The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation for everyone, and for brands and marketers, it's left many unsure as to what they should be saying, whether they should be advertising at all amid the crisis, and what consumers expect.
Of course, many businesses are simply unable to advertise or market - event-focused brands, for example, are completely adrift. But while millions of businesses have been limited by the global shutdowns, millions of others are still in operation, and are still looking for ways to stay afloat and maximize their existing opportunities, and lessen the long-term financial impact.
So how should brands be marketing in the current environment?
To provide some guidance, Twitter recently conducted a user survey to find out more about what people want and expect from brands in their communications during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here's what they found:
64% said brands should continue advertising products as normal
Now, that's not an overwhelming majority, but it does align with other research - a recent study by Kantar, for example, found that 92% of people think that businesses should continue to advertise during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It's a difficult balance, but the consensus appears to be that people are supportive of brands looking to maintain their operations as much as possible amid the outbreak, and that includes advertising. And while, again, not all businesses can continue to promote, for those that are able, there are significant opportunities to maximize reach.
52% agreed that seeing/hearing ads gives them a sense of normality
This is an interesting perspective, and somewhat reinforces the first point - people are open to advertising, even as a form of comfort and normality.
Because let's face it, nothing is truly 'normal' at the moment. It could well be that maintaining regular promotions plays a part in helping people feel more comfortable with the uncertain situation.
77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment
This is a key point of note - for those that are able, providing support to the communities that support your business is a key way to both promote your brand and build connection with your audience.
It also enables you to play a part in the broader relief efforts, and maybe lessen the impacts.
Only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice
Again, this is not business as normal - and clearly, consumers expect businesses to acknowledge such.
The situation has changed, for everyone, and while people are generally supportive of ads, they're also looking for brands to consider the circumstance, and communicate in accordance with the evolving environment.
In terms of more specific, humanitarian notes and pointers:
- 82% of respondents said that brands should look to support frontline health staff, where possible
- 86% of respondents said that brands should support vulnerable people within their communities
- 89% said that brands should provide reliable, accurate information
- 77% said that brands should support their local communities
- 80% said that brands should show how they’re supporting their employees
Much of this goes without saying, but it further underlines the need to consider those impacted by the crisis, and what possible role your business can play to assist.
And one final key point:
70% of respondents said brands should boost positivity and share positive stories
People are looking for inspiration, for hope amid the looming specter of COVID-19. It's hard for many to see any light at the end of the tunnel, as the constantly updated charts show infection and death rates climbing, while a workable solution to get us back to normal seems no closer to reality.
Sharing positive, uplifting brand stories can play a key role, not only in a promotional sense, but also in terms of community good, and providing relief to people stuck inside, afraid to leave their houses because of the virus.
There are more notes and insights in Twitter's full report, which you can read here, while Twitter also recently updated its COVID-19 ad policies to reflect its own evolving approach.