Marketing Under the Microscope #6
Communicating in a Crisis
Content and infographic developed by the IT - Tech Team
As we enter into the 6th month since the start of Australia's COVID-19 restrictions, and nearly 8 months since the beginning of the global pandemic, more and more brands have realigned their marketing efforts in order to suit the concerns of their target markets. But are audiences getting tired of COVID-related marketing? And what can brands do to effectively communicate to their customers without the effects of advertising fatigue setting in?
Customers are ready to move on
While it would appear that COVID-19 restrictions are far from over, and even increasing in severity in many places around the world, evidence shows that audiences were feeling burnt out from brands’ COVID communications as early as May. In a survey conducted by Mitto that reached respondents from The United States, China, Spain, The United Arab Emirates, Australia, Brazil and Nigeria it was found that an average of 41 percent of consumers are now ready to hear from brands about topics unrelated to COVID-19, despite 77 percent of respondents saying that messaging had made them feel like brands care about their wellbeing.
Advertising fatigue can occur when an audience becomes overly familiar with a brand’s marketing campaign, lowering engagement. So, while the majority of responses to COVID-19 advertising were positive, repetitive use of phrases such as “trying times”, “in this together”, and “we are here for you” have become cumbersome as lockdown continues and the end of the pandemic remains out of sight.
In light of consumers becoming disillusioned with such positive messaging, how should brands communicate with their consumers in this strange and trying time?
How to effectively communicate with consumers during a crisis
Maintaining brand authenticity is of utmost importance in a crisis. Depicting frontline workers as heroes in advertisements while simultaneously putting them at risk on the frontline at work can be seen by consumers as disingenuous. Thus, it is important to connect these care messages with meaningful action. Westpac and Commonwealth Bank have followed through with their COVID-19 advertising by offering loan deferrals in order to assist businesses with loss in income during the pandemic, thereby matching their positive advertising with genuine action. Consumers understand that brands are ultimately businesses, so it is necessary to balance care messages with tangible value the brand creates for the consumer during the crisis.
Despite COVID-19 advertising fatigue, consumers appreciate staying informed about changes in brand practices and operations during the pandemic. Apple’s proactive approach to temporarily close all stores prior to lockdowns showed a genuine response to the potential harm the pandemic posed for its workers. Prior to store shutdowns, Apple encouraged consumers to utilise online shopping, with convenient returns policies and responsive call services. Not only did this prioritise their employees’ safety, but also their customers, showing how they are motivated by their consumers’ best interests rather than stating it in an advertisement.
COVID-19 has accelerated the necessity of digital communication to maintain and grow customer relationships. Increased time spent at home means increased time on social media, making it a key channel to gauge changing consumer preferences. To safely navigate the shopping experience from home, brands are creating modes of delivery which do not involve face-to-face purchases. This includes distribution channels such as the contactless delivery method Uber Eats has implemented. With such convenience becoming the new normal, these shifts to e-commerce and digital communication methods are not only suitable during the pandemic, but will ensure the brand’s survival and growth post-pandemic.