Let’s get right to it, shall we? Here they are: Challenging. Difficult. Unprecedented. Uncertain. Troubling. Trying. Sound familiar? Those are the six words copywriters have completely worn out in a matter of weeks since the pandemic struck. There are others words that are getting tired, but those are the most egregious offenders.
In light of this, it’s time for all copywriters to take a vow. There are over 470,000 words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Let’s use them. Better yet, don’t start copy with a reference to “these times.” People get it. It’s not a good time. Trust your audience’s intelligence and just get right to a relevant message and avoid the clichés.
I am guilty of this. In retrospect, it was an easy trap to fall into. They say that the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem. So, now I’m on the right path. It taught me a lesson.
Brands are filling the Internet and the air waves with evolving themes and tones that are fascinating to watch and to learn from.
The “we care” message and the “we support the heroes” message were popular choices in the first wave of messaging. This could be called the “Empty Sentiments” phase of pandemic era marketing and destined to be a short-lived phenomenon. For goodness sake, everyone cares. Was this message ever really necessary or wanted?
Here’s an example of a spot that left me cold. The message is basically, “We’re the pharmaceutical industry and in this crisis, we are going to be developing pharmaceuticals. Yay science!” That sounds smart-alecky, I know, but watch the spot and tell me I’m wrong. I think someone pointed out to them how tone deaf and irrelevant this message was since the campaign got pulled pretty quickly.
These types of ads were probably the reflexive reactions in C-suites to the question, “What do we say? Shouldn’t we say something?” New rule: if you don’t have valuable news for the audience or something to add to the conversation, don’t say anything.
Don’t just say something. Do something.
There have been some quick pivots by more nimble brands that added substance to the weak broth of warm feelings and empathy.
Enter phase two. This one is more effective and relevant. It could be called the “we’re still here and open for business” phase. Many service and product brands made quick adaptations to their service delivery that recognized consumer concerns and their new behaviors. Burger King did a good job in this regard with a quickly developed campaign to promote their contactless drive-thru service. That is helpful and it was smart for the business.
Phase three was characterized by brands that really put their money where their mouth was. This group consists of the insurance companies that promoted premium discount and forgiveness programs, finance companies announcing payment forgiveness for those in need and online services that offered temporary free access. That’s doing something that brings people to your brand.
The gist? Don’t just say you care, show you care.
Adapt or perish.
This much is clear so far: in the COVID-19 era, for marketing as in nature, adaptation is a key to thriving. The scope and nature of the pandemic is changing. Collectively, we will all adapt our lives, behaviors, and attitudes to fit the changing circumstances.
Accordingly, brands need to be nimble with organic messages that reflect the ever-changing situation and the market’s state of mind. Here’s the challenge: being relevant and in tune in the moment means that marketers need to be constantly looking ahead and planning. No one knows exactly what’s going to happen but it is still important to constantly ask the right questions, and make your team’s best assessment of the environment and the opportunities that lie ahead.
In sum, it’s more important than ever to be true to your brand and a relevant value to your customers. Additionally, tell that story in your unique voice in a way that your audience hasn’t already seen a dozen times.
That’s always good advice, but even more important in these…wait…let’s not go there. Let me just say it’s more important than ever.