These are strange, unprecedented, scary times. And we can’t claim to have the answers. Everyone in the industry is faced with the same dilemma right now: how do you manage the balance between the important job of marketing to keep your business/client relationship alive without appearing insensitive? As the world goes into lockdown, here is what we’ve learned from the response so far…
1. There are no rules.
And if there are, they’re changing every day.
2. Things will be different from now on.
That’s obvious. For instance, in the UK, a right-wing Tory government – fresh out of securing Brexit – has adopted the socialist policies that it recently defeated its Labour adversaries over: the re-nationalization of private industries, paying the wages of the unemployed, housing the homeless and pumping resources into the National Health Service. Forget what you knew before: this is a reset moment.
3. This is not the time for fake empathy.
Talk from the heart and let people know you’re scared too, but you’re trying to help.
4. No-one wants to know about your client’s free delivery with every $200 spent offer right now.
‘Business as usual’ is usually seen as an admirable, stoic response to crisis: but no business is usual in 2020.
5. They do want to hear about how companies are repurposing their factory and keeping their workforce employed by making facemasks or hand sanitizer.
Witness the amazing efforts by not just the multinational luxury brands (Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga are amongst the many now producing medical masks) but also the smaller, independent manufacturers – from BDDW/ M.Crow in NYC/ Philadelphia to Private White VC in Manchester.
As a consequence, a new spirit of collaboration is emerging. Witness how the fierce rivalries between Formula 1 engineering and design teams have been put aside as they pool their talents to produce ventilators for hospitals.
6. Any decent marketer knows how to speak to – and connect with – its audience.
These skills have never been more valuable. We all need direction, reassurance, and advice. You don’t have to have the answers, but you can share the things that have helped you.
7. The idea of luxury has changed overnight.
Connection, community – our very sense of self – is now the thing we crave most. Reaching out to each other through communication channels matters more than ever before.
8. The method of communication has been amplified.
Social media; Zoom, WhatsApp, TikTok… never has the world been more able and prepared to stay connected while being isolated. This is a good thing.
Incidentally, while most global fashion weeks are being cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Russia (which runs March 31 through April 4) is instead being held online, via a virtual streaming service.
9. Look beyond your field of expertise to see who is doing this right, and learn from them.
In the UK, the health and fitness presenter Joe Wicks is attracting a global audience of one million a day with his regular ‘PE with Joe’ livestreams on YouTube pitched at families exercising together and emphasizing the human aspects of exercise (he frequently pauses in his own routines to catch his breath or admits he can’t do his own routines due to injury). Acting on instinct, he has created a new genre of social media influencer – human, honest and vulnerable. He has also, incidentally, pledged to donate his YouTube advertising revenue (‘unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced on my channel before’) to the UK’s National Health Service. This is another good thing.
Likewise, the upmarket travel agency Elegant Resorts, facing an industry in meltdown, opted instead to email its global database to highlight ‘stories of kindness from countries around the world [that] will help restore faith and inspire your future travels’.
10. The art of telling stories has never mattered more.
What is the ‘New Normal’? Who knows. But simply helping each other to feel normal is a start.