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Authenticity, Compassion Become Focus for Today’s Digital-First Brands

How Digital Marketers Are Responding to COVID-19

Business owners and brands across the globe are finding innovative ways to support their communities and connect with consumers through timely and sensitive use of marketing. And it’s no secret that what companies do during the pandemic will heavily impact their success once the crisis ends.

As brands scramble to adjust, act, and alleviate the concerns of consumers, here’s what we’re seeing across the digital marketing landscape from our peers.

Authenticity and Compassion Are at the Core of Messaging

Right now, consumers are more interested in hearing how brands are helping their communities and supporting clients rather than receiving traditional marketing outreach.

Leaders are being forced to revisit core questions like: Why do we do what we do? How can we help consumers? What do people really need from us right now?

This has compelled brands to really look at the foundation of their businesses, redefine their messaging, and build new editorial frameworks around consumer needs.

“From a content standpoint, we've been recommending one essential thing: Focus on providing true value in the best way you can, whether that's from a product perspective, an expertise perspective, or a platform perspective,” says Silverback Director of Content Emily Bliss.

“For some, that means creating new content that positions their expertise in context with the current conditions. For others, it means thoughtfully leaning in to social conversations that are relevant, or even promoting free products,” Bliss continues.

What many brands have realized, is that this does not mean that they have to completely stop all promotional efforts. Certain products or services may actually be very helpful to consumers during this time, and that’s why we see more brands shifting resources to promote those in the short term. 

“The most successful marketing campaigns right now are the ones that are providing consumers with helpful information and resources. For example, one of our legal services clients is promoting a free resource kit that helps lawyers navigate aspects of the law or cases that are more relevant right now. They’re also producing free coloring books for parents with kids at home and lists of lawyer shows to binge-watch,” says Silverback Sr. SEO Manager and Team Lead Jordan Crawford.

This paradigm shift from selling to supporting compels marketers to put the customer’s needs exclusively at the center, and produce whatever necessary to meet those needs. 

“An important role to play as a content marketer is to think creatively about how your brand can ‘align’ with the current topic in an educational, thoughtful, or impactful way. The worst thing you can do is force a fit – because then you'll come off looking self-serving and disingenuous. It's about being cognizant of all content you're putting out into the world and looking at it with a specific lens to ensure that it doesn't appear opportunistic,” Bliss reiterates. 

While these efforts may not be bringing in new customers in droves, many are thinking about the impact it can have on customer loyalty and retention in the long-run. 

Education and Awareness Building Take Priority Across Mediums

Data from Verizon reveals that Internet usage was up 20% in mid-March. Whether people are getting online to work, research, or play, it’s clear that there are opportunities to connect with consumers across a wide variety of search and social mediums. 

In addition to aligning your content efforts with current events and doing so with a compassion-first mindset, we’re seeing many brands prioritize genuinely helpful, educational content that implies a keen shift in organic search strategy. 

“Businesses have an opportunity to be a resource in their industry for users and provide information that people are looking for. SEO specialists can help identify search trends and share insights with clients in terms of what information people are looking for that they may be able to provide. It’s important to do this from a mindset of providing value and helping the consumer find answers, and not as a way to capitalize on what’s going on,” says Silverback Sr. SEO Manager and Team Lead Shannon Thompson.

Silverback Sr. SEO Manager and Team Lead Mat Ingham echoes this notion when he discusses the valuable, researched-based content he sees clients creating in alignment with their SEO strategy.

“Brands are being extremely careful with their messaging, typically focusing on how they offer a solution to those in need rather than simply promoting their offerings. That’s why we’ve been recommending focusing on ‘research-based content,’ which helps the consumer answer questions and find the right solution, yet will also be a helpful resource in the long term,” Ingham says.

We’re also seeing both B2B and B2C brands experiment with new mediums and platforms to reach and connect with their audiences. Digital marketers are taking to platforms like Instagram Live to connect with audiences in real-time, and getting creative by producing helpful content on platforms like TikTok.

One of our clients in the fitness industry is creating at-home workout videos on YouTube. Despite their recreational facility being closed, they have found a way to provide value to their audience online and break into a new medium.

Patience and Proactivity Drive Post-Pandemic Strategy

It’s clear that for many industries, the bigger opportunity right now is going to be focusing on building awareness and brand affinity, rather than lower funnel purchases and conversions.

Rather than push for new customers, many are simply taking care of their current ones. 

This doesn’t mean however, that there’s not an opportunity to think about the long term, once this pandemic has passed. 

Brands are starting to think about which evolutions in their business model will stick, and which will no longer be relevant. Does it make sense to keep certain aspects of a business online? How can we continue to support consumers coming out of this crisis, and what can we do now to prepare?

A Silverback retail client has already begun to think about how they can adjust their product pricing to cater to the economic challenges consumers will face post-pandemic.

“One of our retail clients has already begun making adjustments for a more price-sensitive consumer economy that may emerge when the recovery phase begins. To help them prepare for that, we've started brainstorming and acting on ways to update their financing pages, sales pages, and Q2 video content to appeal to price-sensitive consumers,” says Crawford.

Brands are also thinking about how they can “do good” in the future and continue to support communities. Many will reevaluate their own policies and programs to ensure that consumers feel a sense of connection, trustworthiness, and brand affinity once the dust settles.

These unprecedented times are difficult to navigate, for both individuals and businesses. Please reach out to the team at Silverback Strategies if we can help in any way. Stay safe.