Small Business Marketing in the Throes of a Pandemic

an image of the world wearing a protective mask

When the world does a 360, everything you thought you knew becomes questionable.

In the grips of a frightening pandemic, advertising might be the last thing you’re thinking about. But businesses still need to be on their toes.

You simply can’t ignore campaigns you’ve been running because, odds are, the messaging needs adjusting. And if you don’t acknowledge the new normal, you’re going to look bad. Really bad.

The Good, The Bad & The Clueless

I’ve been watching way too much television since the shelter-in-place started.. But part of it is marketing research. I’m curious as to how businesses are handling messaging during the pandemic. Some are ignoring it and doing advertising as usual. Others are either creating new ads or tweaking existing ad campaigns to reflect what’s going on in the world at the moment.

Adage took a look at 7 brands whose ads coincided with Covid-19.

Norwegian Cruise Lines stands out for horrendous timing. There’s not much else to say about it ……other than I’ll never take another cruise. Will you?

Here are a few companies doing a great job of adapting their messaging to fit the current climate:

Ford
Their commercials are reassuring, offering payment relief for Ford Credit customers. The director of U.S. marketing for Ford Motor Co. said: “It’s important to be reassuring right now and not trying to say to people ‘Rush into your car dealership for a sales event.’ ”

Nike
Nike’s new campaign focuses on social distancing and staying inside. Play inside, play for the world.” Perfect.

Hyundai
Hyundai  replaced their previously scheduled campaign with new spots touting the Hyundai Assurance Job Loss Protection program which defers payments for people who recently bought or leased a car and lost their job during a certain timeframe.

Toyota
Toyota’s new campaign reassures viewers that they’re “here for you now and in all the better days ahead .”

The examples above show how smart marketing teams pivot and respond during a crisis. They’re proactive and they speak to the fears and needs of viewers.

In return, we feel like these brands really give a damn. And when life returns to normal, these brands will be top of mind.

Look to the Businesses that are Marketing Smart

So what can small businesses learn from how big firms are handling their advertising campaigns during a crisis? Here are 4 key takeaways:

  1. Be compassionate. Don’t try to do business as usual when nothing is as usual. Empathize with your audience. Let them know you understand (and share) their fears.
  2. Be authentic. If you want customer loyalty, give them a reason to be loyal. People can usually see through phoniness. If your company has run some ads that ignored the tragic state of the world, acknowledge the error. Apologize and move on. We’re a very forgiving people. You’ll have another chance.
  3. Be trustworthy. Can customers depend on your company’s products or services? Make sure you give them a reason to trust you. This does more for brand loyalty than almost anything else. ‘
  4. Be creative. What can you do to help customers and potential customers notice you, and hopefully, want to give you business down the road? Start by letting them know you’re here to help. Whatever it is they’re going through, be a resource.

Sadly, many small businesses will not survive the coronavirus. So while we’re all stuck inside, now is the perfect time to do what you can to make sure yours is one that does.

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4 Tips to Building a Better Brand

What do people think when they hear your company name? Ideally it’s something positive that reflects your brand vision.

If you’re not sure, it might be a good time to do a brand audit. If you’ve never done one, let’s start from square one.

What is a brand?
Your brand is your company’s identity. It’s the impression your company makes in the marketplace and in the minds of current and potential customers. Visually, it’s the look and feel of your logo, font, graphics and color palette. Emotionally, it’s your voice – the tone of your communications. Overall, it’s your messaging.

Does your tagline set you apart? How do you want your product or service to make people feel when they see it? What makes your product better than the competition? What is it about your company that inspires loyalty among your clients?

Good branding doesn’t just happen. It’s carefully created and nurtured and maybe occasionally tweaked. Then it’s disseminated far and wide. Consistently. Solid brands stand the test of time.

Let’s look at a few examples. See what comes to mind when you hear these company names.

Starbucks
No other coffee house in the world has the brand recognition of Starbucks. Even the rich coffee aroma outside a Starbucks is instantly recognizable. Your experience in a Starbucks will be consistently excellent around the world.

Mercedes-Benz
Luxury autos with price tags to match. Drive a Mercedes? You appreciate elegance, soft rich leather interiors and finely-tuned engines.

Chanel
Elegant, chic and sophisticated. When you wear apparel with the Chanel logo, it says you value quality and can afford it.

Subaru
Where Mercedes is all about luxury, Subaru’s marketing says “we make cars to keep your family safe”. Their commercials tug at your heartstrings — parents watching their child leave for college in the “old” family Subaru, young drivers avoiding horrendous accidents thanks to Subaru’s breaking system, a family heading on a car trip. The music is soothing, the emotions are strong, and the message is reassuring. If you care about your loved ones, buy a Subaru.

 

 

Amazon
Have you ever looked closely at the Amazon logo? It’s clean and simple and unassuming. And clever! The arrow below the company’s name goes from “a” to “z”. Just like Amazon’s huge range of products.

Big companies have big marketing budgets to build their brands. Your small business no doubt has a communication budget to match, but you still need brand development to grow your company.

So what can you do to build brand equity on a small business budget? Start by doing a brand audit. Ask yourself what people think when they hear your company’s name or see your logo. Is your logo recognizable? Does your messaging say “ we’ve got your back” or “we give a damn”? Is your tagline memorable?

If you answer no to any of these questions, the following tips should come in handy.

4 tips to build a better brand.

  1. Have a logo that’s relevant, unique and appealing. And use it in every bit of marketing material that comes out of your company – your website, newsletter, brochures, business cards, premiums, packaging.
  2. Have a style guide to make sure your brand identity is consistent across all marketing channels. This includes a clear color palette, a font guide and an overall look and feel. Memorable brands have solid style guides.
  3. Build a strong brand voice. Your marketing material should always sound like it came from your company, not a competitor. Your company’s personality should be consistent even as you target different markets. Is your company voice warm, fun and friendly like Southwest Airlines? Serious and knowledgeable about healthy eating like Whole Foods? Reassuring about environmentally safe products for your children like The Honest Company? Or quirky and fun like Dollar Shave Club?  Your brand voice sets you apart from the competition. It’s your promise to your customers.
  4. Make sure your messaging is clear and consistent. The language you use to appeal to Millennials is not the language you use to reach Boomers. It may also change as you add new products or services. But the company voice should not waiver.

Communicate clearly and relevantly to each market segment so they know you understand exactly what they want or need.

Need help with your branding? Find a reputable firm to help you. Like ours ;).

Reach us here.

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Six features your website must have.

Websites differ in design and style. But there are certain features that all good websites have in common. Here are 6 of them:

    1. Readability
      Legibility is paramount when reading digital copy. Can viewers read the copy on your website? REALLY read it? On a cell phone or tablet as well as a laptop?A good website is designed for ease of reading on ALL screens. That means fonts are web-friendly, reverse type is used judiciously (white type can be dramatic but it’s hard to read as body copy) and clutter is kept to a minimum.
    2. Clear Messaging
      Will visitors to your site clearly understand what it’s all about? Or will they have to fiddle around to discover who you are and what you do?Once someone lands on your site, you’ve 15 seconds to convince him to stay.

      Good websites keep visitors engaged.
      Good websites keep visitors engaged.

      Especially if your product or services fix problems for people. People looking for something they need are generally not very patient. Continue reading “Six features your website must have.”

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