With the UK government extending Coronavirus lockdowns, businesses across the industry are wondering what it will take to sustain long term success of their brands and outlets.
The first step is to - in whichever way you can - carry on. It’s understandable that many brands have had to freeze budgets in the short term, but it’s become clear in recent weeks that this isn’t a short term challenge.
So, here are some ways, based on what we’ve learned and recommended across our clients, to keep things going and position yourselves to get through this time:
1) Refocus your team
Act now, don’t wait for this all to pass. Although it will pass, it’s not going to be quick. The government is helping with some support, but the real recovery is up to us all. Pivot if you need to, retain (and re-train) staff if needed, but pull the team together to work out what your business needs now - and more importantly - in the future.
While this is going on, find ways to innovate and offer value and connection with your customers. Get bartenders making social content if they have the creativity; brief the sales team to come up with campaign ideas, or ask the chef to develop a Christmas menu to blow everyone away. The best marketing idea I was involved in at a previous agency was thought up by the accountant. Time and space like this can fuel creativity.
2) Refocus points of purchase
We all know our points of purchase have changed dramatically. At this point many brands will already have focussed energy into the off trade and tested direct-to-consumer and ecommerce.
Every minute and every pound spent on getting your D2C and ecommerce channels right now is a worthwhile investment for the future. You already know the margins are good. The challenge for many brands is wanting short term rewards from immediate sales. My advice, if you can make it work financially, is to spend time on this now - even if the returns aren’t immediate. It won’t be time wasted.
And don’t forget the on-trade. In the short term it’s about supporting the businesses and staff of bars, restaurants and hotels. In the long term it’s about developing (tasteful) campaigns now that are ready to activate in partnership with on trade when it’s safe to do so.
3) Refocus marketing objectives
Aside from immediate needs to drive sales via D2C and ecommerce, do not neglect vitally important marketing objectives such as awareness, engagement and loyalty.
The vast majority of audiences aren’t sitting around waiting to see your ad and buy something, but they will engage with your content and they consider buying when the time is right for them. So focus on awareness, engagement and loyalty if you’re not yet built for immediate sales.
In this case, if you can focus on growing your audience in social media, email or with great website content, then providing you’ve been smart with pixel tracking, you can retarget those visitors with sales-led messages when the time is right.
4) Refocus target audiences
While your target audiences may not have changed demographically, their behaviour has changed massively.
Before Coronavirus, it wasn’t common to order drinks online for home delivery. But almost overnight it’s now common to order online, even among unlikely demographics.
With the change of purchase behaviour in mind, it’s important for brands, retailers and the on trade offering delivery to factor audience understanding into marketing communications.
Many will need a little more guidance on how to order from you for home delivery. And it’s vital for you to scrutinise your consumer’s online journey; monitor conversion rates and identify where people are stumbling or struggling to get through the order process. This will help you get the most out of your marketing spend.
5) Refocus media mix
'Social media consumption has increased by 50%; radio listening is up; and podcasts are booming like never before'
Some brands have found creative ways to get their messaging across on billboards and bus stops, but given the decrease in footfall (-84%) you might prefer to focus on the media that’s gaining the attention of your target audience.
Social media consumption has increased by 50%, and is now quite firmly cemented into many people’s daily routines. There’s been a 20% increase in interactions with live social content too - but it’s worth noting we always advise our clients that live streaming should come with a coherent strategy, or too few people will tune in.
TV is said to be reaching more than 50% of 16-34 year olds and 85% of 55+ year olds. In just one week, Channel 4 achieved its best ever viewing figures on both its live channel and streaming platform.
Radio listening is up, and podcasts are booming like never before. These are added opportunities for brands to reach audiences in places they may not have considered before.
So, whilst you’re also looking into the shift in audience purchase behaviour, look too at their changes in media consumption habits too and use this to inform your wider marketing mix.
(Data shared in this section is from Wavemaker’s 4th report on the impact of COVID-19 on media consumption dated 9th April)
6) Refocus tone of voice
Without stating the obvious, brands of course need to adjust their messaging and tone of voice. As Aperol’s social media agency, we’re incredibly mindful of what the brand does and doesn’t say - especially with regards to how Italy has been affected.
For example, we quickly pivoted from inspiring travel to gorgeous destinations in Italy, to launching #AperolAtHome content encouraging consumers to stay at home and enjoy the great indoors with Aperol and partner influencers.
You don't need a bar to enjoy an Aperol Spritz! Just add equal parts Aperol and Prosecco with a splash of soda to a glass of ice for your favourite treat at home!#ItStartsNow#AperolSpritz#AperolAtHome#GoodTimes#Drinkspic.twitter.com/VFmW9F1cU9— Aperol Spritz (@AperolSpritzUK) January 24, 2019
But tone of voice and brand messaging should go further than simply acknowledging COVID-19 and social isolation.
For example, our mission from the beginning of YesMore has been to influence a positive change in our society’s relationship with alcohol by marketing drinks mindfully, conscientiously and respectfully. Now, more than ever, it is vitally important for brands to champion responsible drinking habits and avoid reinforcing societal norms such as drinking out of boredom, anxiety, loneliness, depression, grief, job loss and so on.
Alcohol Change is reporting a 355% increase in traffic to the help section on its website. While brands have the legal responsibility not to capitalise on the vulnerable; right now is that ‘the vulnerable’ is a more disparate group than ever before.
Think about someone that lives alone, continues to work from home, and regularly rewards bad days ‘at’ work or bored evenings by drinking every night. They may not be technically within a vulnerable category, but they certainly show signs of habitual drinking that could escalate into a problem.
7) Refocus on content
I’ve already mentioned the massive changes in media consumption habits above, but it’s worth noting the common thread linking them: content.
Whether the content is entertainment (e.g. TV drama is up +26%), education (tutorials), information (news) or something else like virtual fitness, this is what people are looking for.
So my advice is to continue making content (safely and in accordance with government advice) to reach your audience.
Of course, don’t send a full camera crew out into the street or to a studio to shoot. But remember there are thousands of talented single shooter/editor/videographers and influencers bursting with ideas, all isolating at home surrounded by quality production equipment. We have hundreds of them in our rolodex, ready and waiting to shoot gorgeous content and all we need to produce it is product and a solid brief.
In addition, there’s been a spike in content generation from illustrators, designers, visual effects artists and animators. They often have their own home studio and produce content in isolation anyway, so nothing’s changed for them.
8) Refocus campaigns for reopening
Be ready for when this is all over. Develop campaigns, brief agencies now and ring fence budgets for work that will land with your consumers once we can (safely, and in accordance with government advice) celebrate outside again.
Once we’re all allowed, consumers will naturally venture out in very different ways. Some will go hell for leather, and that needs managing mindfully in itself, and many will socialise cautiously with others. So factor in these mindsets with your campaigns. But in the meantime, your current investment in coming up with ideas that work during lockdown will still have value long after quarantine measures end.