Being nimble: marketing relevance during Covid-19

Many businesses have been slow to adjust their marketing to the new economic and social reality that the Covid-19 global pandemic has placed us in. While some still have scheduled content going out that was relevant two weeks ago, but is now hopelessly out of context, others have been caught flat footed, trying to continue what they were doing in hopes it will work with a discount tossed in. And some are just stunned at the speed of change, unsure what to do.

I’ve been a bit critical of companies who hadn’t adjusted their marketing to our current state. But this week I’ve started to see glimmers of hope, as businesses make adjustments. One of those nimble responses was by a big advertiser this past Wednesday: Budweiser. Yes, a beer company. I’ll admit, through informal research walking the dog and viewing blue bin recycling this week, that there’s been a lot of alcohol consumed in my neighbourhood. In fact, it kind of looked like New Years. So it’s true that Budweiser is likely doing well right now, but they are hardly pushing beer in this ad. This ad is on the mark simply because it resonates with what people are FEELING right now.

The #OneTeam ad promotes Anheuser-Busch’s (parent company of Budweiser) move to redirect $5 million of its sports and entertainment marketing spend to the American Red Cross to support the fight against the pandemic. The brewer is also working with its sports partners to make arenas and stadiums available for blood drives.

This creative was made in less than a week, which is quite remarkable in an industry which typically has MUCH longer lead times for creative inspiration, production and execution. But they were NIMBLE and responsive in the face of a crisis. The ad shows how a redirection of funds can make a difference, be relevant “right now” to consumers, and ultimately create good will for the future, by doing the right thing.

Why does it work?

  1. It’s relevant. Right now.
  2. There is a give-back component – support of the Red Cross.
  3. Transition from supporting sport, their traditional approach, to supporting the “home team” of medical people on the front lines. It’s a content “tilt” that made sense and resonated.
  4. They are not selling. They are positioning as caring about others and their community.
  5. Creative recognizes raw emotion through music, current images, and the human condition.

What can we learn from this?

You don’t have to be a big brand with a big budget to see how these elements could resonate in a meaningful way. Here are some ideas:

  1. Call you customers, talk to them, connect, and find out what they are most concerned about right now. Even the act of reaching out and showing compassion will be noticed. With an approach based in empathy and emotional intelligence, they’ll likely give you insight on “real time needs”.
  2. Look for patterns in those needs, see if you can pivot and adapt in some way.
  3. Research has shown through many recessions, that the businesses that continued to promote IN A MEANINGFUL WAY, came out the other side much stronger than the ones that pulled back and did nothing.

One cool example I saw this past week of a company that “tilted their offering in a meaningful way” was a company called Men In Kilts, whose business it is to clean eves and do yard work for clients. And yes, they do wear kilts while up the ladder doing your roof! As you can see by viewing their website, they “get the whole branding thing” and have a unique identity that lends itself to publicity. But, they understood how to respond quickly, on brand, and be relevant. They were repurposing their vans and crew to help with grocery delivery in a Vancouver Island town – giving back to the community, promoting good will, all with the high visibility and media coverage of doing so. The good will they will garner, in addition to the free publicity they’ve received, will no doubt turn into business in the future.

This video summarizes many of the concepts explained here, and celebrates in a very human way through personal narration, why I felt these companies nimble approach resonated.

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Big shout out to everyone who was on my “Virtual Happy Hour” ZOOM call this week too! Great discussions, fabulous connections.

Mary Charleson

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