How Humor, Flexibility, and Authenticity Will Get Us Through This Next Phase
Like many of us, since March you’ve probably been consuming way more content than ever before. You have also likely reached a point where you tune out instantly when you see yet another technology or car company declaring that "we’re all in this together.” (That is not to disparage this outstanding Lexus “business as usual” spot, a great example of striking the exact right tone and standing out early on in this crisis, though sadly much copied since.)
After three months of quarantine, anxiety, and processing of collective trauma from the COVID-19 onslaught, it’s not exactly news anymore that “the world has been changed” or that we are in “uncertain times.” And so, as marketers, this places us at another crossroads with regards to how to best do our jobs, and how to best serve our clients during this next phase -- the long haul portion -- of this ongoing pandemic.
It’s laudable for brands to spread comforting messages out in the world during the crisis, but we’ve all grown weary of the rote repetition of the same kinds of pacifying messages.
This recent analysis from Ace Metrix confirms this anecdotal evidence: “focusing on the health crisis alone is no longer enough to capture consumer interest.” Another study found that “41% of consumers are ready for brands to start talking about something other than COVID-19.”
Someone even boiled all the coronavirus-related commercials down into one eye-opening montage, which you can enjoy here.
In other words: You still can’t craft messaging that ignores our “new normal” altogether, but ONLY doing that - acknowledging what people already see and are experiencing every day without adding value to why they should listen - doesn’t cut it anymore.
Your customers are turning their sights toward what is specifically relevant to them once more. Here are some quick tips on how to make sure you’re continually updating your content strategy to meet your audience right where they are, especially in a world where the stakes seem to change dramatically from day to day.
Remember to Think on Your Feet
Here at WT Digital, we have been engaged in numerous conversations with clients about how to shift their efforts and move toward what their consumers truly need from them. And yes, this can sometimes require improvisational skills worthy of the Upright Citizens Brigade. For some clients, the actual products they’re selling have changed; for others, the goals and KPIs have evolved.
Remember to Tell Great Stories
As filmmaker Jean Luc Godard said, “Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” Even if our reality has become harder to sort through these days, that doesn’t mean that people don’t still crave the simplicity of a good story. And don’t forget that you should keep your focus on telling your clients or your company’s stories -- their triumphs, their struggles, and most importantly where you fit in on that timeline.
Quick note: If you haven’t already, be sure to read Donald Miller’s seminal work Building a Story Brand. Every content marketer should have this in their library -- honestly, you should also probably carry it around with you wherever you roam, just for easy reference.
Stick to What Matters
This is an “oldie but goodie” (from two months ago - practically a millennia by today’s standard!) from the Public Relations Society of America with some solid pointers on how to “avoid communication fatigue.” Number one on the list? “Share crucial information.”
Remember That Laughter Is Sometimes Okay
At the beginning of May, this piece in Reuters predicted that we’d begin seeing a return soon to more levity in advertising, declaring, “It’s okay to laugh again.”
While humor isn’t necessarily appropriate in all occasions, it can often do wonders to lighten viewers’ moods and ease them into at least hearing you out. When utilized correctly, a relatable joke can strike a chord that fosters a sense of understanding and trust, and provides a momentary island of stress relief. And who wouldn’t be drawn to whatever product or service is offering that! Great example: This Bulleit Bourbon “New Drinking Buddies” ad from late April.
Remember to Speak the Truth
Here’s what people will continue to look for: How to keep their loved ones safe, and how to stay sane and mentally occupied when means of escape have become more limited (travel, etc.). People are grappling with a constant barrage of new risks and new developments in the pandemic. They’re trying, sometimes with less success, to continue distancing practices and find new ways to stay plugged in with the life-sustaining connections and communities.
Authenticity and transparency - these are the currencies that will always be of value. Don’t get caught doing what this Atlantic piece so aptly summed up about the see-through fakery of trying to seem genuine when you’re clearly not:
“... those ads feature the voices of executives insisting that we’re all in this together, while those executives might be self-isolating in sunny vacation compounds. This worst kind of messaging flies beyond the bounds of simple uselessness and lands at full-on smarm; there’s no value except to the company itself, reminding you that it’s still around to accept whatever money you have left.”
Just don’t do it!
Remember That People Still Have Dreams
Famed travel guide Rick Steves, for example, created this virtual travel Bingo game to help tide people over until they can actually explore the world once more. This concept is great, not only because it’s fun and creative, but because it reminds us that things won’t always be in the current state they’re in.
If your business is currently on hold and you’re looking to hang onto the customers you have, by all means, make every effort to stoke that kind of forward-thinking. Enable people to continue to dream, as Steves has so effectively done, about what the future may bring.
If there’s anything that’s 100% for sure right now, it’s that none of us know how this is going to play out yet. Why should marketing be any different?