Crisis Report

3 brands with successful marketing campaigns during a crisis

As a business owner, how do you respond to a crisis?

Whether you have a glass half-full or glass half-empty outlook in life, it’s important to be prepared for unexpected and difficult situations as you continue on your business journey. Responding well to a crisis can help you connect with your audience and strengthen your brand community. 

Some businesses will understandably become more conservative with their marketing efforts during a crisis, but prioritising content marketing during tough times can actually be beneficial for your brand. For example, the Covid-19 pandemic radically changed the way people viewed work and home as global lockdowns ensued, impacting the way businesses (from corporations to small enterprises) communicated their messages. It also gave businesses the opportunity to show a different side to their brand personality as they adjusted their voice and tone to be more empathetic and sensitive to their audience.

A crisis can drastically transform perspectives about different things, so creating impactful content can be a great way to connect with the audience during transitional periods of change and stay ahead of the curve.

Storytelling is different during difficult times and business owners need to be much more careful and thoughtful about the content they produce. You can still create powerful stories during times of adversity by being authentic and taking a stand when necessary. People are looking to brands with strong values and ethics, and marketing during a crisis should be used to connect with people and enact positive change, not just make another sale.  

Marketing dos and don’ts during a crisis

Creating content during a crisis can be tricky, especially if your messaging directly addresses the situation at hand. There are a couple of marketing dos and don’ts that you should consider as you start developing your lineup of content.

Good marketing practices that you should follow include:

  • Empathetic communication –  Your brand voice might typically be witty, bubbly or formal, but it’s important to adjust your tone accordingly and ensure that you’re empathetic in crafting the key message of your content so that you don’t alienate your audience and come across as insensitive. For example, instead of using a joke or a humorous anecdote as the opening line in your social posts, you can ask how your customers or followers are doing.
  • Organisational transparency – You should share business updates with your customers, especially if your business or industry is directly impacted by the crisis. This can build trust and loyalty amongst your customers, and encourage them to support you during tough times.
  • Providing relevant discounts and deals – It’s important to maintain a balance between the goal of making a profit and the goal of helping your customers. The discounts you offer shouldn’t be the primary message of all your content, but make sure that it’s accessible for your customers in case they need support in making a purchase. 

Bad marketing practices that you should avoid doing include:

  • Joining the bandwagon – Don’t copy other brands just for the sake of creating “viral” content, it can come across as insincere and your customers will most likely see through those tactics.
  • Ignoring the situation – Being completely silent about the crisis and going on with business as usual can negatively affect the way your customers perceive your brand. Addressing the situation and showing your empathy and understanding are crucial before you move forward with business.
  • Not owning up to your mistakes – There’s no such thing as a perfect business, you will make mistakes along the way, what’s important is to be accountable and responsible for your actions. Doing this will increase customer loyalty and trust.

While it’s important to be adaptable to the situation, you also need to set short, medium and long-term marketing solutions, while identifying which aspects of your marketing strategy should be maintained whilst overcoming a crisis. 

Here are the differences between each type of marketing solution, in terms of their duration:

  • Short-term marketing – This can span from one to three months, which is when the crisis will most likely make the most significant impact. Marketing solutions during this stage should be easily changeable and closely monitored, including social media advertising, search engine ads and website content. 
  • Medium-term marketing – This can span three to nine months, and the changes might not be as dramatic as your short-term marketing solutions, but your overall strategy might need to be revised during this time period. You need to anticipate your performance during this time and be prepared with promoting and distributing your most critical products and services such copywriting services.
  • Long-term marketing – This can span one to three years, but because conditions and forecasts can easily change during a crisis, you should adapt your marketing strategy to the current situation and avoid making drastic changes that can negatively impact your business in the long run.

3 brands that created successful marketing campaigns during a crisis

We’ve shortlisted three brands that have created inspirational and moving marketing campaigns during a crisis. Each brand is from a different industry, but they all succeed in empathising with their audience through their message while articulating their stance on the issue at hand.

1. IKEA Spain’s “I Stay Home” campaign

At the peak of the pandemic, IKEA Spain partnered with McCann to create a new campaign celebrating our homes. It was a creative and thoughtful tribute to how the home is a safe haven and refuge, serving as a reminder for people to stay home during lockdowns. 

The videos in the campaign showcased people from all walks of life, using different areas of their homes. The storytelling was relatable and evocative, and it brought each room in the house to life — from the bedroom and study room to the dining area and living room. The video had all the components of a great story. IKEA Spain had a clear message to share (i.e. the home is a refuge) and they found the best way to structure and format that message through a visual story. Best of all, IKEA Spain didn’t promote any of its products in the campaign, but because the home was the focal point of its content, it was still very much on-brand.

2. Nike’s Dream Crazy campaign

Colin Kaepernick, a civil rights activist and an NFL quarterback who effectively ended his career for taking a stand while kneeling, was the centrepiece of Nike’s “Dream Crazy” campaign, with the tagline “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Photo from Wieden + Kennedy

The campaign celebrates diversity and focuses on the stories of iconic athletes such as Odell Beckham Jr., Shaquem Griffin, Lacey Baker, LeBron James and Serena Williams. It was deemed controversial because of its stance against racial discrimination, an ongoing crisis in the United States. As far as storytelling goes, Kaepernick made a compelling “hero” in Nike’s campaign due to his activist background, and while some people might think “Dream Crazy” was divisive, the overall content was powerful and stirring.

3. Budweiser’s “Respect” commercial

Just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, Budweiser ran a 60-second spot just once during the 2002 Super Bowl. The spot featured the renowned Budweiser Clydesdales trekking from a farmhouse to New York City, where the horse takes a knee with the city’s skyline in the distance. The spot served as a touching tribute, and Budweiser was the only company to receive permission to film in the New York City airspace at the time. 

The commercial didn’t try to sell beer either, instead focusing on connecting with the audience and only showing the Budweiser logo at the very end. Since then, the commercial has been aired on the 10th and 20th anniversary of the attacks.

A crisis hits when people least expect it, but it’s important to have contingency plans in place so that your business can adapt to any situation. Developing marketing solutions for the duration of the crisis and practising good marketing etiquette can help you create relevant and thoughtful content that can connect with your audience during tough times.

Want to crisis-proof your marketing strategy? Contact us and we will incorporate impactful storytelling with your content.

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