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Coronavirus Marketing

Overcoming distance: how brands can bring us together

By Sam Stark

April 1, 2020 | 5 min read

Covid-19 has interrupted the marketing efforts that we have all spent months planning. The new normal - from the safe confines of our homes - means social media is the world's only gathering place, fulfilling the primal desire to interact with others.

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Overcoming distance: how brands can bring us together

Instead of guessing about what’s next, let’s look at some key learnings from China’s quarantine:

- Alibaba reported over double the live-streams for the same period last year

- eCommerce is up in key areas like home cookware, fitness and beauty products

- Over 10 million virtual tours of museums

In Summary: consumers still want to interact with each other and want items that will better their current situation and provoke a move to pivot to digital and value-driven action.

In the coming weeks, with working from home happening across the nation, businesses will forge on. Brands can find opportunities to create solutions for current tensions to truly add value. We’ve outlined a few areas we consider a natural fit for our new reality.

Realtime participatory experiences:

Sharing in this instance requires either interactivity or collaboration as part of the content.

What: Platforms such as Twitch have pioneered live shared experiences with people watching and playing games together online. Twitch Plays Pokemon saw millions of people collaborate to complete the classic Pokemon game.

Why: The sense of achievement and collaboration drives high participation in online shared experiences and can be ported to any platform. Like in the Pokemon example, the sense of achievement and community created a snowball effect and in the end, many hands make light work. Consumers are willing to work for their reward and that reward can be anything from unlocked content through to monetizable moments; i.e. Netflix just announced virtual watch parties.

Digital experiences

What: The digital platforms (app, site) that brands already own provide a great opportunity for deeper engagement. Leverage that attention by offering consumers a new digital experience that provides value in a way that’s authentic to the brand and relevant to the consumer. Value can be informative and helpful, it can be providing utility, it can be entertainment.

Why: Owned platforms often have their own pre-existing audience and while the audience is within that platform, there is focused attention. Social platforms can reach a much wider and bigger audience, particularly if the brand stands out in a feed.

Example: Under Armour’s “Steph IQ” provided entertainment through a mobile trivia game.

Social influencer marketing

What: Influencer marketing will become a valuable platform in which brands can still achieve many of their goals despite social distancing.

Why: Via influencers, brands can add solutions to consumers’ lives; from in-home workouts to DIY crafts for kids to cooking classes.

Example: Popsugar partnering with influencer gym Prevail to provide free in-home workouts.

Social media marketing

What: Social will be a more critical tool than ever. Brands have an opportunity to identify and solve for consumer needs as they arise.

Why: As IRL events are scaled back, social media will offer a continued 1:1 connection for consumers. Brands will need to listen closely, have a nimble game-plan and react quickly to provide real solutions as these inevitable opportunities come to life.

Example: Chipotle is providing its customers with a way to hangout for a virtual lunch.

Thoughtful earned media

What: Brands have an opportunity to amplify purposeful brand actions with a compassion-led earned strategy. More than ever, empathy is critical and brands should be especially cognizant of the tone they take.

Why: PR can help amplify and give brands credit for doing the right thing, from entertaining live digital experiences to meaningful brand gestures such as fee waiving, and executive pay cuts.

Example: CVS waived the delivery fees on all prescriptions and Universal is making current theatrical movies available for home viewing for a fee.

With the world now WFH, consumers are craving communal experiences more than ever and will go online to fill the gaps. Smart brands will look to digital, listen to consumers and quickly introduce real solutions to their now-upside-down lives (without being overly promotional). Brands that lead with compassion and take purposeful action will win.

Samantha Stark is executive vice-president at 160over90, you can follow her on Twitter @sammystark.

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