In this guest post, Becky Cheseldine, Head of Biddable at Yoghurt Digital, provides insights on how to adapt your marketing in times of uncertainty…
If you had asked me three months ago if I was prepared for a global crisis, I would have confidently said yes. But this pandemic has been more disruptive than I ever imagined. It invaded our lives with very little warning, causing borders and businesses to close, and a quarter of the world’s population to be confined to their homes.
With business as usual officially out the window, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink how we approach our work. It’s an unnerving time for both markets and brands, and the most unsettling thing is that there’s no precedent to follow. No “best practices.” But before we get whiplash from pivoting too much, we can – and should – make educated guesses based on the information we have right now.
While there’s no master plan for how to handle a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime situation like COVID-19, I believe there are a few grounding principles that will give your brand the best chance of succeeding during this crisis – or at the very least weathering the storm.
1. Follow the data (even if it’s limited)
Working in biddable media, we have access to a wealth of data and human behaviour insights, and I’ve always been proud of my ability to leverage those insights to improve consumer engagement, drive performance and increase conversions. Thanks to the COVID-19, I may not be able to forecast as far into the future – but I will still be relying on data to drive my strategy.
Why? Because data doesn’t lie.
It’s easy to assume how customer behaviour will change when the market shifts, but you need the data to back it up. And even though we’ve only been dealing with the pandemic for a few weeks, there’s already plenty of data to analyse.
Here are just a few examples:
- Media consumption is up 60% in the US and is sitting at an all-time high according to Nielsen. Experts say we’re a few weeks behind America in terms of the spread of the virus, so there’s a good chance Aussies will soon be clocking around 12 hours a day on streaming services while they’re in lockdown.
- Messaging, voice calling and video calling has risen by more than 50% over the last month, says Facebook – which means people are spending more time on social and communication apps.
The key is to keep a close eye on all of your channels and monitor any changes in demand. Then, shift your strategy and reallocate your budget accordingly so you can stay connected to your customers during the crisis.
Your job is to be nimble and use the data to your advantage.
Worried about a drop in efficiency? Set clear ROAS/ROI/CPA targets with your agency and establish the point where activity is no longer driving the results you need so you can pivot rapidly.
2. Be prepared to pivot
Don’t box yourself in. Be flexible and open to change. Treat this time as a creative challenge.
At my agency, we’re pivoting, too. For example, with most of our clients we actively remove mobile apps from campaigns because a) the creative isn’t suitable or b) the results have been historically poor. However, we know that if one sector is going to get a boost from everyone being stuck at home, it’s mobile apps.
So, we’re rethinking our approach to creativity. We’re testing heavily. We’re experimenting with new strategies and channels, throwing out tightly-held beliefs that won’t serve us well in the current landscape. Sticking to the status quo won’t give you the room you need to navigate through a time where the ground we’re standing on is seemingly shifting daily.
Can you do the same?
As a brand, you might also be pivoting towards new audiences. Let’s look at retail, for example. Shops are closed with no end date in sight, so avid in-store shoppers will now be looking online for alternatives. In fact, 74% of customers are purchasing online at the same rate as two weeks ago, with 1 in 3 reducing in-store shopping, according to Kantar. By adjusting your business model to focus on online, you’ll be setting your brand up for the foreseeable future.
3. Boost your content production
With lockdowns in place around the world, internet use has exploded. This presents a great opportunity for brands, so think of ways to get in front of your audience and give them what they want.
Depending on your brand and what you sell, you may need to change up your messaging a little so as not to be insensitive. Now might not be the best time to push heavy sales messaging, but offering your customers exclusive discounts or some light relief in the content you share, they won’t forget it. You might also consider a shift to social messaging, where you tell your customers how you’re “doing your bit” to help.
It might seem obvious, but the brands that actively and appropriately engage with their customer base over this period are the brands that will still have one when this passes.
While it’s tempting to schedule a ton of ads, audiences can get bored easily – especially if they’re scrolling or streaming all day long. Track your frequencies across ad sets and make it a priority to plan fresh and tailored creative to avoid repetitive ads. People may be spending more time at home consuming content, but their standards of personalisation won’t slip.
With ad variations in play, you have a better chance of capturing and keeping your audience’s attention.
4. Plan for the short and long term
Some brands are quick to panic when numbers start to drop, but hasty decisions can have a detrimental impact on your bottom line.
A study that reviewed the effect of marketing during and after recessions found that businesses recorded a -0.8% drop in profitability when they cut marketing during downturns, while those that ramped up their marketing came out with a +4.3% increase in profitability.
The main takeaway from this? Don’t stop marketing.
In the short-term, look at your advertising funnel and assign clear goals and KPI targets for each individual channel. This will give you a good benchmark to work towards and help you spot any red flags ahead of time. Just remember that each channel serves a different objective in the conversion funnel, so be realistic when setting your goals. For example, setting a high ROI target for your display prospecting activity will lead to disappointment since that’s not what that channel is meant for.
When you’re done with your short-term strategy, consider opportunities outside the next four weeks. If you’re dealing with low stock levels or demand, you can still make changes that will benefit your business long-term.
When this health crisis passes – and it will pass – consumers will resume buying and competition will once again be high. Use this downtime to your advantage, so you’ll be ready and raring to go when everything goes back to normal. You could make your website more user-friendly, update your checkout process, roll out your content strategy, or fix the technical SEO issues that have been pushed down the priority list.
Think opportunities, not setbacks
There’s no roadmap right now, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the news when it’s painting a grim picture. But you got into the industry to be innovative, so let that drive you and focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
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