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The world may seem like it is coming to an end as city after city enters safe-at-home requirements and all but essential businesses are shut down. But one day even this time of uncertainty shall pass in the not too far from now future. And to prepare for that, brand marketers need to determine how to keep their advertising ticking along.
The strategies of the weeks before the virus came to impact our lives are very different strategies than what are now needed to keep businesses in business not only now, but standing when all of this ends. And figuring it all out will be a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows with new opportunities just waiting to be found. In this blog, Hollywood Branded shares insights into how to adjust your strategy and market your brand in the new landscape of COVID-19.
We are not the first country to have had to deal with retail stores shutting down. Or reopening. And for that, we as a nation have a major advantage of foresight built in. Because we can watch what is happening in other countries and let them be a testing ground to a degree. To make everyone feel just a little safer, we already know that digital sales keep happening during lock-downs. And we know that consumers return to stores after.
Nike is experiencing just that right now.
After sales in China dropped to nothing due to retail store complete closure, their digital sales rose by more than 30% for the same quarter - showcasing that people shopped from their home while in lock-down. And when stores re-opened this week, foot traffic immediately increased.
It didn't happen by magic - in fact, Nike put together tremendous marketing strategies of changing their tactics, and moving advertising into formats most being viewed by those locked-in customers.
That means people were at home. Working glued to their laptops. Then cleaning out closets and pantries. Bored. Watching news. Changing channels to more positive TV and getting lost in content. Scrolling through social media feeds. Looking at what influencers posted about. Clicking on brands. And making purchases. Like for Nike.
Who wisely kept their brand front and center. And if you don't follow suit, then you are missing out. With some caveats.
Brand advertisers are going to have to massively adjust their marketing strategy to deal with the situation COVID-19 is placing us in. There is no outdoor advertising. No one is driving by those billboards on the way to work for the time being. TV ads still work - but their messaging might need to be massaged to make sure it aligns with the current times.
We are now a completely remote workforce, locked in to our homes and allowed to leave for only the essentials in life. People are in fear of being able to pay their mortgages or rent, purchase food, pay bills, and not become ill. People are truly scared. And while fear is a very powerful driver to take action, it also can cause many to completely freeze.
Including freezing their interest in making that purchase that a brand advertiser intended to be made after showcasing an ad. Even if people WANT to purchase, they may not be able to. Amazon is reducing inventory in order to only support essential products, retail storefronts are shut down by mandates, and shipping and delivery issues will occur as workers come down with COVID-19.
But there are also people out there who manage through their fears and stresses in life by shopping. We are a consumer culture after all.
Brands who manage to stay in front of their consumers through the advertising mediums they do have engagement and access to will see that there are sales to be made. In fact, brands that have distribution centers other than Amazon and can still facilitate delivery, are going to see continued rises in immediate sales. At least for the immediate near future.
We never as companies and business owners or managers truly have a time to step back and re-assess. We can at least attempt to look at this shut-in time as a potential beneficial opportunity instead of a horror story.
Now is the time for companies of all types to look for alternative income streams. To use the time to examine all elements of their companies, and the roles within to ensure they are streamlined and be proactive in determining what has been working, and what is wasted energy. To allow team members an opportunity to no longer be pigeon-holed into their typical day to day, and have an opportunity to shine with new tasks to helm, and strategies to develop.
Marketers also need to look at other options to secure consumer attention - and build brand awareness. Focusing on top of the funnel marketing efforts and building a raving fan following will serve brands well when we are back to our daily norm. It is said that it takes 7 times of seeing a brand - through all sorts of advertising platforms - to create a trigger big enough and loud enough to actually cause a potential sale to occur.
Now is the time to focus on those 7 triggers and find ways to still be in front of potential customers, working to create a brand loyalty that is appreciable versus cringe-worthy. Let's take a look at some of the options out there...
Product Placement In TV, SVOD & Film
Product Placement in movies, TV shows and Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) is obviously a go to option at the moment being thought of for when productions are back in full cycle. And for the daytime and nighttime talk shows that are already gearing up again and shooting - they offer an absolute home run opportunity for brands to seize upon right now.
The reality is, this may not be the last virus that descends upon us, and more solitary isolation may be part of our future as humankind. Brands who have baked their products and branding into the very TV, streaming and feature film content that others produce are a step ahead of the game, with many brands clamoring on their heels to catch up.
What's also great about product placement campaigns is that they can be leveraged by all divisions of a brand's marketing team or their many many agencies. Check out the image below to see how one partnership can grow...
And for brands who have never considered podcast advertising - just like TV and SVOD content, I believe we are going to see a big uptick in listeners in the next weeks and months to come. Which means podcast advertising, as well as even interviews of the company's founder integrated in business podcasts, is something to strongly focus on.
Podcasts are golden right now. Not only are they one of the most popular growing trends, they have tremendously loyal follower bases. And brands have opportunities to either be woven into someone elses' podcast - or they can build their own and truly own it. A podcast guest interview can be recorded remotely via a video chat or even a phone - and edited and uploaded all by freelancers or others remotely. It's the platform that embraces remoteness in fact. And it is going to boom in the months and years ahead.
Digital advertising such as with Google is facing some strife right now, as people are searching for household essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer versus purchasing electronics and clothing. This too shall pass with time. Google advertising will return as a standard in most marketing playbooks.
If you have already created a strong inbound marketing platform with a blog, you will be served well. And if you haven't - you and your team likely have some extra time on your hands to start generating content to build a bigger online presence. Our blog is our agency's primary new business, and month over month we get organic growth. Even now, we see a rise in consumption as people have a little more time during their commute-less world to read more.
You may love them or hate them, but social influencers are not going anywhere today, tomorrow, or the near future. Brands who have active social influencer programs know their power. You receive new content that you can repurpose, as well as getting that content in front of a very tuned in and engaged audience.
When you hire a social influencer, you are actually hiring an entire production and marketing team - all built into one person. From creative to writer, photographer to actor, marketer to editor, social influencers - the good ones - have tremendous talent and capabilities to bring your brand into the focal point of their fan base.
Social Media advertising is an obvious answer, utilizing Facebook and Instagram ads. The ability to hyper niche into proven buyers and very specific consumers is pretty powerful. However, creating social media posts without running paid advertising is a dying strategy as less than 6% of the fan base is exposed to the content through their own organic feed.
There is no ‘right’ strategy at the moment. It has been a century since as a world we have experienced anything this massive, with the Spanish Flu. We can look back at weather impacts like Hurricane Harvey, or terrorism with 9/11 when our entire country was petrified. But this is the first time every individual, regardless of ethnicity or political belief, is at risk.
There is no more of a common bond and leveling of society than that which we are now experiencing. We are starting to see brands tip toe into the foray with words of encouragement, trying to align their brand with statements of safety. Companies are going to be tasked with ways to not only stimulate the economy by encouraging purchases with delayed payment plans, but to find ways to ensure revenue streams are generated to ensure the company’s own future continuance.
We are seeing this with the auto dealers right now with Ford launching an advertising program to make payments deferred on new vehicles during the coronavirus. Their program is called Built To Lend A Hand and defers payment for 3 months and then had Ford pay for the next 3 months, along with remote pickup and delivery.
Or how about that new pizza ad from Little Caesar's that says their pizza is fresh from the oven - no hands touching from oven to box. That was not messaging you ever would have heard before COVID-19. Serving peace of mind... how's THAT for a message of safety. Check out the ad below.
We are also going to be seeing more and more non-physical payment options being talked about and advertised - such as paying for things through brands' apps. As a society now, no one wants to touch dirty virus-laden money, have anyone else touch their credit card, or sign with an electronic pen that everyone else has touched as well.
Kudos to Burger King who is already advertising that hands free message - plus the fact that they are trying to help parents save money - by giving two free BK meals with every order. "Because we are thinking of you..." check out this messaging in the ad. It's spot on for addressing COVID-19, and trying to lend a helping hand.
While the road is paved with good intentions - and a pinch of needing to make sales, mixed messages are going to be easy to be made, and brands are going to need to walk a tight line to ensure they don’t turn off consumers right now. So just keep an ear tuned to make sure your marketing messages can't be heard from another angle.
Now is the time for brand advertisers and the common man alike to find the ah-ha moments of commonality.
Now is the time to find ways to support and raise up one another up. To provide opportunities for group chats, psychological support and opportunities for contributions socially to feel connected.
Now is the time for brands to find ways to help, to educate, and to build brand loyalty like no other. This may be from reduced fees, delayed payment options, or even free services.
For brands who figure this out, they will be able to be all the more powerful in the months ahead when life returns to normal.
As an agency, we truly do believe product placement is only going to become an even more valued and respected option by advertisers to help safeguard your brand's advertising in future years. Pandemic threats are likely to only continue to occur, and governments are more likely - with hope - to acknowledge threats sooner, and take drastic option faster as with country-wide lock-downs in homes.
When brands become embedded in content - they stay in that content, forever. Regardless if someone is watching their favorite episode of Friends or Seinfeld from two decades ago, or the newest streaming on demand series - brands who become part of content are remembered and re-seen. Year after year.
Take a look at some of our team's blogs to learn more about product placement. Whether you work with us, another agency or choose to try to go this path alone, our resources are here to help you learn from and to make better educated choices.
Topics: Social Media Strategy, Social Influencers, Product Placement & Branded Content
Stacy Jones, Hollywood Branded's founder and CEO, has over twenty six years of leadership experience building global entertainment branding campaigns for top Fortune 500 companies and hundreds of brands. Her career started after receiving her BFA in Theater Production & Scenic Design from the University of Arizona. Acknowledged as an expert in the field, she has appeared on CNN and MSNBC; spoken at conferences around the globe from Germany to Beijing; and has been featured in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, Financial Times, The Economist, Brandweek, Advertising Age, Variety, B&C and Mediaweek amongst others. Originally from Texas, you will still hear her ya’ll as she gathers the team for strategy planning sessions. Like all true entrepreneurs, Stacy is an adventurer at her core – having sky dived, hang glided off bi-planes, swam with crocs while rafting the Zambezi in Africa, photographed grizzly bears in Alaska, trekked Mayan ruins in Belize, explored the ocean as an avid scuba diver, and who loves owning an advertising agency where she swims with a different type of Hollywood shark on a daily basis.