Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about marketing right now

May 2020 6 min read Written by Papirfly

It’s impossible to ignore the impact COVID-19 has had on every aspect of people’s day-to-day lives. Whether it’s their working and social habits, to how they consume information online, the world is going through an unprecedented period of change.

It is therefore understandable that many brands are feeling hesitant about their approach to marketing during these troubled times. It’s difficult to take a "business-as-usual" approach when life has been turned on its head, and this has led brands to question whether continuing to advertise is right and responsible at this delicate moment in time. 

In a recent interview with The Drum, Owen Lee, Chief Creative Officer of FCB Inferno, summarised the current dilemma brands are facing:

“Brands are nervous about appearing to profit from this crisis. The conversation is being had in many client and agency organisations, but they have to be absolutely sure they are helping people not just making money from it, or being seen to make money from it.”

We’ve already seen examples of how this crisis can dramatically alter people’s perspective of a brand for the worse depending on their actions. So are brands right to be feeling nervous or guilty for continuing to promote themselves during COVID-19?

We don’t think so – and here’s why.

Consumers want and expect advertising to continue

Firstly and fundamentally, the vast majority of people don’t expect advertising to pause for the duration of this crisis. In a survey of over 35,000 global consumers, Kantar discovered that just 8% feel that brands should stop advertising right now.

Subsequent research carried out by Twitter produced similar results, with 64% of those surveyed saying that brands should continue to advertise themselves as they normally would, with 52% agreeing that it helps provide a welcome sense of normality in these unusual circumstances.

That should be a powerful signal to marketers across the globe that consumers don’t expect brands to sit back and twiddle their thumbs while this is ongoing. Instead, many recognise that businesses need to continue to function and try to manage the circumstances as best they can.

Of course, while most consumers won’t feel affronted by seeing adverts, the content and delivery of these messages should take the current landscape into account. Brands can’t act like everything is normal when it clearly isn’t. Instead, brands need to demonstrate empathy towards consumers and be mindful of what advertising is released in this hyper-sensitive period.

Why you shouldnt feel guilty about marketing

So, while brands shouldn’t feel guilty about advertising, the need to strike the right chord with audiences impacted by this crisis is more critical than ever. That’s why adverts like KFC’s Finger Lickin campaign or Coors’ ‘Official Beer of Working Remotely’ have been suspended in light of recent events. 

Instead, now is the time for brands to brainstorm ideas for how their values, products and services can genuinely support consumers right now, and create content around this. If your expertise can truly benefit people in tough circumstances, now is the time to broadcast this in an empathetic, authentic way – as this could boost brand loyalty post-Coronavirus.

This is when your BAM Portal can become an even more effective ally for your organisation, by giving your team the power to quickly adapt your content in-line with the present situation, and deliver welcome advice and service to support your consumers’ cause.

Businesses and the economy need to keep running

Many organisations can’t afford to stand still and wait for this crisis to reach its conclusion. Both their financial situation and the wider economy will be relying on companies to continue operating and advertising to stimulate activity and minimise the devastating impact this outbreak has already had.

The majority of consumers will recognise that now is as much a fight for survival for companies as it is for individuals. As long as your advertising doesn’t look to exploit their circumstances, your brand-loyal customers will understand your need to continue to function as best you can.

People will look to brands for guidance and relief

Social media is awash with many things right now, including unfortunate stories and misinformation about the current crisis. People are crying out for authenticity and an escape from the way life is right now. And brands can help them in their quest for both.

Instead of staying silent, consumers will want to hear from their preferred brands about how COVID-19 is affecting them and what they’re doing to meet the challenge. Those who can proactively respond to this need (something your BAM software can help give you an edge with) will forge stronger bonds with both their existing audience and new fans as well. Now is the time to show you’re a company that cares.

Be confident in your brand values and your advertising, while remaining empathetic to the world’s issues, and you can help stand out from the crowd. Examples of how this is being achieved include Nike’s support for those exercising at home or IKEA’s ode to the homes they have helped furnish. These fit seamlessly into their brand identities, while adapting their messaging for the current climate.

As well as inform and show compassion to your audiences, now is the time to get creative and look to entertain people bored by this imposed quarantine. Kantar’s survey highlighted that 50% of consumers feel companies should talk about their brand in a light-hearted way. Burger King’s guide to building a homemade Whopper is a great example of this without going too far in making light of this crisis.

Furthermore, 70% of respondents to Twitter’s survey are looking for brands to share positive stories at the moment, as a means to keep morale high among their customer base when a lot of the news can be disheartening.

Instead of feeling guilty about your marketing, meet your customers with informative, engaging and entertaining content now and it could reap even more rewards down the road.

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You could cause more long-term harm by not advertising

Finally, there is a strong argument to be made that taking a short-term attitude towards your advertising spend right now could cause more damage in the long run. While everyone’s favourite drinks giant Coca-Cola can afford to freeze its marketing spend, others might not benefit from such drastic action.

With 60% of UK marketers cutting or reviewing their budgets right now, Kantar ran a theoretical test on an unnamed beer brand to demonstrate this impact. When all ad spend was cut, this would cause a 13% drop in sales long term, and a significant loss of market share. When this cut was reduced to 50%, sales would drop only 1%.

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While it is important brands look for ways to balance the books in this difficult period for most organisations, being too hasty in cutting your advertising allowance could leave you slow to recover when life returns to normal. Fortunately, as a BAM user, you should already be benefitting from the cost and time savings required to produce content for your consumers, putting you ahead of the curve now and for when this crisis is contained.

Keep advertising, but adapt to the times

We hope this information has provided you with some reassurance about continuing to promote your brand during this difficult period. However, while the majority of people still expect (and in many cases want) advertisers to keep calm and carry on, they also strongly believe that brands can not be oblivious to the situation and take a "business as usual" attitude.

Indeed, Twitter’s research suggests only 7% of brands should continue to use their typical tone of voice at present. Instead, these communications should be adapted in accordance with this ever-evolving environment, with 89% wanting brands to supply them with accurate, reliable information.

Consumers also want to understand what brands are doing to support those who are struggling in this tough environment:

  • 82% believe brands should be doing something to help frontline staff
  • 86% believe brands should be helping the vulnerable in their communities
  • 80% believe brands should be highlighting how they’re supporting their own employees
  • 74% believe brands should be showcasing acts of kindness

Therefore, while brands shouldn’t feel in any way guilty about marketing right now, it’s crucial that any communications they send out reflect the challenges and difficulties facing the world right now, not attempt to ignore them.

Get away from the guilt

In these unique circumstances, consumers will be paying closer attention to how brands act and communicate in the face of these challenges. Now is not the time to feel guilty, but to innovate and adapt to help them in an hour of need.

BAM by Papirfly™ can play a vital role in adjusting to advertising in this unique environment. If you are interested in finding out how you can expand and maximise the power of your platform to meet the changing face of advertising, get in touch and let’s keep the conversation going.

by Papirfly

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