As of this writing, the world is teetering on coronavirus calamity. Entire countries are shutting down, economies are stalling, households are imperiled. There are a lot of obvious implications for consumption, travel, eCommerce, and advertising. But here are seven non-obvious implications for marketing:
1. Are you relevant in this moment?
Please take a long, hard look at the goods and services provided by your business. If you are not absolutely relevant to the world as it is RIGHT NOW, simply putting your business online or holding a webinar isn’t going to help the situation.
This is the right now:
- Many people are in, or will be entering, a state of shock and panic.
- They are trying to figure out how to manage the kids at home and entertain them for hours on end. Unexpected time with kids produces new psychological and financial stresses.
- They are isolated and bored.
- Their routines are disrupted.
- Thousands of people are being laid-off.
- They are experiencing deep anxiety and even depression.
- Important symbols of normal life — sports, festivals, concerts, conferences — are gone.
- Millions of people no longer have viable businesses right now. They are losing their financial buffer quickly. For many people, the focus is making ends meet.
- Our customers fear for what is next.
Now, that is our world and those are your customers. Ask this question with icy cold precision: “Does my business still matter in this environment?”
For many, the answer is “no.”
This is among the most important coronavirus implications for marketing — your customers may not be interested in you right now no matter what you do. Working harder may not make a difference.
The world is sliding into a collective retreat, with tens of millions of people waiting for solutions to the problems caused by an invisible threat.
The next step is to dig deep and figure out what skills you can apply to the current situation and help find those solutions. How can you help people in a helpful way with the resources at your disposal?
2. Safe, familiar, comfortable
In a time of unprecedented global stress, people will reach for the familiar to soothe themselves. As the psychological stress sets in, people will reach for comfort. Look for marketing opportunities in:
- Baking, cookies, candy, and comfort food
- Blankets, pajamas, sweat pants, jigsaw puzzles, board games
- Old television shows and movies
- Food and grocery delivery
- Anything that represents a small, affordable luxury that can be delivered to the home
Examples of businesses that are re-framing to meet these needs of comfort and safety:
- A service that delivers ready-to-cook meals through the mail. An affordable luxury that solves a problem!
- A grocery store in Canada is making special accommodations to keep seniors safe.
- U-Haul is offering free storage for college students who are being suddenly displaced.
- A Portland distillery is turning their waste alcohol into free hand sanitizer.
- A local ranch is losing business as restaurants shut down so they are offering to deliver fresh steaks to people’s doors.
3. Content babies
With so many people locked in, we will probably have a big surge in children being born nine months from now. A similar thing happening with content projects that have been on the backburner.
With more time at home, one of the coronavirus implications for marketing folks is that a lot of passion projects that were on hold — a book, podcast, or video series — will become a priority. Look for a swarm of significant new “content babies” in the next weeks and months.
This is probably the worst possible time to launch something new … because everybody will be launching something new. Consider it this way:
- Is this core to my business (and if it is, why didn’t I do it before?)
- Is this sustainable once everything goes back to normal?
- Is this the best place to devote considerable resources right now?
- I am producing a product of substance or a product out of panic?
4. Dressing down
As soon as the virus reality took hold, people were posting photos and videos saying “Look at me! I’m working from home!”
And they all looked … to put it politely … disheveled.
Working from home provides permission to not groom or wear makeup. To wear sweat pants and t-shirts. To celebrate unkempt.
One of the coronavirus implications for marketing is that consumption of make-up, hair products, and grooming products luxury will take a big dive. But coming out of this crisis, will there be some new fashion sensibility based on practicality and comfort? What does the non-grooming market look like?
5. A desperate rush to produce
There are millions of speakers, meeting organizers, event planners, hospitality professionals, and consultants who suddenly, and dramatically, have no work.
In this industry, there is outright panic right now. Survival mode is kicking in and there is a desperation to produce something — anything — that can be sold online.
Over the next few weeks, there will be an unprecedented number of online classes, webinars, and virtual conferences designed as patches for the problem.
We’re entering a period of online meeting overload. This will be very good for companies like Zoom and GoToMeeting!
So think through this carefully. The world is about to be inundated with classes, webinars, and online conferences. What is your role in a world of too much? How do you cut through this new clutter?
Another important thing to think through: People are accustomed to receiving content and webinars for free. With so many people suffering or out of work, will people pay for your content?
6. Explosion of innovation
When faced with business disaster, the most creative and competent will survive and thrive with new business models and services that will become part of a new post-virus way of life.
Pay close attention. In the next few weeks, people will combine online technologies in interesting new ways that will make you say, “Wow! I never thought of that.”
This is going to be exceptionally interesting as it relates to ads. Big ad shoots are being canceled. How will brands get their messages out through a stay-at-home creative workforce?
Don’t just use technology to do the same thing in a different way. Use technologies in creative new ways to dispense unique value.
7. Dispensing hope
Fear is contagious. So is hope.
A world of dramatic change and uncertainty will certainly spawn anxiety in an organization. It’s important to provide a steadfast vision and encouragement in that environment to get the most from your team. Being a great marketing leader might mean dispensing hope in the face of a constant hurricane.
Look for opportunities where there were none before.
Ask questions you have never asked before.
PS. Through all this, try to stay sane.