My quarantine routine still includes some semblance of “getting ready” (what does that even mean anymore?) by keeping morning shows on in the background. Over the past six weeks, while the news has felt 98 percent Corona-focused, so have the :15s and :30s running in between.
As a consumer, and a human, many of those spots do a great job of unmercifully tugging at my heartstrings. Running mascara and all. But as a marketer, I quickly noticed something a few weeks back. Brands—big, medium, and small—are being thrown into the “purpose” game. Whether they like it, and realize it, or not. Some spots make trite attempts at forcing connection, while others make complete sense given the conversation a brand has had with me so far (we’ve all seen this mashup by now). Brands seem torn on how to demonstrate their purpose, often toeing the line between a need to be relevant and an altruistic opportunity for showing support.
We know consumers want and expect brands to do the right thing (additional Amelie musings and facts here). If we sniff out a fake, we run the other way—and we tell our friends to do the same. The best learning we can take from this extremely heavy experience is how we as marketers and brands should act and what our voice should sound like. And it all depends on the brand. And its purpose.
A brand’s purpose—the reason for existing on this planet—is going to come through when marketers get this right. It’s okay to want to feel relevant in a time we’ve never felt so unsettled. But we’re past the point of accepting the heartfelt, “we’re in this together” message as acknowledgement of relevancy. We have to be willing to adapt as we evolve through this crazy time, even if it means pivoting the message to ensure we’re coming from a genuine place.
Figure out the value of having something to say, and say it in the right way. Is your organization able to contribute right now through innovation? Through donation? Is there a natural connection? Is the best place for letting people know about that connection in broadcast? Or social? It does matter.
Coca Cola decided against touting their philanthropic efforts, as written in AdAge recently, citing, “We are Coca-Cola, you cannot imagine how many people jump when we go with a message like that—they say, ‘well, you better quiet down and donate the cost of advertising.’ ”1 The decision of whether or not and how to join the COVID-19 discussion is one that faces us all.
Personally, I’ll remember this strange time as when I truly began to see through the eyes of both an advertiser and a consumer simultaneously. I agree with not wanting to go dark right now if the ability to maintain any spend is there—especially since we know brands and causes who cut too deeply during downturns take as long as five years to recover. But, I do think it’s fair to demand more from ourselves, each other, and to resist the temptation of seizing an opportunity for opportunity’s sake. It’s time to get real about what it means to share a purposeful message right now. Because years from now we’re all going to remember who did this better (and who did not). Even if it took being held captive in our homes while watching The Today Show.
1 Schultz, E. J. (2020). Why Coca-Cola Has Paused Most Marketing During Pandemic. AdAge. Retrieved from https://adage.com/article/cmo-