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May 1, 2020

Brands are rethinking their marketing strategies on the fly as COVID-19 has put millions of Americans under stay-home orders, precipitating a drastic change in purchasing habits and behaviors. As we collectively adjust to and navigate a new normal, we think brands are learning three important lessons about how to foster authentic connections with their customers that will shape their strategies for years to come.

1. Accessible is the new exclusive

In the not-so-distant past, brands often relied on creating exclusive events and experiences for their audiences, requiring subscriptions or memberships to gain access to new content, products or offers. With consumers largely confined to their homes and many coping with disruptions to disposable income as work hours decline or disappear altogether, brands are taking a more egalitarian approach.

Content that traditionally lived behind paywalls — virtual or physical — is increasingly being provided free of charge to anyone. Chefs and mixologists are hosting classes on Instagram, sharing secrets you may have been privy to only with the right seat at a hot-ticket table or bar. Celebrities and beauty brand founders are taking consumers through their daily skincare and make-up routines, exposing the magic behind transforming from a fresh to a flawless face.

Savvy brands are developing closer relationships with their existing customers while expanding their reach to new audiences. As we transition out of the current situation, brands should find ways to continue nurturing the relationships they’ve built.

2. “Always On” takes center stage

As our economy and communities reopen, life won’t necessarily snap back to pre-COVID-19 standards. Modifications to how we live, work and play are anticipated, such as limiting the number of people in workplaces at one time. As a result, workers may adopt non-traditional hours to stagger their numbers, and peak commute periods may increase from two to four or more times a day.

As purchasing decisions evolve with the situation at hand, your communications and content strategy will need to adjust. Short, stop-and-start campaigns have their place, but an uninterrupted stream of relevant content, served up when and where audiences seek it, takes on greater importance. Think about telling your brand or product story in small, digestible and continuous bites to give it long-term traction. And focus on what constitutes value for your audiences, whether it’s a welcome distraction or entertainment, a sense of well-being and wellness, support of a cause dear to their hearts, or a catalyst for social connectivity.

3. Every brand is a DTC brand

With temporary retail and restaurant closures in place, many brands have been forced to take a direct-to-consumer marketing approach. Removing the friction from the path to purchase is paramount, so these brands are working to keep their products top-of-mind while helping shoppers locate and access product easily.

This is especially prevalent in the food and beverage industry; farmers and ranchers are reaching out through social media to sell directly to their loyal customers and wine brands are hosting virtual tastings on Zoom, as examples. Elsewhere, smaller clothing and footwear brands are adopting augmented reality technology — previously mostly deployed by global brands — to let customers try before they buy.

This is the perfect time for your brand to engage with consumers in a new, exciting way — allowing them to discover, fall in love with and even purchase your products in new channels. Pinterest, for one, is making strides in online shopping, while Instagram has rolled out direct messaging for desktop users, making it easier to communicate on a personal level in additional places. And, TikTok is testing a “shop now” button for influencer videos.

Remain nimble, receptive

In a situation that remains fluid, brands need to show flexibility to navigate effectively. Consumer demands are always evolving, and as we get on the other side of the crisis, it will be important for brands to remain nimble and experiment as they adapt to those needs and leverage the closer relationships they have nurtured in a time of uncertainty.

 

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