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Phoenix COVID Conversations – Topic #2: Current Emerging Trends

April 9, 2020

As we navigate through these challenging times, the experts at Phoenix wanted to start a conversation about what this might mean for advertisers, what can be learned from past crises, and how we might want to think about the future.

While, from an advertising perspective, we can draw a lot of parallels between this current global pandemic and the financial crisis of 2008, we are seeing emerging trends from brands that emphasize building share of mind versus share of voice.

Be There for Consumers

A great example is Guinness’ recent St. Patrick’s Day ad, which reminds viewers that even though people aren’t celebrating the way they used to, to focus on keeping each other safe and happy and that Guinness is not going anywhere. This type of strategy can be effective because it builds reassurance and positive sentiment, which will bleed through to brand equity and future campaign building; we expect to see a halo effect emerge in the coming months from other brands.

However, the messaging and overall strategy will differ by industry, as not all brands have the luxury of shifting gears towards future success. Restaurants and retail stores, for example, need to not only build trust and brand awareness in the market—which is arguably more important now than ever—but at the same time communicate functional messages to drive sales (delivery options, safe & easy carry out, etc.). We are going to see a wide variety of approaches emerge by category, depending on that category’s specific needs and how the crisis is impacting them. The key word that we are seeing a lot of right now is trust, and how brands can build it in the eyes of their consumers.

Not An Easy Feat

During the 2008 financial crisis, the biggest challenge was in the financial services sector, where big brands with long-term engagement with clients were hit the hardest. In this current crisis, we are seeing a lot of struggle taking place across sectors, but specifically in restaurants, retail, and QSR. These types of brands need to be realistic with their advertising by balancing trust and equity, but also drive business by being on point with messaging that is very transactional in nature, which is not an easy undertaking.

If It Ain’t Broke…Should I Fix It?

We have heard from a lot of brands about whether their existing advertising still resonates during this current situation. If it was successful a month and a half ago from a creative standpoint, does it still hold true today?

The world has dramatically changed in the last few weeks, and brands who are concerned about the validity of their advertising need to be thinking about changing their messaging strategy and moving away from something that they might be known for. Brands also need to be reevaluating the known constructs for successful advertising and thinking about things that may have driven success in the past and whether or not they can still employ those strategies today.

Humor has long been a concept that many brands utilize and do so very successfully (we know humor plays a role in breakthrough), but what does humor look like in today’s media landscape?

The challenge today is to figure out the right time to use humor and what type of humor is going to hit the mark or fall completely off base. In these early days, we recommend using humor to convey a softer or more heartwarming tone, versus taking on the form of slapstick comedy or being too much “in your face.”

What About COVID-Specific Messaging?

Brands should also be thinking if they need messaging that is specific to COVID, whether it should be direct or indirect and if it falls naturally within their current band positioning. Some industries like wireless or telecom, where messages of connectivity, staying in touch, and how their brand is there to assist their customers, is spot on with the current environment and a natural fit for their business model. Other brands need to explore what concepts might be contextually relevant for their brand and how to bring it to life.

Key Takeaways

As we face the uncertainties of the world, brands need to figure out how they can incorporate the right message into their advertising that fits with their business model. Be thoughtful about how to approach your advertising and know that messaging will vary by industry—some might be able to leverage COVID-related messaging, while others will have to decide if using the COVID theme will distract from the brand or if it will build brand equity.

Above all, keep advertising and communicating with consumers to the extent possible for your brand. With many people now working from home, the need for connection is prevalent, and consumers are increasingly looking to understand what is going on in the world, how they should be connecting with other people, and what they should be buying. Brands need to adapt to not just the shared trauma that the world is experiencing, but also different ways that people are interacting with one another.

We all have relationships with brands in different capacities, so being thoughtful about how you are connecting is going to be crucial as we move forward.

Phoenix will be continuing to monitor changes in TV advertising as well as viewers’ response to these campaigns with the goal of helping clients make the most informed decisions in this highly unique landscape. Check out our latest findings and insights on the impact of COVID crisis on the advertising landscape.

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