With vaccinations happening at different paces across different states and even counties, US marketers must adopt a much more granular approach as the country opens up. S4M’s Stan Coignard offers a targeted roadmap for the next 100 days and beyond.
Despite the bumpy early Covid-19 vaccination rollout, the big picture looks bright. President Biden has made vaccine distribution and achieving herd immunity job one in his new administration. 100 million shots in American arms by April is the timeline he has set. We are already on pace to likely exceed that goal.
Smart brand marketers are aligning their marketplace strategies accordingly. While Biden has laid out a highly detailed federally coordinated response to jumpstart Operation Warp Speed, it is safe to assume that there will be notable disparities from state-to-state and even from county-to-county.
This lack of uniformity will certainly create some initial headaches for marketers — especially for those who have traditionally operated on a national scale with one unified message — as they juggle different messaging approaches. Due to this inescapable reality, many brands will need to adopt a more granular, market-by-market approach as the beating heart of their strategies. For the next six months and likely even longer, marketers will need to adapt to an approach that might be unfamiliar.
Because of the uneven vaccination schedules, it will be critical for campaigns to activate and optimize in real-time using dynamic location targeting, featuring geofencing. Local in this context should eschew traditional Nielsen Designated Market Area segmentation. The local approach I’m talking about should account for the expected variances — which stores, restaurants and car dealerships are open? Which are not? Will they gradually ramp up in terms of store hours and days open? Are they offering their full suite of products/services?
Finding high-affinity zones for brands
This granular approach will do no less than transform digital advertising paradigms well beyond the pandemic. This shift will be bolstered by the new ability to target consumers molecularly without running afoul of privacy regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act. Brands can now target areas within circumscribed walking or driving time from stores as well as pinpoint high-affinity zones for their brands.
Geofencing should map every county in your brand’s national footprint. Privacy-first, location-based technology automates dynamic creative optimization and vicinity to generate more efficient spend. Through daily monitoring, brands will be able to shift dollars in a flash to optimize spending to make the most impact of your messaging. As an example, the evolving vaccination rate within a particular locality can force brands to shift on a dime from a branding message to one that is more performance-driven. To refine further, even among those store locations that have reopened, there will be different priorities from store-to-store. Some will want to drive in-store messaging while others will want to push drive-thru, click and collect or delivery.
Staying in the loop
This highly sophisticated practice creates a constant feedback loop. Between Q3 and Q4 in 2020, consumer propensity for 30-minute traveling distances increased by 363% compared to the 191% growth observed for 15-minute traveling distances. This feedback is valuable in indicating that stores might have experienced a notable shift in consumer compensation — adding more consumers willing to travel longer distances — or it could indicate that the same folks were more willing to travel further for shopping because of the time saved by not commuting during the pandemic.
This gradual reopening period will likely have its twists and turns during the next three months, but advertisers are no strangers to turbulence and surprises in normal times much less during a pandemic. The juggling act of balancing public health and economic health has been the throughline the past year. And now, we have even more muscle memory than ever to remain steadfast, brave and flexible in responding to whatever challenges come our way. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter. Spending the next 100 days to sharpen our strategies will be critical as to how quickly and successfully we can return to the broad daylight of normal.
Stan Coignard is chief executive, Americas, S4M