Due to COVID-19, brands (and everyone else) can no longer operate like it’s business as usual. The current pandemic has caused marketers to indefinitely delay campaigns as their long-planned content suddenly feels out of touch. Some industries, like tourism and automotive, will likely hunker down and stop advertising for the foreseeable future.
But for other sectors, including food and beverage, sales are strong as consumers add extra products to their shopping carts in anticipation of spending more time at home. For CPG brands, there’s a fine line to walk between being there for consumers and appearing to be capitalizing opportunistically on a global health crisis.
We asked Tim Pollak, Factory’s head of strategy and a long-term ad agency executive, for his advice for advertisers during this stressful and unprecedented time. He offered three concise rules that, while equally important during “business-as-usual” times, are especially crucial to keep top-of-mind now.
1. Be sensitive to what your consumers are going through.
“People are stressed and worried right now. They’ve never been here before—no one has. They have things on their minds besides your products. Recognize that they are going through a hard time and be sensitive. It requires a different tone of voice.
I’ve encouraged Factory’s food brand partners not to use words like “stock up”—that kind of language puts your product into the bomb shelter category, and that’s not very appetizing. In this time of uncertainty, people want to feel like they are still in charge of their lives. Don’t add to the panic and don’t try to sell too hard.
The best thing you can do is make your product feel comfortable and helpful—what consumers need at this time. For Factory’s brand partners, that’s providing comforting, shelf-stable or frozen meals and snacks that families can share and enjoy. Give your consumers information so that choosing your product becomes easy. Be inviting and informative.”
2. Be authentic.
“Your brand’s authenticity matters more than ever. Stick to the values that you’ve established and be consistent; don’t pretend you’re something you’re not. This is not the time to try to convince consumers you’re a socially-conscious company for the first time or pretend that you can solve a problem you can’t. Be who you are, be sincere and maintain trust.
Think about how your product can be helpful to consumers during a time of such enormous stress. Be genuine and honest. Offering simple pleasures can be really meaningful.”
3. Live in the moment.
“Your visibility into the future is relatively short, so it’s a waste of time to spend too much time trying to predict what will happen next. There’s no way to know if the campaigns you had planned for summer will still be relevant, so don’t try to guess.
Everyone is living in the now, and that’s what, as a brand, you need to do too. Focus on immediate goals—make sure you can get your next pallet made, shipped and distributed. As long as your supply chain holds up, opportunities will come to you if you have the right product for the time, but don’t force the fit.
Take it one day at a time. Keep your consumer, and their needs, top-of-mind. If you are loyal to them now, they will remain loyal to your brand when the crisis ends.”