The worst recession since The Great Depression of the 1920s. WTI Crude going negative for the first time in decades. Growth in Asia is expected to stall at 0% in 2020, the first time in 60 years. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every single aspect of the world hard and businesses are scrambling to reallocate sources, cut costs, shifting strategies and go head-on into social media marketing, and essentially go into survival mode for the worst to come.
And in these trying times, the last thing you’d hear anyone else say is “spend more money.” But as difficult or bewildering as it is to believe in a pandemic that can potentially cost the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars, the COVID-19 pandemic presents the best opportunity to gain a sizable lead on your competitors.
“When Times Are Good, You Should Advertise. When Times Are Bad, You Must Advertise”
There is truth to the statement above, and we’ll explore some of the justifications of this matter, but first, let’s rewind the clock.
We go back to the beginning of the Great Depression of 1920, and major cereal producer Post has decided to cut back its efforts to push products and reduce advertising in a series of cost-cutting moves, while Kellogg’s went a complete 180 degrees and doubled its advertising budget, all the while putting out new products in the market by way of ‘Rice Krispies,’ which differentiated massively from the usual cornflake cereal.
To put this into a practical example, as the world’s automakers had to close the curtains on their exhibitions during the 2020 Geneva Motor Show and instead announce it online via media portals. Christian von Koenigsegg of Koenigsegg Automobiles stayed on and did a livestream, taking the internet on a virtual tour to unveil 2 of its newest car models in an effort to diversify the range of vehicles as well as introduce the ultimate speed racer on the surface of this world. As a result, the Gemera and the Jesko Absolut were all the automotive world could ever possibly care to speak of, eclipsing other brands and strengthening Koenigsegg’s brand image for years to come.
Apart from this, the cost cutting effect snowballs into the cost of advertising, subsequently dropping their prices. The lower rates create what is called a “buyer’s market,” a unique economic situation where goods or shares are plentiful and buyers have the power to keep prices down. In this case then, strategies such as direct mail advertising may prove to be a bountiful expenditure as it has the potential to grow short-term sales growth.
It’s also important to note that the audience doesn’t have much of an attention span, and ever since the social media boom, it has been reduced to mere seconds. Hence, when marketers reduce their ad spend, the brand risks losing its “share of mind” with the consumers, basically giving up real estate in the heads of the consumer, which could lead to more detrimental consequences such as losing future sales.
Now is the golden time for your brand to take up this opportunity and lead up on the consumers’ “share of voice,” which ultimately translates to a larger market share as people tend to remember your brand during these times, and eventually, more revenue in the long run.
But that doesn’t mean however, that you should use this time to push new products or services. As the new generation of consumers get smarter, they seek to share the same values with the brand, and are more likely to retain with the brand once that connection is made.
Kapil Tuli, a professor of marketing at the Singapore Management University had this to say, ”Brands need to acknowledge that it is not business as usual, and convey it to their consumers in a manner that is authentic, subtle, and meaningful.”
The result? Kellogg’s profit margins grew a sizable 30% and has become the industry leader, maintaining this lead for decades to come, even up to this day.
There are several reasons why Kellogg’s unorthodox strategy proved to be a smart move, one of which is that the “noise levels” in a product category can drop when competitors aren’t scrambling to get their latest products out into the market.
We can extrapolate that from the COVID-19 pandemic, potential consumers are looking at brands who contribute to the cause in a sincere manner, and not be perceived as opportunistic. Examples of such efforts can be seen with the numerous local fashion designers from the likes of Joe Chia, Melinda Looi, and Khoon Hooi who are voluntarily cutting and sewing new PPE gowns for hospitals to contribute to the COVID-19 efforts. Pizza Hut and KFC too have delivered food packs to the frontliners to keep them energised, while Watsons have donated thousands of COVID-19 amenities kits to ensure that proper hygiene will be maintained at all times. Effort is paramount, and in times like these, effort wins the hearts and minds of consumers.
And last but not least, if it wasn’t time then, it’s definitely time now for brands to gain an online presence via social media marketing, and create content in various ways that demand an unorthodox approach to your brand.
Ranjeet Langauni, managing director of North Asia Nielsen Media had this to say, “The knee-jerk reaction from advertisers at a time of crisis is typically to pull back or defer spends; however, COVID-19 is characterised by a situation where increased time at home means expanded media time and heightened consumer attention. For brands looking to authentically connect with the consumer during this difficult time and offer a solution, this is a time to lean in.”
Which brings us to the aforementioned point of sincerity in efforts to help the COVID-19 cause, but this can also mean engaging content that resonates with current trends. myBurgerLab for instance, has opened a virtual stall in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing where players who own the Nintendo Switch can visit their island and participate in games, as well as win a year’s subscription of burgers to the player who designs the best myBurgerLab store in the game. It’s fun, engaging, and the power of social media marketing keeps the brand fresh in the minds of the consumers to keep on patronising their brick and mortar outlets or simply give their products a try through delivery.
The landscape is shifting faster than ever, with many brands populating the digital spaces, it is up to your brand to make use of the tools available in order to reap its benefits. From going against the norm to unconventional methods of advertising, social media marketing has made it easier for businesses to approach, monitor, and determine the performance of their advertising, but when it comes to a pandemic of these proportions, it’s important to put human values at the core first, and by doing so, excel in the long term gain of developing stronger bonds with your customers, as well as gaining new ones.