10 September 2020
Being creative as a brand is always a must—and staying creative during a pandemic, well, that’s even more of a must. With so many businesses taking a hit and modifying marketing plans, we’re impressed at those who’ve decided to take a somewhat different approach … as we like to call it, “the smile effect.” For instance, take Kraft Heinz’s lemonade brand, Country Time. The imaginative group launched a new campaign called “The Littlest Bailout Relief Fund” that will send stimulus checks at random to kids who had to close their summer lemonade stands due to the pandemic. Parents simply enter their kid’s name on a microsite for their chance to win a $100 commemorative check and prepaid gift card. As the voiceover says, “Now the smallest of small businesses are about to get some help.” Cue the smiles. Country Time isn’t the only brand focused on the littles. Great Parks of Hamilton County felt the tears from miles away when news broke that playgrounds and picnic areas were off-limits earlier this year. That didn’t stop them, however, from bringing the park (and fun educational content) to the kids. But it’s not just young ones who are feeling blue this summer. Anyone with PTO on their hands is lamenting canceled cross-country vacation plans. While staycations are likely the most popular option for the foreseeable future, Audible UK tapped into consumers’ pent-up yearning to get out and explore after months of quarantine. Thanks to a new 30-second spot mimicking the oh-so-familiar welcome and safety message airlines broadcast before takeoff, as well as vintage-style images recalling the golden age of flying, “Fly Audible” repositions the audio book seller as a travel company (and reminds us that books truly can take us anywhere). Head to Hogwarts or Mars … no matter which destination you choose, it will be somewhere other than your living room. Perhaps the most heart-tugging campaign comes by way of Heineken. Their “Ode to Close” commercial puts a spotlight on the closeness we miss—and the closeness we feel by being apart. It’s the perfect happy hour inspiration. Rather than being stale and stagnant, brands are facing the facts: in order to stay in the black, they’ve got to get inventive in 2020. Scrap the plans and knock consumers’ socks off with something totally new (and smile-worthy) instead. Not only will it build brand loyalty and morale in the midst of the pandemic, but it can boost profits, too. Let the creatives, marketers, product peeps, heck … even management … flex their innovative muscle. If we’re all stuck in this together, why not have a little fun? Your business (and consumers) will thank you With a big #smile, of course. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
25 August 2020
Things have been heavy—both at home and at the (virtual) office the past few months. While we’ve been hunkering down and keeping our distance, we’ve also reassessed what we want out of life—and how we can improve our mindset and focus. After all, good can come from mess. According to Pinterest (most known for finding the latest instapot recipe or yarn wall hanging DIY), with COVID-19 creating new life stressors, more people than ever before are turning to the beloved inspirational platform for well-being and self-care. From February to May, searches have shifted from how to keep a succulent alive to mental wellness/meditation ideas (+44%), gratitude (+60%) and positivity (+42%). And the positivity doesn’t stop there. In challenging and uncertain times, sparks of creativity and a now-or-never attitude are ignited. No longer are we waiting for the “perfect time” to grow our family or build that house … instead, we’re taking life by the horns and making it happen now, damnit. Case in point: Pinterest says that searches for “starting a new business” are up 35% on average, as are searches for “future life goals” (2x), “life bucket list” (+65%), “family goals future” (+30%) and “future house goals” (+78%). And, searches related to gratitude are higher than ever—a huge leap of 60% from February to May. So how can brands and businesses take these keyword learnings and apply them to their own? According to our own resident digital marketing guru, Alex Webb, curating content that incorporates keywords and content trends will make all the difference. “People are trying to find something positive among the onslaught of negativity being constantly shoved in their faces,” she says. “Hence searches like ‘wellness/meditation/gratitude/positivity.’ Additionally, people are looking for ways to save and/or make money. The economy is uncertain, at best, right now. Even employed people may be thinking about tightening their belts. People are looking toward the future, when they presume things will be ‘better’ … which explains all the searches with the word ‘future’ in them.” Given these observations, Alex says advertisers should do three things: Avoid scare tactics. Focus on the feel-good messaging. In the past, scare tactic ads could create a sense of FOMO and drive users to take action now or create a sense of concern, again motivating users to do something now. However, people are worried enough these days. Focus on the good—the value—your company can provide. Provide and emphasize value. Can you offer free shipping, discounts, etc., right now? Do it! And let everyone know about it. Understand that the buying cycle might be longer. As people daydream about better days ahead, they may stumble across your ads or website … but they may be further away from committing than your pre-pandemic customers. Think about how you can nurture them in the long run. How can you stay top of mind until theyare ready to convert? Do you have an email list they can sign up for? Perhaps some longer-term retargeting ads are in order. Anything to allow you to stay in touch with them. “Knowing your audience’s mindset is imperative to building good relationships,” Alex says. And likewise, getting those insights is simple: Look at platform trends (like Pinterest). You can also check out Google Trends. Look at which pages on your website are getting the most traffic. Do you see a theme? If you’re running a Google Ads campaign, check your search queries reports. Here’s an example: At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, our pest control client saw a spike in search queries around DIY treatments. We hypothesized that this was because a) people didn’t want a stranger coming to their house during the pandemic or b) people wanted to save money, if possible. Maybe both. Our team wrote several blog posts about using essential oils to treat pests and DIY pest control. We provided real value by telling searchers the truth—some DIY methods can work as a stop-gap measure but they usually don’t clear up an infestation. Obviously, the client would rather you become a customer, but they didn’t balk at us talking about alternative methods. In April, their organic blog traffic (number of users) was up 50.7%. Specifically, one blog post about essential oils and pest control was up 68.1%, driving 3,596 users. (Keep in mind, this is a regional pest control company … not a national chain … not an exciting startup or social media platform.) Those significant gains continued and even increased further in May and June. In a recent survey by Channel Factor, 80% of consumers head to their favorite vloggers on YouTube to improve their mood—and it’s no wonder. Fun, lighthearted content with zero commercial interest is just what 2020 ordered. Lockdown life led to a huge uptake in media consumption—including a 44% worldwide increase in social media use according to Statista. With more people browsing through social media, knowing who your audience is more important than ever. And the better you know who your audience is, and, more important what they’re looking up on Pinterest or YouTube these days, the easier it will be to create more targeted, more relevant content for them to engage with … and that means more eyes on your business. Which is just the way it should be. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
02 July 2020
Purpose: it’s a big deal. To individuals, to businesses, to brands, to life. If you look at life under a microscope lately, you’ll see some pretty intense things. The proverbial petri dish is full—overflowing, some might say. In between the COVID-19 global crisis, we’re grappling with longstanding issues of racism and inequality that have led to protests and social media blackouts. The volatility is increasing … and the microorganisms we’re watching are multiplying. With those facts in play, your brand’s purpose is an even bigger deal. No longer can it remain exactly the same—businesses must shift to be more inclusive of current events, and leadership at all levels has to answer some tough questions. Consumers aren’t satisfied with simply reading a mission statement on your website. They want to know the actions you’re taking to support social justice-oriented movements and why they should remain faithful to you. And, most important, they want it to be crystal clear. There’s no time for questions. Don’t dance a jig. Either you take a stand on important issues … or you’ll be left in the dust. The days of neutrality are over. However, if there’s one thing all business leaders can agree on, it’s that the recent pandemic has united us in one way that most of us have not seen before. Our livelihood purpose is common; therefore, our business purpose must rise to meet it. Even before COVID-19, this paradigm of purpose as a driving factor for profit has been in the spotlight. In 2019, more than 180 chief executives from the Business Roundtable shared a provocative statement that the purpose of a corporation should be to help other stakeholders such as employees, the environment and ethical suppliers. The board was so serious that it decided to create a special committee to advance racial equality and justice solutions this month. Still not convinced that a defined purpose is imperative to profitability? A recent global study reveals that when consumers think a brand has a strong purpose, they are: 4 times more likely to purchase from the company 6 times more likely to protect the company in the event of a misstep or public criticism 5 times more likely to champion the company and recommend it to friends and family 1 times more likely to trust the company But it isn’t just any consumer. If your brand isn’t going after millennials, you may want to abandon your marketing strategy altogether—76% of them want to see CEOs actively using their platform to address important social issues. If you aren’t delivering on this promise, you’re leaving money on the table (aka consumers won’t be donning masks in your stores or calling you for your service). Forty-three percent of consumers walk away from a brand when left disappointed by that brand’s words or actions on a social issue. Let that one sink in. So how do you shift or redefine your purpose in a time of uncertainty? Maybe you scratch it altogether and start anew. First things first: stay relevant as the world changes. Purchase patterns have drastically changed from basic-needs-only toward ethically-purchased-only. What is your company doing to be present and not stuck in the past? Second, take thoughtful action. Whether you speak out on social media about specific issues in the news or make philanthropic donations to in-need organizations, you’ve got to do something. After all, there’s nothing more powerful than purpose. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
03 June 2020
Over the past three months, we’ve seen the world change drastically. We’re wearing masks in public, helping our children round out their school year virtually and becoming accustomed to the “new normal” of social distancing—in almost every capacity. Brands and businesses have exhibited sheer determination and utter brilliant displays of nimbleness—and frankly, we’re impressed. So impressed, in fact, that we’re hoping much of it sticks around. Whether it’s contactless Pizza Hut deliveries or curbside pickups from Kohl’s, social interaction has shifted. No longer do we have to physically engage with someone behind a register for our goods and services. Send a text, wait in your car and the item will be deposited into your trunk. Wave goodbye to the retail associate and be on your way. Easy peasy. Businesses have proven, again and again, that they can put the customer first throughout the recent COVID-19 crisis. Amping up email marketing with “don’t worry, we’ll come to you!” messages and social media updates (new hours, specials or dedicated shopping times for at-risk individuals) are what we’ve come to expect. Quick virtual chats with our doctors means less time twiddling our thumbs in waiting rooms. Online grocery orders with a specific pickup time have become the highlight of our weekly to-do list. Librarians bringing books to our vehicles instead of making us search the hold shelf ourselves … glorious. So the question becomes, what remains? Does the general public expect this no-touch-minimal-interaction to be a thing forever? Perhaps. There’s no denying much of the recent purchase process modifications has given us our time back—but it’s also shifted our focus back to the basics. Consumers have a need; companies rise to meet it. The days of someone filling up our gas tank are long gone … or are they? What about milkmen delivering straight to your door? Hmmm … seems eerily familiar. Has the pandemic simply made us return to the level of service we (or our grandparents) once were accustomed to? The time when the customer’s needs came first—and that made for happier, more loyal, more satisfied customers … which therefore meant more business? Maybe. The touchpoints may be slightly different, but the journey remains the same. Hermits, germaphobes, clock-watchers and the like aren’t complaining about this added layer of instant gratification we seem to be living in. Amazon may have been ahead of its time with Prime, but the rest of the world bent over backward to stay in business and think outside the box. Kudos to operations teams everywhere. Our economy has stayed afloat thanks to your inventive and ingenious ways. And bravo to all those making it come to life. We’re saluting you with our mobile Starbucks order while we run weekend errands without ever stepping foot inside a store. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
29 January 2020
In today’s world we’ve taken the very definition of multitasking to an entirely new level. We’re bingeing the latest season of The Crowne on Netflix while scrolling through our Instagram feed. We’re listening to a podcast while adding something to Facebook Marketplace. We’re downloading books from the local library and reading another on our tablet. This, of course, is on top of working full-time at a career or as a parent (or both), juggling upkeep with our house, attending the neighbor’s birthday party and somehow remembering to let the dog out. We’re exhausted. And we’re wondering how we can win our time back. Many companies have cracked the tick-tock code: Netflix tells us what we should watch next (time saved on searching); Amazon has monthly subscriptions so we’ll never run out of toilet paper (time saved on trip to grocery store); and bill payments and Rx refills have never been simpler thanks to automatic bank account deductions or reminder texts. #truelove Life seems simpler with all of these technological shortcuts … and yet we’re still running around with our proverbial heads cut off and wondering where the 25th hour in the day is. Take me for example and meet my friend Liz. And by “friend” I mean the influencer I’ve turned to (who I don’t personally know but I pretend like I do) for the past nine years when I need a decision made and relief in my brain. Chicago lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Hello Adams Family has been on the scene since 2011. What first started as a fashion blog has turned into her full-time, focus-on-real-life account from all angles. Her transition from single-to-married woman to mother of two has shown the power of evolution at its finest—all before our very eyes. Instead of writing about what the latest spring trend in raincoats is, she serves up must-have skincare, must-try recipes and must-do activities for children. And I/we love her (and others like her) for it. We see someone else in the same place of life with the same undereye circles just trying to get through the day, and we realize that heck, if they can juggle it all, so can we. Oh, and they’re going to tell me what gifts I need to buy my husband for Christmas? Sign me up. Liz is like the equivalent of the Netflix movie recommendation in human form. And, just like I trust Netflix to know what I’ll love best, I trust Liz, too. But why? I don’t really know her. Because, simply put, she does all the heavy lifting and she gives me my time back. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner because poof! Liz emails me a recipe every Wednesday. I don’t have to figure out which home cleaning product is the safest for my toddler because poof! Liz tells me which one is. She takes a product and makes it relatable—a product that may be hard to sell (hello CBD oil) as well as ones that fly off the shelves (bedazzled headbands). She makes me feel like I need it without being used-carsalesman-y. She makes me feel like her friend—who she is trying to help save time, too. #sharingiscaring It is this uncanny need for time saving that makes me the epitome of a sponge, soaking up every possible human advertisement thrown my way. I’m a marketer’s dream. So how can a company capitalize on overwhelmed, searching-for-extra-minutes consumers like me? They can make it easy, automated and enjoyable. They can showcase have-to-have products in my social feeds, newsletters in my inboxes with curated content, and eye-catching advertisements before my YouTube video begins. They can partner with my friends (cough cough Liz) to talk about their products in a very real way. They can catch me in the small moments I have and convert me into a sale. They can use the power of influence to capture my attention and make me part of their tribe. They can give me my time back.