The following was edited by Dylan Lowe from a presentation by the author
Marketing strategies have changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19. Small and large brands alike are grappling with the question "should we market at all?". In this blog we will discuss the overall landscape of marketing, new marketing costs and the opportunity to ultimately increase your market share even on a shoestring budget.
Why advertise now?
While most businesses are trying to lay low and take shelter to weather the storm, some are taking the more proactive approach by going on the offensive and spending ad dollars. In fact, it has been shown that during a time of crisis businesses that stop their ad spend typically concede market share to their more proactive competitors or competitors that were already top-of-mind before a crisis. Regaining this market share will prove far more expensive than if you had simply continued to advertise during the crisis. Your customers will also begin to wonder if you are reliable or even in business at all, and naturally move their business to your competitors. Continued advertising helps to maintain a high level of trust with your customers and allows them to perceive your brand as reliable and committed to staying in business.
A recent example of a business who successfully implemented the above strategy was Shanghai-based cosmetics brand, Forest Cabin, which temporarily closed about half of its 337 stores at the COVID-19 outbreak. They repurposed their marketing budget and invested in live streaming. After an initial drop of 90% in sales, the brand sales increased 45%.
Media spend: before and after COVID-19
Before COVID-19, media spending was spread out across a variety of segments that advertised to a public that spent half of its time away from their homes commuting, working from an office, going to malls, you know, the good ol' days. The chart below visualizes that spend.
Since the COVID-19 out break the media focus has shifted to every medium used solely at home: TV and digital. Billboards, newspapers, radio, magazines, flyers, etc. are all things of the past. In fact, the shift to TV has seen a 38% increase in broadcast TV and a 37% increase in streaming TV.
So what does an ideal advertising campaign look like today? In general, an integrated digital and TV campaign would be most effective. But all the following tools have proven highly effective since COVID-19:
- Website retargeting ads
- Search Engine Marketing
- Pre-roll video (news and YouTube)
- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn
- In-game ads
- Cable/streaming TV
Advertising on a shoestring budget
So let's say you don't have a spare $100,000 to spend on TV ads, what do you do? the short answer is you need to pour everything into digital. But the long answer is you need to start thinking of your brand differently. Ask yourself "how are my products relevant to COVID-19 and how can I re-launch them in the new world we live in?". You can't think of your brand the way you used to. Customers no longer care about what looks best while at school, work or driving around. They care about what feels and performs best while at home or wearing a mask to the grocery store. This new thinking affects everything from home goods to vehicle purchases. Basically, just think how your customers' needs have changed.
After you have gone through the above exercise you need to repackage and relaunch your brand and offerings. You may have to ask yourself "are there any new products or services I can offer?". If the answer is "no" then you need to think how you can redefine your current product lines.
When you are ready to relaunch, turn to digital. The good news is digital (and all media for that matter) is cheaper than ever. Facebook used to charge 64 cents per click, now they now charge 32 cents (at the time of writing). You have lots of digital options, many even free. Here is a list of just a few:
- Social video
- Community partnership
- Co-op advertising
- Media relations — from feature stories to mentions
Nothing is easy about the times we live in. We can't invent the vaccine to COVID-19 ourselves, and most of the time we feel as if we are helpless bystanders watching this train wreck slowly occur. The truth is we are NOT helpless and we CAN keep our businesses afloat and maybe even thrive during this time, but only if we realize the old way of doing business just won't work anymore. #wewillsurvive