Marketers, Prepare for a Post-Pandemic World

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Consumer Confidence Notes

From Fernando Meza, owner and CEO of Oneupweb.

As states start preparing to relax their shelter-in-place orders and we start visualizing what our new normal will be, it’s important to discuss consumer confidence. If states say, “Okay, everyone, it’s safe to go out again,” who is going to be the first to go into the water after a shark attack? How will those people be feeling?

Don’t underestimate, for even one moment, the collective trauma that we have gone through and the effects it will have on the human psyche. I remember a good example from the New York Times (in 2018 but highly relevant) titled “I Have Post-Brokeness Stress Disorder.” The author described how, even after he broke out from being a beat writer desperate for writing gigs – even after getting a book deal, TV deal, and high-profile interviews – it was hard for him to shake a haunted feeling. He still questioned every purchase he made, as he’d always lived paycheck to paycheck. He still feared the sound of a truck backing up, as it triggered a memory of having his car repossessed. His consumer confidence didn’t match his newfound financial stability.

This pandemic will shake consumer confidence in much the same way. Some will think differently about their purchases forever. So how do we, as marketers, address our audience when the economy reopens? How and when are we going to tell our consumers that it’s safe to come out and play with us?

There are a few things that leaders can keep in mind about how they connect with their audience, moving forward, and how they view their own business.

Don’t Tell People How to Feel

After this is all over, it would be a mistake to not genuinely acknowledge (in marketing and various communications) the collective trauma that we experienced. However, it would be an even bigger mistake to assume how someone feels about it, or to tell them how they should feel about it. People will see through your ploy if you tell them the world is normal and worry-free again, just weeks after a worldwide trauma event.

There’s a great Medium article that I hope you have seen circulating called “Prepare for the Ultimate Gaslighting” by Julio Vincent Gambuto. He does an incredible job of acknowledging that collective trauma and pleading with businesses to avoid gaslighting consumers when the pandemic has started to blow over.

Don’t fall victim to the rush to sell again, pretending like none of this never happened. Instead, be on the side that gave a s**t.

I genuinely feel that the companies that show compassion, and who measure rather than assume their audience’s sentiments, will fare better than those that don’t.

Listen More Closely

Now is the right time to listen more closely to your audience and to your own tone. Invite yourself to those decision-making Zoom parties that are happening without you, and help other leaders listen more closely as well.

How can you listen more closely to consumers and your direct audience?

  • Conduct market research. Get a renewed sense of what your customers’ concerns and objections are now. These market research examples are a good a starting point, and The Pew Research Center Internet & Technology is also a tremendous resource for us at Oneupweb. Put that information in front of your executive team as soon as you can; I don’t know if we’ve ever had a bigger opportunity to do this and be heard by all stakeholders. Business leaders are finding new appreciation for customers, as of late, and customers’ voices need a seat at the table of decision makers.
  • Reevaluate pain points. Consumer pain points have evolved and grown recently. Find out what’s new with your audience, and remove barriers to make it easier for them to engage with you, whether it’s a pricing issue or something technical. UX and accessibility improvements will help with this, including conversion rate optimization testing.
  • Listen through data. Here’s a great example of how you can use PPC data to better understand what people are doing right now, and what type of emotion might be attached to that behavior. Then respond authentically to what you notice, and you’ll serve people better.

How can you listen to your own tone and be a better marketer right now?

  • Look at your brand promise. Often, a brand promise, mission or values statement can look more like a boast, which isn’t a good look anytime – but especially now. It’s time to reaffirm to your customers who you are and why you care.
  • At the same time, avoid cliché. Be introspective, and be authentic. Consumers can smell B.S from a mile away. Here’s an example of who you shouldn’t be right now.
  • Offer promotions. And listen to the response you get. Our ecommerce clients are seeing success with promotions. They’ve done a good job of mixing up the timing and the product mix. A perfect example of this is Ikea’s Stay Home campaign. Another is a client of ours who seized the Tiger King bandwagon and had a record-breaking day for online sales in the middle of April 2020. Culture matters y’all! If you’re not an e-commerce business, we can’t say if there’s pent-up demand, but properly incentivizing could draw out demand. For example, if you’re in the hospitality business, you may offer once-in-a-lifetime booking deals, when it’s safe, to get people to show up.
  • Assess marketing in all channels. But know that there is no “pandemic marketing plan” or perfect way of marketing in the economic downturn that follows.
  • Check out competitors’ responses. Your competitors may handle a post-pandemic world well, or they might not. Either way, you can learn from them. Plus, in my experience, nothing motivates the C-suite more effectively than showing them what your competitors are doing. If you’re struggling to get internal buy-in for changing how you’re talking to consumers, competitor research is your friend!

Will We Change for the Better?

In the same Medium article mentioned above, Gambuto refers to the pandemic as “The Great Pause” and the opportunity of a lifetime.

This excerpt stuck with me:

From one citizen to another, I beg of you: take a deep breath, ignore the deafening noise, and think deeply about what you want to put back into your life. This is our chance to define a new version of normal, a rare and truly sacred (yes, sacred) opportunity to get rid of the bullshit and to only bring back what works for us, what makes our lives richer, what makes our kids happier, what makes us truly proud. We get to Marie Kondo the shit out of it all.

So, fellow marketers and business leaders, I also believe that now is your time seize this unprecedented moment to transform your role in society and the value you bring to the decision-making matrix. Just don’t become one of those tone-deaf brands that ends up trending on Twitter for the wrong reasons.

We all have questions:

  • As brands, how do we fit in? How do we show humanity and bring real value?
  • As everyday consumers, what do we allow back into our lives after this interruption?

Put your business in a position to be let back in and make meaningful connections.

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