The American Advertising Federation has been a great resource throughout my career, so it’s no wonder they have stepped up to provide some amazing content and resources during this pandemic. I recently participated in an AAF webinar focusing on consumer insight for current advertising and recommendations on moving forward called “Weathering the Storm: Brand Management in the COVID-19 Era”. It sheds light on how brands can drive situation-sensitive yet purpose-led growth in this unprecedented time. The webinar panelists are AAF President & CEO Steve Pacheco, Morning Consult’s VP of Content Jeff Cartwright and Morning Consult’s Managing Director of Brand Intelligence Victoria Sakal.
One of the key take-aways is guidance on reflecting your brand message for our new reality.
The above chart can be adapted to your industry. Using tourism as an example, it could be changed to:
What to Say
- Show how your destination’s attractions and partners are implementing procedures to ensure the continued health and safety of their visitors. Rather than going back to business as usual, offering clarity on how your destination is adapting to the new normal is central to reinforcing brand trust and encouraging travelers to consider your destination for their first post-pandemic trip.
- Demonstrate how your destination can help improve your visitors’ well-being. Address their pain points, convey empathy and cultivate experiences that will help them decompress after several months of stress, uncertainty and—in some cases—being unable to leave their homes. As a working mother with two children at home due to school closures, balancing working from home with home-schooling requirements and the general distractions that come with two young children cooped up in the house, a getaway with the family—even if only for an extended weekend—will be a welcome reprieve for all of us.
- Explain how you’re taking care of employees, volunteers and stakeholders. In a recent survey conducted by Morning Consult, how brands take care of their employees and team members was the second highest consideration for consumers evaluating their brand loyalties. It’s important that travel brands make clear how they’re working to support their community, attractions and partners as hardships and uncertainty abound.
- Offer messages that are generally comforting and optimistic. As states gradually reopen and lift travel bans and shelter-in-place orders, it’s important to demonstrate sensitivity that things might not ever be completely the same, but that you’re looking forward to welcoming them to visit when the time is right. Share stories of kindness and generosity from your community. For example, how restaurants (even though most are being hit with financial hardships) are providing free meals to truck drivers and front line medical workers.
What to Avoid
- Situation-insensitive messages that fail to connect to your destination to the moment—don’t downplay or distance yourself from the hardships people are experiencing.
- Situation-impractical messages. This one is a no-brainer. Don’t try to offer services that people can’t access or may be uncomfortable accessing so soon after state re-openings.
- Anything explicitly self-serving. Avoid even the appearance of profiting off of the pandemic or exploiting hardships. This will not reflect favorably on your brand.
Morning Consult also has a great resource called Ad Tracker that analyzes how successfully brands have communicated with consumers during this difficult time. Thousands of consumers were surveyed about key ads running during the COVID-19 pandemic and whether these ads generate positive or negative feelings based on a number of metrics.
We’ve written before about defining your brand and mistakes to avoid in marketing, and now might be a good time to revisit your branding efforts and review what makes you different. I highly recommend also taking some time to view the webinar and if you’d like to download the report presentation used in the webinar, it’s located here (you’ll need to enter your email to download).