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Communications Strategy in Turbulent Times

..And it is turbulent

As the COVID-19 situation continues to develop and unfold very quickly and social isolation measures increase, at Yango we have taken stock of the initial implications on our clients’ businesses and have put together some notes to consider in relation to brands and their communications planning. It’s more important than ever to focus on operational excellence and deliver on your brand promises at this time, don’t let people down in their time of need. Brands should be seen to show empathy and look for ways to uphold a sense of ‘normality’ in the lives of consumers (where possible). Messaging should be simple, empathetic and relevant to the surrounding cultural situation. From a practical sense, this means finding ways to reassure customers that any disruptions to the customer experience or ability to engage with the brand are minimised. Often communication strategies promote the idea that brands engage in cultural events and conversations, particularly for big brands there may be a temptation to have a voice within the wider cultural conversation around this pandemic. However, given the sensitive and evolving nature of COVID-19 this isn’t something we would recommend at this time. Our recommendation is to concentrate on helping people deal with the day to day inconveniences occurring around them. For example, Woolworths has announced that it will be opening stores from 7am to 8am exclusively for the elderly and those with disabilities, before opening to all other customers.

Don’t go “dark”

Remaining consistent extends to your advertising presence. With a post virus economic recession a possibility, there is a temptation to withdraw advertising investment in a short-term effort to prop up the bottom line. It’s pretty well documented now that this is not the advisable course of action for the long-term health of a brand and business. Kantar Millward- Brown found that the brands that halved their investments during a downturn took 3-5 years to recover to pre-recession levels of brand health. That being said, this is a unique situation and each business will need to assess their unique circumstances. In the instance where physical distribution may be cut off or the ability to deliver a satisfactory customer experience is impaired, it makes sense to pull back pushing the product; delivering on the brand promise and customer experience remain paramount. From a consumer psychology point of view, in uncertain times we are wired to gravitate towards the familiar, so it stands to reason that the brands that continue to communicate will benefit from the familiarity and stable presence.

Changing media consumption

Media consumption is changing. Although still early days in Australia, there is data starting to come through about how consumers are engaging with media while locked down. Not surprisingly online channels are seeing a spike in traffic, Facebook browsing is up 16% and Instagram 12% this week in Australia and China reported a 20% spike in time spent online while in lockdown. 95% say they’re spending more time on in-home media consumption activities and unsurprisingly the biggest spike is watching more news coverage both on terrestrial TV and online destinations. Lockdown restrictions reduce exposure to commuter media and out of home media generally, reduction in public transport usage and air travel
render those environments unhelpful at the moment, all at home media such as TV (including SVOD and BVOD), social and online environments in general are seeing a surge. The cancellation of live events, especially sport, changes TV viewing behaviours with sport driving many of the high viewing programming. Much of the attention will move to news and general entertainment with catch up TV a natural fit. Radio is helpful for community messages and time sensitive announcements but with much of the consumption happening in cars, the audience volumes will be well down. Cinema, well they are not going to be open for the foreseeable future.

Things to consider if planning a campaign now

For campaigns being planned to go live in the immediate term, favour channels that skew to in home consumption, get close to flagship TV programming, digital news media and social networks. Stay away from out of home media except for maybe some retail environments (close to supermarkets) where it’s appropriate. In the online space, note it’s a possibility that activity may appear around epidemic related content. Review creative messaging in view of current climate to avoid potential sensitivities and focus on empathy. Creative can be updated and changed quickly in most cases, so check in with us if you need to do that. This situation will no doubt continue to unfold in the coming weeks and we will continue to monitor and assess the market accordingly. Finally, talk to us at anytime, we are here to help.

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