CEO of Pluris Marketing and innovator and forward-thinker behind the company’s marketing enablement, analytic, and optimization solutions.
So far, 2020 has upended almost every aspect of our lives. We’re all wearing masks and avoiding people at socially accepted distances, and by now we all know the drill. But something has happened to CPG (customer packaged goods) brands that no amount of hand sanitizing can erase. Companies that used to confidently own their positions in the consumer marketplace are faced with eroding customer satisfaction, dramatically altered shopping behaviors, diminished employee productivity and supply chain disruption.
The New Normal Of Consumer Shopping
Retail stores and groceries now offer more customer-focused services than ever before. You can get almost anything you want delivered to wherever you are. Craving Mexican at midnight? Just contact Grubhub, DoorDash or Postmates. Need some new pajamas before your next Breaking Bad marathon? Amazon and other online retailers can get them to you before the opening credits of the show.
The pandemic has changed how we interact in the world and that also means shopping. How do you market to target audiences still sheltering at home? How can CPG brands find their customers and provide relevant solutions? These companies will be forced to continually review how they have marketed in the past as well as their messaging and creative executions going forward.
Consumers gravitate toward purpose-driven marketing right now.
The social impact of Covid-19 has leveled the playing field for all of us. As we hear so many times from social and health care brands, “We’re all in this together.” And while that’s true for the most part, there’s no denying that some are taking greater risks because they are essential workers or health care providers. Those sheltering in place don’t share that same risk, but most are compassionate about the risks that others are taking on their behalf.
That’s partly why right now more people are drawn to purpose-driven marketing. You see it with major CPG brands, such as P&G, financial companies and even automotive brands. There is a sense of compassion and unity that their messaging evokes, and they are building strong brand positioning.
Savvy CPG brands need to fortify their brands as quickly and effectively as possible to withstand the potential economic meltdown and the end of panic-buying everything from toilet paper to liquor.
CPG brands find marketing strength in new partnerships.
Many CPG companies are taking full advantage of our being “in this together” by aligning with other companies to provide timely solutions for customers. Airlines and hotels have been extremely hard hit by the virus effect, but they’re gaining some brand points for reaching out to other companies for dual marketing messaging.
Think about United Airlines partnering with Clorox to present clean, safe travel experiences. Hilton has done something similar by partnering with the maker of Lysol and other cleaning products to promote its conscientious approach to worry-free guest experiences. It may take some time for consumers to feel completely free to travel, but these companies are banking on messaging that positions them as leaders in customer safety.
Whatever you do, stay top of mind.
Some companies are adopting a wait-and-see position regarding Covid-age marketing strategies, but this is no time to go off the grid. Consumers are still skittish about entering retail stores, so brands need to focus on their safety and health procedures. In time, I think the message will get through and be remembered when people feel more confident about shopping.
Some brands have gone beyond their typical offerings in order to meet new customer needs. Take Panera restaurants, for example. Not only do they offer more than one contactless method for orders, but they now sell grocery items such as bread, milk and fruit, clearly in an effort to reduce interactions for their customers while increasing sales/service for Panera. Anticipating customer needs and stepping out of the usual product offerings not only increases sales but also strengthens customer loyalty.
Think local; work local.
The effects of the pandemic have emerged differently in different parts of the country. Metropolitan areas have higher virus case statistics and have to manage differently than those in more remote areas. Direct-to-consumer products in quarantined areas require different messaging and offers from those in more remote areas, where customers are able to shop in retail stores.
The concept of projecting messaging based on location is the perfect scenario for digital tactics. The key is to target appropriately and craft messaging that is relevant locally.
No one really knows the trajectory of Covid-19 and its full impact on consumers and CPG brands, but one thing is certain: Anticipating customer needs and delivering helpful solutions will win the day. Consumers need a lifeline, and those brands that can deliver with purpose-driven messaging as well as tangible solutions that go above and beyond typical offerings will position themselves favorably as our new normal continues to evolve.
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Author: Michael Caccavale, Forbes Councils Member