Marketing in time of crisis

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Had a great conversation with Yohai, Micah, Rebecca and Tim over a Zoom cocktail party yesterday. The conversation rolled around to how does one talk about oneself and ones company in difficult times. While it’s tempting just to stop all marketing as no one is going to buy things. And organic traffic is way down in many industries.

Micah pointed out that Rand Fiskin wrote a great piece on this called Read the Room. His general point is that, you can’t just keep marketing nor can you completely stop. So if marketing is fundamentally about getting customers on your side, the question is what do they really want and need.

It’s a great question, because if we are somewhere in the middle of the first wave of Covid, that is containing the pandemic, then we are going to have at least of year of the new normal, where the question is how to live with the disease. Then hopefully in March 2021, we will have a vaccine or a set of palliatives, we will end up in some sort of “new normal”

Peter Drucker (RIP) once said, “marketing starts not with what do you have to sell but what do customers want to buy.” This applies even more so here. The main point is that people might now want to only hear about COVID, but they are sure going to pay attention when a company is focused on the thing that they care about most.

And in times of crisis, people want stories that help them feel like help is on the way. There is plenty of doom and gloom out there. While it is hard to prove, brand attributes like (rapacious, horrible) might hurt your sales. But being caring and doing something about crisis is the opposite. Hat tip to Rand on this, but I did a quick troll of folks who seem to be paying attention and have tuned their messages appropriately:

  1. New Balance. Made shoes yesterday. Making masks today.
  2. Humble Bumble. They did a Conquer Covid-19 bundle of games.
  3. OpenTable. They have a specific list of things they are doing different and how to contribute to fundraisers
  4. Alaska Airlines. He mentioned this also, but the move to safety is smart.
  5. Outdoor Research. Now we are ramping to make 200K masks per day (and have a nice sale too 🙂
  6. Apple. Their COVID diagnosis application and making 1M masks. Being out in front does make a difference.
  7. Starbucks. Proactive and having a blog entry that is updated regularly matters. Catastrophe pay, my goodness, what a good set of things.
  8. Microsoft. Everything from a live tracker to dollars.
  9. Julbo. A sunglass maker doing Goggles for docs. They are a smaller company, so didn’t update their website, but the blast email was awesome!
  10. Airbnb. Providing 100,000 stays for first responders
  11. Marriot. In a candid 6-minute video release to everyone from the CEO.

There are I’m sure many others. You get the idea, no matter where you sit, customers want to know what you are doing to help. So tell them. Give them what they want.

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