5 things brands can consider during the lockdown period

We are definitely facing unprecedented times with the current COVID-19 pandemic where across the globe, we have restricted travel and movement between countries, and in some cases, even a lockdown is implemented within the country itself in attempts to contain the deadly corona virus. The issue with it being an unprecedented event is that there is neither a fix protocol nor playbook to actually that tells us what to do in situations like this.

For us marketers, there is a constant debate on whether or not do we continue to spend marketing and advertising dollars in a time like this. To me, the matter is quite subjective. I would say it really depends on the type of product or service that you are offering. Some businesses could still thrive in times like this.

1. Make your brand messages relevant

You should consider changing your brand messages to be relevant. The last thing you want to be doing now is having messages that are insensitive and lack empathy towards the situation. For example, if you’re an airline or from the hospitality industry, it’s probably not a good time to be having promotions on your services. Instead, change your messages to give assurance to your customers on what the brand is doing in these trying times.

If you’re in the digital space, it would be relatively easy for you to tweak messages on your ad copies on banner ads and search results so that it can be more relatable to current situation.

Also consider changing your imagery on your display ads to suit your ad copy.

Avoid using images of crowds, groups or people touching for this current period, just so that your brand is sensitive to current situations.

2. Use this time to build brand equity

Unless your product or services are deemed essentials, most people during this time are not exactly in the mood to make purchases, especially of high valued items and services. People will tend to prioritise what are “must haves” and what are “nice to haves”. If you have an eCommerce store, great!

But be mindful of what you are actually offering to your customers. Do they need it now? Can they live without it?

Not to say that if you are not providing essential products and services it will mean all doom and gloom, but instead, take the time to build brand awareness and brand equity. Instead of focusing advertising budgets on campaigns that was meant to drive conversions and sale numbers, which everyone know will take a hit in these times, why not use this time to actually talk about the brand?

Take the airline example above. The brand can highlight on ground stories of their staff and crew, how the brand is doing humanitarian work to help people, what extra safety measures are taken during these time. All these do not directly lead to someone into purchasing a flight ticket straight away, but instead, it builds affinity and love for the brand with your customers. Once the lock-down is over, people will have stronger confidence toward your brand.

3. Make everything virtual

Given the situation, majority of events or transactions that require physical intervention have been cancelled or postponed. Again, all is not doom and gloom. While it might be weird to have meetings and presentations online, we might be forced to recognise that this will be the new norm post lock-down. Schools, gym classes and church services are good examples of how something that traditionally requires you to be physically present is now online. Yes, it’s not the same, but at the same time, it forces one to innovate and venture into the online space.

For car brands, why not create a virtual showroom with virtual cars and virtual sales assistant? For FMCG brands, why not create a virtual mall, with virtual promoters (or via online chat) to talk about the product as well as to give product demos online? Can’t smell or taste the product before purchase? No problem, get your customers to fill out a form and send them samples! You’re indirectly collecting leads at this point as well. The sky’s the limit actually. It all depends on how innovative a brand can be and what they can do during this period that would make them continue to grow post-lockdown. 

4. Change your digital marketing strategy

If your brand has presence in the online space that uses contextual targeting, please “negative match” anything that has got to do with the pandemic situation if possible. There is a saying, “Leave if you’re not here to help me!”.

In this case, if your brand cannot offer a solution (like essential products and services) it would be best to avoid showing your ads in those spaces.

The counter argument is that there is no need for such an action as it is still creating brand awareness in the minds of consumers, right? Well, while that is true, awareness is one thing, but brand affinity and relevance is another. You would be wasting your ad spends and impressions where your ads become a blind spot in the online space, just because you’re not relevant to the user.

5. Don’t make fun of the situation

Finally, if you absolutely need to run promotions for your brand, please avoid having headlines like “Special COVID-19 Promotion”, “Corona Sales!” or “Beat the COVID-19 Deals”. Yes, it may sound elementary, but you have no idea how I have across some cringing promo and headlines that brands are using in hopes to capitalise on the situation, but are instead damaging the reputation of the brand. Major fail here.

The writer is Nicholas Goh, head of digital marketing and CRM, Abbott Malaysia.

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