R2integrated Shares Current State of the Industry Amidst COVID-19, and How We're Here to Support

It's been a mere sixteen days since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the emerging COVID-19 virus a global pandemic, challenging many schools to close their doors, while non-essential businesses subsequently followed suit as majority of the nation patiently awaits updates throughout government mandated quarantines. We can almost be certain a massive economic impact to every industry is imminent, entirely unprecedented in our lifetime. 

Teams are left puzzled as to what this means for both the current and future state of marketing strategies. We’re here to provide you with the industry guidance, resources and support needed to navigate these tumultuous times. Backed by research provided by top analysts at Gartner, Forrester and Sirius Decisions, combined with accrued knowledge from our subject matter experts, we’ve compiled tips and advice to maintain both your organization’s messaging and approach as it filters through your media planning, strategy and overall performance. As the situation continues to evolve, our team will reevaluate and reassess, determining the appropriate communication outreach and response to properly arm your marketing teams. 

In the coming weeks, be prepared to be flexible. It's not business as usual, for any of us right now. We don’t know how long these uncertain times are going to last, so we encourage teams to step up their agility and be ready to adapt quickly to the ever-changing environment.  We’ve laid out a few items your organization can proactively be mindful of:

Don't lose sight of the full picture. Changes are happening daily if not hourly, so be mindful of long-term circumstances and avoid shortsightedness of only making near-term decisions. 

Adapt messaging promptly and suitably. Be prepared to pivot and update messaging, budget, and targeting as appropriate. Keep your message simple, factual and empathetic, while doing your best to stay away from promotional content.  Attention spans are short as people are stressed, so dense and overly complex language will not engage them. The placement of your marketing alongside COVID-19 related content, is also paramount. Currently, most consumers report that their brand sentiment would likely remain unchanged for general ads that would appear near this content, but this may change as more than half of consumers report some level of concern about how suitable it is for ads to be near COVID-19 related content.  Industries at particular risk are food, travel, and finance.

Be empathetic.  Consider the context of the COVID-19 crisis as well as consumer mindsets when planning your communications. It’s best during this time to ensure your organization doesn’t exhibit itself as self-serving or contradictory to current advice. We encourage communications be shaped around brand identity and values, versus prioritizing profit or gain. Focusing on building brand affinity now, ensures a faster recovery later. The way your brand responds to the current crisis will remain top of mind to customers once the situation has subsided. Make sure your brand is seen as an entity that acts responsibly and ethically. Consumers will appreciate your efforts as there is growing focus on brands that actively and authentically are living up to their values. 

Transparency is key. Remain engaged with your brand’s stakeholders (both consumers and employees) and provide transparency regarding the steps your organization is taking to ensure safety and wellness.  Share clear communications with consumers about how to approach your brand in the current crisis.  Ensure that you are providing the latest and most updated information about COVID-19's impact to your business, to your customers, and other key audiences.

Shift your narrative. Transform existing strategies and thought processes away from, "How can we sell more?” to, “How can we support and provide value to our customers during this time?” This is not the time for overly salesy or aggressive messaging. Consider toning down advertising for non-essential purchases or activities and be sure to review and re-consider regularly as circumstances change. 

Know where and who your audience is. Before pausing marketing initiatives, consider how best to reallocate media investments, as more individuals are staying and working remotely from home. Be sure to keep your messaging and creative relevant and thoughtful. Review your communications often to see if they need to pivot to align to the current state (i.e. staying at home, practicing social distancing, etc.).  Messaging should be authentic and reassuring. 

As increasing amounts of individuals are spending more time at home, they are resultantly watching more TV and streaming increased amounts of media.  A few statistics your business should know and be aware of: 

-   We can expect a ~60% increase in the content we watch (Nielsen).
-   Both Italy and South Korea saw a 12-17% increase in TV viewership as residents self-quarantined in their homes. 
-   We can expect viewers to lean more heavily on streaming services while major sporting events have been cancelled or postponed. 

Audiences are more engaged on social than we’ve ever seen, which not only represents a potential opportunity to connect with them about essential topics and services, but also requires a sensitive approach. Kantar has reported at 53% increase on Facebook and 32% increase on Instagram, along with a 32% increase in shopping activities across all markets. 
From a search perspective, there has been a 11,434% increase in Coronavirus related searches since the start of January 2020.  Top related search topics rank as finance, politics, family welfare, travel, education, sports, and socializing.

And finally, don’t panic.

This is a first for everyone – we are all figuring it out, and it’s going to look different for each of us. We can do our best to look at historic trends during similar recessions, but given the vast differences in the current crisis, it’s is not the same, and we resultantly cannot treat it as such. As a result, we will find we need to frequently test and learn from strategies that work versus those that don't and learn from our mistakes. All in all, this state is not permanent, and we should all focus on navigating the road ahead. 

We'd love to hear initiatives your organization is focusing on and extend our hand to offer any strategic support or act as a sounding board for your ideas.  Feel free to book in a call with us anytime. We are all in this together. 

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