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How Can Brands Survive and Keep Marketing During Coronavirus?


Tree CEO Daniel Andrews explores how brands can change ways of thinking during the Covid-19 pandemic

How Can Brands Survive and Keep Marketing During Coronavirus?

Daniel is the founder and CEO of the tree, a multi-award-winning full-service content marketing agency. the tree has worked to help businesses such as JustEat, BMW and Ticketmaster stand out in a crowded marketplace, and recently rolled out its own content management and e-commerce system, the root.

Almost every industry has been affected by the coronavirus crisis and marketing is no different. Marketers are having to find ways to be effective and show their value at a time when planes have been grounded, shops have been shut, and all the places we tend to take for granted, from gyms to pubs, have closed their doors. It’s an unprecedented challenge and one that no one was prepared to face. But it’s one that we, as an industry, are prepared to take on.

From a marketing perspective, the most important thing for brands to do during this period is not to go silent. That’s the temptation: brands are scared—understandably—of saying something wrong or failing to get their tone right in their communications. But though this seems like the safe option, it’s going to damage brands in the long run. And when all this is behind us, we need every brand to be ready to bounce back so that we can get the economy moving and serve a lot of people who’ve spent a lot of time indoors.

What brands need to do through their marketing is to show their solidarity with their sector. Now is not the time for the fierce competition we usually see in the marketplace. We need brands to be thinking about their entire ecosystem, not just themselves, and already we’ve seen this in the restaurant space, which has been hit especially hard by the lockdown.

But what’s also vital is to be realistic. Wetherspoons made a massive misjudgment by playing down the seriousness of the crisis and failing to prepare. And the backlash has not been pretty. Young’s, in contrast, understood that it was inevitable that their pubs would have to close and set about finding ways to drive revenue and serve their customers in new and creative ways. They’re running virtual beer-tasting events, live pub quizzes and a ‘leave one behind the bar’ campaign, which asks customers to buy drinks now and collect them once the crisis ends. The message is clear: We’re in this together.

The indie record label company Defected have taken a similar approach. They host free, heavily branded festivals every Friday night. They realise they can’t sell to people, so they’re using the time to do something which is absolutely essential in times like these: put your brand front and centre and build it for the future. They’re also rallying around the artists signed to the label and supporting them in every way they can.

But this period is also a time to get to know your customers more intimately. Brands can use social listening and similar tools to learn precisely what their communities are talking about, what they want and then prepare for when the crisis ends. Marketing teams, which may not be as busy as they usually are since they’re not running huge campaigns, can be highly effective here. They can engage with audiences, understand beliefs and values, and see how all this affects the product mix.

And though it might seem obvious, all brands need to consider how they can become more digitally competent and versatile. That might mean developing proprietary tools better suited to the brand in question or exploring new digital channels and e-commerce opportunities. This is an absolute necessity during this period, but it will also serve brands well long into the future, and give them a blueprint for quick adaptation to new technologies and platforms as they appear in the coming months and years.

We have to be mindful of the fact that there is real physical and psychological suffering all around us. Our number one priority is to keep ourselves and others healthy. But that isn’t to say that brands don’t have a role to play in lifting our country out of its slump as we move forward, by finding ways to be useful to their customers, clients and communities.

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