These are trying times for marketing. Ad budgets are imploding and companies are cash-strapped. It’s natural for brands and agencies to want to dial back spend and hunker down until skies are clear again. But it’s precisely this knee-jerk reaction that can have an incredibly negative knock-on effect on brand image.
Reams of research show consumers are gravitating to brands that are willing to rise to that challenge, addressing the concerns and anxieties that are top of mind in the COVID-19 era. In fact, they are critical of brands that don’t. Take the phenomenal popularity of websites such as Didtheyhelp.com, where consumers can search by name to check if the brands they love or the celebrities they follow have done their part. Actions do indeed speak louder than words, and the actions companies take will no doubt earn them brand trust and influence purchase preference.
Those rewards, well deserved as they are, will only come to the companies that have the wherewithal to tell us about their good deeds. But getting a share of voice demands marketing and messaging campaigns that can break through the non-stop news and health updates that dominate the media. And that brings us full-circle and back to the pivotal importance of marketing—perhaps even more than before the pandemic—to win mindshare, heart share, and, ultimately, wallet share.
Put another way, companies that shave budgets for marketing or refrain from messaging may save money, but they’re wasting goodwill. A recent report highlights this disconnect and the brand damage it can cause. On one hand, consumers look to brands and businesses (particularly local companies at the frontlines of the crisis) to do their best to help us weather the storm. On the other hand, the report reveals, many company efforts languish under the radar, “little-known to the average consumer.” It’s a dynamic that turns up the pressure on brands and businesses to amplify their activities at a time when their budgets to do so are decimated.
Fortunately, some companies in the martech and adtech industries are stepping up with creative ways to do their part with tools and offers. These are solutions that customers hard hit by pandemic can use to amplify their contributions, seek advice, and prepare now to drive brand equity gains in the future.
Helping small business survive
For instance, Singular recently announced it is offering its growth marketing platform—used by brands like Doordash, Rovio, Stitch Fix, and Twitter—to all SMB marketers free for six months. The company isn’t stopping there, and will also provide advanced training from global experts on marketers’ toughest growth and management challenges to help marketers and their companies succeed during these trying times.
“It’s a really tough time for SMB marketers right now. Not only are they under a lot of scrutiny—they’re having to justify their work and protect their very existence,” Gadi Eliashiv, CEO & Co-founder, Singular, said in a statement. “By offering our unified marketing data and analytics platform for free for half a year, we hope that marketers hardest hit by COVID-19 will have the help they need to ride out and overcome the worst effects of the current downturn. They’ll gain a single source of truth for marketing performance; automated, aggregated access to all of their marketing data; and a platform that aligns all of their teams on the same tailored business metrics.”
But it’s not all about helping companies survive—it’s also about helping marketers prove their worth to companies that may be looking to make cuts.
“Now more than ever marketers need to prove they are driving value to their businesses as revenue centers, not cost centers,” Barbara Mighdoll, VP of Marketing, Singular, said in a statement. “They need to cut ineffective ad spend fast as consumer behavior changes and only invest in what’s working with a clear set of metrics that the entire business can align behind. Smart advertising investments will set them apart from the competition as businesses rapidly adapt to this new normal.”
Everyone lends a hand
Singular isn’t alone. Martech and ad tech companies of all shapes and sizes are looking at their products and finding ways to pitch in.
For its part, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), launched a central resource for information on the coronavirus pandemic as well as guidance for brands on how to navigate marketing this crisis: MMA Covid-19 Marketer Support Hub. “We wanted to curate a place in this crisis where marketers can easily find the most relevant, valuable information to address any specific area of concern, whether that’s advice on human resources, advertising data, or consumer trends,” Greg Stuart, global CEO of the MMA, said in a statement. “The Hub focuses on actionable and positive resources, which we feel mirrors the pioneering spirit of our Boards, members and MMA team.” The MMA is a non-profit trade association representing all players in the mobile marketing value chain.
As the rules of engagement change, this resource could prove invaluable for marketers struggling to walk the fine line between bringing helpful marketing messages to consumers and appearing insensitive. [Disclosure: In addition to my consulting work, I serve as the Chief Content Officer of the MMA Germany, a position for which I am not paid.]
Meanwhile, Hootsuite announced it will provide free access to its Professional Plan for nonprofit organizations and small businesses, in an effort to help some of the organizations hit hardest by the crisis survive to see the other side.
Salesforce, on the other hand, is providing six months of free access to technology for emergency response teams, care management teams, health insurers, health systems, and other healthcare and life sciences organizations responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to donating $3 million to organizations helping to combat coronavirus, Adobe has announced a whole suite of initiatives for its various products, including:
- Extended free trials and quick-start packages for commercial and government use of Adobe sign, which facilitates electronic signatures and document workflows for remote workers
- A 90-day access pass for teachers to turn classroom content into eLearning tools with Adobe Captivate
Finding ways to help during these uncertain times isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good business. In essence, this is not just a savvy user acquisition strategy—as at least some of the customers using these tools for free are bound to convert after the worst of the crisis has passed—but it’s also a retention strategy. Ensuring marketers communicate and drive customer connections increases their chances of survival, and multiplies opportunities to keep customers loyal to their brand when things get back to normal—whatever that may look like.