What Smart Marketers
In “Swimming Underwater” we explored ideas for marketers to help them navigate the dark, unchartered waters presented by COVID-19. As many reach the other side of the murky channel of the past several months and come up for air, what awaits?
What do smart marketers do first? They look at how the world has changed—consumer trends—and what they mean for their business.
We think it is fair to say we will see uncertainty for many months to come, and that resiliency and adaptability will continue to be key. However, monitoring emerging consumer trends will be more important than ever. These trends will provide clues as to how to strengthen your organization’s relevance and position and market it on the other side.
Here are eight out of many, ever evolving trends that we are watching closely, and what they mean for marketers.
Actions speak louder than words and consumers will increasingly support companies that consistently demonstrate goodness through charity, fairness, respect, and compassion. Corporate social responsibility now sits at the head of the table. For instance, Sleep Country recently announced a “commitment to donate up to $1.5 million worth of mattresses and bedding essentials to communities across Canada impacted by COVID-19 health crisis to help improve the challenging conditions faced by homeless shelters, community living programs and other organizations that are under severe strain to limit overcrowding” thus reinforcing that Sleep Country really is “All For Sleep” and will do whatever it takes to help people in this area.
Action: Look at your organization’s corporate social responsibility role—how can it be strengthened for the future, build on your positioning, and be made more relevant to your audience? Finding ways to build on your commitments in this area, and communicating them more effectively, will be important to strengthening trust. It may be tempting to do many small things, however, as Mark Resnick in Marketing Week says, take what your company does best and turn that one thing into something really great for the world.”
Digital experiences are exploding among consumers of all ages. For example, Apple at Home offers streamable classes from its creative pros; Chris Martin and others have given couch concerts on Instagram Live; John Krasinski hosts influencers on his Some Good News YouTube show; and then there’s endless online yoga, meditation, cocktail, and theme-party events. Even vacations are going virtual: Soul & Surf, a company that organizes yoga and surf retreats globally, recently introduced a new virtual holiday, Soul & Surf Pause. It is a weekend retreat at one’s home and includes yoga/mediation workshops, lessons on surfing and healthy cooking classes – all via Zoom.
Action: How can you bring your brand “live” to a home environment and in a physical setting to reinforce your promise, values and provide an experience to your audience?
Many consumers will be risk averse, looking to tried and true brands that they trust. More than ever, consumers will look for quality and value from brands that are honest, responsible, fair, and involved in causes or issues that consumers find important.
Action: In a world of uncertainty, fear and reduced financial resources, it will be important to provide reassurances regarding your fundamental promise. What proof points make your claims truly credible? Push beyond “greens fees” to provide tangible facts. For instance, Connect Hearing consistently reinforces its leadership position by reminding clients and prospects that it is Canada’s most physician-referred hearing care professional.
Fear has moved purchases from discretionary to necessity (NPD). After months of quarantine, new consumer habits have formed—and for a significant segment of the population this will include moderation if not deprivation when it comes to consumption. Bloomberg News suggests that Canadians are six times more likely to say that they will spend less on non-essentials after stores and businesses reopen.
Action: It will be important to ensure your offering is relevant in the new normal and solves your customer’s problem and makes their life better in a way that is aligned with the new consumer mindset: Do I need it? How long will it last? Can I repurpose it? Can it be safely recycled? Do I like what it says about me? And last, but not least, is the purchase good value relative to its quality and price?
Every business is now in the health business (Accenture). For good reason, consumers will have germaphobia for the foreseeable future. Following the news of the outbreak, 63% of Americans say they are washing their hands more often and 46% are using hand sanitizer more often (Mintel). Business Wire reports that a whopping 87% of U.S. shoppers prefer to shop in stores with “touchless or robust self-checkout options and that more than two-thirds are using some form of self-checkout.”
Action: You will need to find ways to provide reassurance about the safety of physical locations. Your new marketing best friends—tools that enhance health: hand sanitizers, wipes, masks, gloves, certified cleaning protocol, social distancing, sneeze screens, plexiglass, touchless payments, touchless merchandise, package and merchandise disinfectant, contactless food service options, and maybe soon, a microshell suit from the Production Club that lets you interact in a pandemic environment.
Self-reliance and DIY are here to stay. With time on their hands at home and less money than before, people are learning new skills and trying new activities including cooking, baking, sewing, crafts, gardening, home repairs, home cleaning and do-it-yourself beauty maintenance routines. The most popular Google searches for “DIY projects” include building tables, reupholstering furniture, interior and exterior painting, making and repairing doors, building cabinets, shelves and chairs.
Action: Depending on your organization, is there a role for helping people build their skills in these areas in terms of online tutorials, how-to demonstrations, podcasts and other knowledge-building content? Adding value and helping people feel more informed, skilled and useful will only deepen their connection to your brand. Unity Point Health has millions of views online regarding how to sew an Olson face mask; Benjamin Moore has a series on how to paint a room; and there are endless videos online regarding how to cut hair at home.
People were consuming streaming video at stratospheric levels before COVID-19, and that number is only increasing. The New York Times in “The Virus Changed the Way We Internet” reports that Facebook, Netflix and YouTube have all seen user numbers on their websites increase significantly since January and decrease or stagnate on their phone apps. Online video is ideal for informing, educating and entertaining people in a compelling and emotive manner. Hence the rise in digital experiences as shared above.
People are seeking out good news more than ever. Google analytics reports that searches for “good news” is at record levels. We are all looking for a little light—hope, optimism—in a time of uncertainty and fear. As a result, media are bringing forth more “good-news” stories, as are many brands. For instance, Nike recently encouraged people to “play inside” and commit to social distancing with this simple, hopeful, empowered message: “If you ever dreamed of playing for millions around the world, now is your chance.”
Action: How can you integrate more positivity into your brand messaging and marketing? Can you create an uplifting platform to encourage a greater sense of optimism among your audiences, including employees? Now is the time. Never underestimate the power of a little spark of hope to light the way forward.
So as you come up for air, breathe deep, look around, and prepare to move forward on land. You made it across the channel. It was true before COVID, and it’s even more true now: you are stronger than you know.