The world is quickly learning some valuable truths during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social norms are changing, as well as industry expectations and capabilities. These are terrifying and uncertain times, and most brands understand this. They’re devoting a ton of their marketing to something that often gets lost especially in the marketing and advertising industry: Authenticity.
It’s an obvious decision during a time like we’re experiencing, but what about times when things are “normal?” What kinds of lessons in authenticity will we all learn when everything returns to some semblance of normal?
Re-affirmation that brands’ focus should be the consumer
People have been growing ever more stingy about parting with their money. This phenomenon was true even before suffering a global pandemic. Now that unemployment has reached over 16 million, trends probably won’t change. Meanwhile, people are consuming media at a heightened rate, and we’re not seeing any shortage in ads on our TVs or digital devices. What could people possibly be selling at a time like this?
The truth is that like no time before, every American is in the same situation. We’re all sitting at home waiting for this unprecedented situation to pass. The sadder truth is that a vast majority of people are struggling through it. Businesses, as heartless as some can be, know this and are compartmentalizing their targeting by directing a message directly to consumers like never before. When we see an ad telling us, “Stay strong,” we don’t have to ask ourselves who the ad is speaking to. It’s speaking to all of us through advertising authenticity.
This re-affirmation toward consumers also allows businesses to offer value to consumers in ways outside of direct immediate revenue. Companies like the auto manufacturer Hyundai (as well as many others) are offering relief plans for their customers to help them out if they’re affected by COVID-19. Some day, we will realize some type of return to normal life. Businesses that went out of their way to provide some type of value to their customers will win.
What to expect moving forward
In many ways, we’re living through a watershed moment. A sizable number of companies across the globe are dramatically pulling back on ad spend. It makes sense on the surface: with no revenue, it becomes difficult to spend on marketing and advertising. On the other hand, we’re seeing an increase in content across a number of platforms.
Now that everyone is at home, there is a sudden mad dash to hold our attention. Disney+ released Frozen 2 early to bring in some eyeballs. Hulu just added several films from Academy Award Winning Director Bong Joon-ho to their platform. ESPN devoted an entire day to oddball sports while re-branding to ESPN8 “The Ocho.” This entire free-for-all has turned into its own Battle Royale of content marketing.
Audience attention (and, subsequently, potential clients’ and customers’ attention) isn’t being decided by who is buying the most ad space and telling us to “BUY NOW.” Our attention is with who is providing the most for us right now. It’s odd to talk about during a time when we don’t have much power to really do anything. At the same time, we quarantined masses decide who wins and loses in this content battle.
The most successful brands to come out of this pandemic will be those that did the most for their consumers, not the ones who cut their losses and left town.