Marketing response to a crisis situation | Sunday Observer

Marketing response to a crisis situation

18 October, 2020

In a crisis situation subject to rapid change, marketeers need a proactive plan to adjust and adapt how they play their game, communicate with customers and manage their brands.

Customers may never know how a company’s supply chain, finance or HR department responds to a major unanticipated challenge such as Covid-19, but marketing sits center stage, its moves reflected in every ad campaign, message and channel. The marketeers’ role in fact becomes more critical in a crisis situation than when the market is performing smoothly. Marketeers need to set the tone for how customers perceive the brand in a crisis situation.

Needs keep evolving

Making powerful observations, assessing the issue, taking right actions and delivering the right messages can be very challenging, especially in an evolving situation such as now. All companies should operate with integrity and trust even as they come under pressure from a swiftly evolving situation so the trust can be further built for long term growth.Among marketing’s greatest challenges is foreseeing how customer wants, needs, expectations and purchasing decisions would evolve. Customers themselves won’t know until Covid-19 infections, fears and restrictions occur in their workplaces and lives of every stakeholder.Marketing must not rely simply on high-level corporate scenarios, however must go further for their department and brand.

Marketeers must drill down to identify the specific challenges that customers, the brand and the marketing organisation could experience in each scenario, and identify action to be taken.

The current crisis seems poised to amplify the distrust customers have of brands.

Brands can push against that wave by rising to the occasion to reestablish trust through customer-centric actions. Challenges to product and service delivery abound during this crisis. Closed factories and disrupted supply chains create reduced supply on one side of the business, while customer questions create rising service demand on the other. Marketeers must adapt their messages to reflect the on-the-ground realities while staying true to the brand’s values.

Evaluate policies

Manage your promises. Set realistic expectations about service levels, product launch dates, product availability, and so on. Consider pulling out ad campaigns for products you can’t be sure you can produce and deliver.

It is also important to evaluate current policies and consider rational changes — for example, allowing cancellations or extending payment terms. Create capacity to address customer service volumes. Craft proactive messages to distribute via email, social media and the web to answer common questions to stay connected.

Also draft reactive scripts to help customer service reps handle sensitive one-on-one interactions for communication consistency.

Train qualified team members in functions with lower volume to help manage demand from customer service channels.

In the fast growing digital world, ramp up digital delivery. Promote apps and other mobile tools and services.

Ramp up capacity for online transactions and digital interactions across the entire distribution channel. Innovate ways to deliver your product or aspects of it online, such as telemedicine for routine doctor visits or online learning for the millions of students who will be out of school. Yet, even as you enable digital options, understand that some people will always need to hear an empathetic human voice, especially now, and be prepared to offer it. Optimise the marketing budget.

All organisational functions will be called on to prioritise spending. Try to avoid across-the-board cuts. Look instead for ways to drive efficiency - for example, by looking for overlap in agency or marketing technology contracts, and to reduce or postpone obligations that won’t bring immediate value — and may even come off as tone-deaf — in the current environment.

Adapt the marketing plan

The next three to six months will bring many societal changes that trickle down to the marketing plan. Use the best, worst and moderate-case scenarios to anticipate possible and likely changes and take alternative actions.

Restrictions on large gatherings are cutting into the businesses that serve these events and the marketeers that theme their campaigns around them. More people will be spending time at home over the coming months.

Brands can provide lighthearted and uplifting or informative and encouraging content to people looking for support. Be the first to move. Everyone is in the same boat, and everyone is looking to secure key spots to replace lost opportunities. Work with media planners and publishers to secure access before you are crowded out. Covid 19 is a huge challenge for marketeers, but only the marketeers can get businesses out of trouble by being smart and making timely moves. 

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