘brand exploitation’ message below. And we have the downright ugly. I’m not one to speculate on Zoom calls being used for espionage, but hiking up prices of hand sanitisers and playing on people’s fears does no good.

I think the following warning sums it up best: “People will be remembered for how they treat others during this crisis.” Yes, some companies are going to profit, by virtue of the product they sell. Others will go down in history as some of the most exploitative organisations out there. You know who I’m talking about.

On a positive note, there is opportunity for you – not to learn the guitar or become Mary Berry. Now you can finally do all that SEO housekeeping, accounting or whatever else you’ve been putting off. I refer once again to the marketing behemoths who encourage us to carry on.

Content becomes stale very, very quickly.

In a February podcast with The Impact Sessions, I talked about having an adaptable content marketing plan. This was to account for the unexpected. What could be more unexpected than this? It’s almost disheartening to think we’re putting our life and souls into content that will ‘expire’ as soon as Rishi Sunak makes the next announcement.

Instead, we adapt. (Aah, another corona buzzword.) Pivot (stop it Katie!) your strategy towards evergreen content now. People are Googling how-to guides like they’re going out of fashion. How to make a TikTok. How to cut your own hair. They’re also committing to learning more, so if you can be that essential source of information that won’t expire faster than banana bread, more power to you.

Marketing needs people. Pure and simple.

Sound obvious? Money makes the world go round, but it’s the people that are spending it. For all the scary statistics about AI and machine learning taking our jobs, we still rely on good old-fashioned people. The butterfly effect of a simple pub closure can be life-changing: marketers freeze budgets, agencies lose clients and freelancers are hung out to dry.

But again, enough with the negative. People are what will make or break this crisis – whether they’re clapping key workers, offering free webinars, delivering food or just staying in touch. We might need the machines to run our daily lives, but people are what really matters.

So, next time you’re sending out a message, turn your attention to the biggest of the ‘4 Ps’. Talk to your audience like a human. Don’t send them catch-all messages with no effect. Offer your help. As we said above, people will remember that when we get out of this.

Marketing in a crisis
Katie Lingo
by Katie Lingo
9th April 2020