Marketing Ideas For Empathetic Advertising During A Crisis

We’re almost never prepared for a crisis until it hits us and that is true for the ongoing situation as well. Most of our daily lives as we know it, has turned 180 degrees and this has impacted how brands reach their customers. Digital advertising’s appeal remains as strong as ever but avenues like outdoor advertising and word-of-mouth advertising are extremely hit. Brands are extensively looking for opportunities to reinforce their image in the minds of their consumers and during these trying times, the best way to appeal to the masses is by introducing the element of empathy in the ads.

Don’t stop or cut down on your ad budget

With the revenue going down, it might seem only logical to reduce your ad budget or cut down on it completely. But advertising is not only about marketing your products, it is about influencing the behaviour of your consumers while reinforcing your brand image in their minds. How will the brand image be reinforced if it is out of the public eye for months at end? Rather than cutting down on your ad budget, apply it where it will give you the most reach – Digital platforms and Television.

Advertising on social media and OTT platforms

While a huge portion of the crowd is working from home and staying indoors, the question is should you invest in outdoor advertising? With more and more Indians able to access the internet, digital advertising is the way forward. Especially during the lockdown, usage of social media and OTT platforms have increased exponentially. Daily active users of popular streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon Prime increased 122% and 72% month-on-month, respectively between February and April.

Use empathy to reach out to your customers

Empathizing with customers doesn’t just mean saying in your ads “We’re always with you…” over and over. In order to empathize, you, as a company and an advertiser, need to step into the shoes of your customers. You need to train your staff that directly interacts with your customers to be more understanding of the issues they may be facing. Your end goal should be to empower the customer to get through the crisis. This cannot be done without having an understanding of your consumers’ motivations and problems. Trying to sell your products/services isn’t enough, you need to show them how you add value to their lives all while assuring them that they were right to trust in your brand. A brand also needs to be quite cautious on how and what they communicate with their customers; it is crucial to engage with them in a humane manner than interacting with them as a brand.

Ola – My Safest Ride Campaign

Use your advertisement to convey positivity

During times like these, we’re surrounded by negativity and fake news. Using your brand for goodwill and advertising to spread positivity will go a long way in building a loyal customer base. One example would be using your ads to convey a Public Service Announcement. Case in point; Lifebuoy ran an ad announcing that “Not only Lifebuoy, but handwashes of all the brands are effective in curbing the spread of Coronavirus.”

Another example is spreading a positive message for the society. Case in point: Dove’s campaign that featured a wide number of women of various ages and different backgrounds. The commercial focused on delivering the importance of inner beauty rather than actually talking about the product.

Lifebuoy – Washing hands from hands

Using the crisis to your opportunity

Many of the businesses that enter such crises with a healthy turnover and invest in their advertising, come out far better than their competitors during and after the economic slowdown. If you stop or continue advertising in a reduced capacity, then your brand image will start fading in the minds of your consumers and they will either begin to question your offerings or flock to your competitor. 

Case in point: During the 1990-91 recession, McDonald’s decreased its marketing budget and its competitors Taco Bell and Pizza Hut were able to chip away a portion of its customers. Mcdonald’s sales declined by 28% while Pizza Hut’s sales increased by 61% and Taco Bell’s by 40%.

Companies who have planned for a rocky future are already better equipped to withstand the ongoing crisis and financial crisis following it. Case in point: During the great recession of 2008-09, Amazon’s sales grew 28%. On Christmas of 2009, Amazon sold more ebooks than paperbacks because it kept innovating and pushing its Kindle line of products to its consumers even during the recession.

Be realistic and don’t overpromise

Sometimes, in the enthusiasm of reaching as many customers as possible, brands tend to overpromise. When a brand over promises and underdelivers, their brand image takes a hit and so does their customer base. Brands should try and strengthen their weak links like supply chain and customer care centres during these times before making any promises. For eg. If a bank promises ‘We’re always with you’ but their customer care executives aren’t able to help people due to shortage of staff, their customer base will shrink as soon as people are able to find a better alternative.

Uber – Thank you for not riding

In conclusion, it is significant for advertisers to deliver the right message at the right time in order to turn any crisis into an opportunity. So be wary and work your way up.


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