Analysis | SUNBIZ

Corporate Advice: Should I Be Advertising Now?

Your audience is gobbling up media in massive amounts, spending hours online, glued to television sets and hungrily reading every word in newspapers. With the stay-at-home messages being put out by the government, many people view the media as their only window on the rest of the world.
04 May 2020 09:45
Corporate Advice: Should I Be Advertising Now?

Lockdowns. Social distancing. Clusters. Curfews.

We all seem to have learned a whole new vocabulary in the past few weeks and months.

But the main reason we know these words is through the media.

The public is consuming media in much higher amounts than in many years.

Perhaps since the 2006 coup.

The reason everyone is reading more, watching more and viewing social media more is clear.

We all want to know what’s going on and whether or not we have anything to worry about.

What is your strategy?

For companies and organisations, how do you navigate these uncharted waters?

Do you advertise, do you hold back, do you change your strategy? What do you do?

The natural inclination is to do nothing and wait and see.

But then, you will be missing out on a very unique opportunity to engage with your audience.

Again, your audience is gobbling up media in massive amounts, spending hours online, glued to television sets and hungrily reading every word in newspapers.

With the stay-at-home messages being put out by the government, many people view the media as their only window on the rest of the world.

But instead of blindly pushing out advertising or marketing material with the same messages from before the crisis, advertisers should be mindful of the “new realities” facing their audience.

Should you be thinking of ads?

The public is very worried about the current situation.

Your audience is rightly concerned about their own health and that of their families.

They’re also worried about how this situation is affecting their finances.

Everything else is secondary. But organisations are worried too. Businesses and organisations are having to change their working hours, get staff to work from home or, in some cases, reduce hours or even lay staff off.

In the hospitality sector, many hotels and restaurants have had to close down.

It’s a worrying time.

So, should they even be thinking about advertising or marketing at a time like this?

Yes, they should. But not in the same way as before.

To address your audience’s health fears, companies and organisations can promote the ways they have introduced social distancing and increased hygiene standards in their places of business.

They can highlight products or services that show they are mindful of the health and safety needs and fears of their customers in this current situation.

But their messaging should definitely not boost the fears people already have or worse, create panic.

Addressing the fears

To address the financial fears of many in the public at this time, advertisers should highlight special pricing that they’ve introduced, delayed payments or other incentives that will help put people’s minds at peace.

As advertisers, you need to show that you care about your customers.

You provide goods and services to them, and they in turn buy these goods and services.

It is a mutually beneficial relationship that needs to be respected.

For hotels and restaurants which have had to close down due to the lack of overseas visitors, the goals are obviously different.

No one knows when Fiji’s borders will re-open or when tourists will again feel safe enough to visit Fiji. But they will.

Building up for the future

Any advertising now should be building up for that future.

Unless your business never intends to re-open, your past and future customers need to hear from you.

The message should be one of hope and faith in a return to normalcy, or in the slogan from Tourism Fiji, “Stay Safe and We Will See You Soon.”

Financial incentives are once again certain to generate interest.

Some local companies are donating supplies, money or services to those in need.

This should always be promoted, as a way to show that your organisation cares about the public in general and your customers in particular.

Members of the public know that organisations don’t have to offer these acts of kindness.

Especially during the current economic crisis many companies are facing, those who are providing public support without any profit motive are building long-term faith and good will.

And that good will works both ways, helping your customers and strengthening your brand.

Branding

Branding helps set the tone for the future. In the U.S., the cell phone carrier.

Visible recently surveyed its customers to see what they would most like to have the company do during the COVID-19 crisis.

Half of the responses asked for help with their bills, while the rest wanted the company to help others.

Motivated by these responses, Visible launched a social media campaign highlighting acts of kindness.

In exchange for customers who shared their stories of how they had helped others,

Visible donated US$250,000 to people in the form of gift cards.

The campaign had no profit motive but helped build immediate respect for the brand.

One unfortunate result of the current crisis has been the suspension of live sporting events, especially the ever-popular rugby and soccer.

Advertisers who formerly advertised heavily during these events have had to modify their approach, and their messages.

Digital ads

In the US, the automobile manufacturer Hyundai had to drop their media buys during sporting events—where they usually spent a lot of money—and increased their spend on daytime TV, because many of their potential customers were staying home.

They also increased their spend on digital advertising (social media, e-newsletters, Google ads).

The goal was not to get people to immediately run out and buy cars, but simply to keep their brand in people’s minds.

The situation in Fiji is changing every day during this crisis. For advertisers that means strategies need to be fine-tuned just as regularly.

Are we out of lockdown? Have curfew hours changed? How many people can be together at one time?

Your message to your customers needs to take these factors into account.

Not to do so shows that you are out of touch and, because of this, irrelevant and out of the thoughts of your customers.

Be authentic

Being authentic is essential.

To create strong connections with your customers, you need to be seen by them as having relevant messages that have a clear understanding of their current situation and fears.

The advertisers who get it right during these difficult times are the ones who have remained true to their brand and values but also to the needs of their customers.

Emerge from this crisis

Incredible challenges face everyone in Fiji as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

We’ve never been through something like this before, so there are no tried and true guidelines on what to do.

For companies and organisations, the way forward is no less obscure.

But what is clear is that taking action is the preferred response rather than sitting on your hands.

Fiji will emerge from this crisis as we have through many previous ones and the business community plays a critical role in Fiji’s economic recovery.

For companies and organisations to effectively play this role, their messages need to be heard and they need to connect with their audience.

Their audience will respond in kind.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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