Over recent years social media has been viewed as an antisocial force and yet the current coronavirus crisis is revealing something surprising, social media can actually deliver on its promise to democratise information and organise communities. And while misinformation still abounds on these platforms, of course, so do opportunities to correct it.
The pandemic is bringing significant shifts in consumer behaviour, media consumption and the use of social platforms that require brands to reconsider how they relate to consumers. It's been interesting to watch how Chinese brands have maintained connections, and sales, throughout the COVID-19 outbreak by switching their marketing messages and their media mix in ways that provide lessons for brands in other countries.
Just-released research by Gartner shows how several leading brands in China have successfully adapted to these changing conditions, and suggests ways that brands in other markets can manage their way through these difficult times.
One key learning in China was that time spent online shot up 20% as people confined themselves to their homes. the research fro Gartner says brands were able to play a role in easing people’s concerns and sense of isolation, with many brands generating messages of solidarity and hope.
The report’s other key findings were that brands should:
Shift marketing efforts online, where consumers are spending more time. Louis Vuitton’s physical stores were closed in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, so the brand launched an online pop-up store within the WeChat app, with live chat for pre-sale consultations and promotions shared via store associates online. Online sales were double those of Valentine’s Day 2019.
Use online video to win consumer engagement. People isolating themselves at home are hungry for entertainment and information. Activewear brands have been quick to promote in-home exercise content at a time when the usage of the short video app Douyin (known as TikTok in the West) has seen usage as much as double. Nike began posting workouts to the platform, and its account has amassed 346,000 followers and more than 2 million likes. While very few NZ brands are on TikTok you could use Instagram or Facebook to promote video content.
Focus on delivery options and be transparent. Consumers expect that there might be delays, but they want brands to keep them updated. In the early stages of the crisis, household cleaning brand Dettol took to its Weibo account to detail how it was handing the spike in demand. Transparency is key.
Be agile, developing new content, and adapting to new platforms and circumstances. The dog of a beauty influencer began trending on Weibo after appearing in a livestream, and beauty brand Perfect Diary used his sudden celebrity to launch a “Dog Eyeshadow” pallet; 16,000 pieces sold out in 10 seconds.
During a crisis, timing is critical. Determining the appropriate tone and strike the right balance between commercial and branding messaging will be key. Follow the lead of the consumer and adjust your content strategy accordingly. China has a much higher tolerance for sales messaging than Western countries, and a business-as-usual strategy approach is not advisable for our market. You need to think of what is relevant in the current climate and brand-building content should be prioritised in this crisis period.
For brands and businesses that may be struggling with cancelled events, work closures, fewer customers (or too many panicked customers if you sell toilet paper, hand sanitiser, pasta and rice or tinned goods) social media is just another thing to worry about. But it is something you should and need to review.
Here’s what brands need to do during this crisis:
- Review and if necessary pause your planned and scheduled content
- Don’t try to profit from the pandemic
- Don’t contribute to the panic
- Social listening during a crisis is key
- Avoid virtue signalling
- Show empathy
- Be thoughtful with your tone of voice
- Anticipate changes in your customer’s behaviour and react appropriately
- Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more, be transparent
- Connect and celebrate beautiful moments to lift the spirit of your audience
And remember, don't forget to wash your hands!