We all have a lot in common at the moment. Many of us are working from home, isolated from friends, extended family and colleagues and trying to make the best of a situation none of us is familiar with. The world of business has been turned upside down. Entire industries have been forced to mothball, while thousands of companies are now completely dependent on government aid for their survival.
But equally, and not surprisingly, there are areas where business is booming. It’s a good time to be offering something that helps remote workers – videoconferencing being the most obvious beneficiary, and actually any product or service that helps people stay busy, entertained, engaged or connected should see a spike in popularity.
It’s enlightening to see how marketers communicate what they are doing in times like this, when some people are suffering hardship while others thrive; and while society as a whole is locked down and fearful for the future. I’ve seen companies get the tone entirely wrong; using the words ‘Covid-19’ and ‘Opportunity’ in the same sentence just doesn’t sit well, but clearly the temptation is too great not to launch into a sales pitch behind a thinly veiled veneer of concern. This week I read an article written by Mark Ritson, published in Marketing Week, where he talked of a fatigue of ‘empathetic emails’ and suggested marketers should focus on making money for brands. He says “What feels wrong about these tweaked logos and earnest acts of direct marketing is that they are focused around communications and by definition are superficial.”
Thankfully, there are still a lot of marketers who are treading a more sensitive line, either offering genuine support to those in need, or simply staying quiet until it feels reasonable to start up campaigns again.
At 3radical, we’re seeing a bit of everything. Where there’s a spike in demand, our role is to help our clients acquire and retain more customers. Where there is pain, our role is to try to help. As an example, we have worked closely with the casual dining sector in the UK for many years, and they were some of the earliest adopters of our platform helping us get to where we are today. So with that sector’s struggles, we’re looking for ways to help our clients stay connected and engaged with their customers, such that when things return to normal, foot-fall returns quickly and loyalty is re-established, if not enhanced. In fact, we’re looking at ways of making available a shared customer engagement capability to all restaurants and bars, free of charge, so the pain of the current shut-down is mitigated and customers maintain a sense of connection with their favourite food and drink establishments.
And there’s plenty of middle ground here too, where organisations really want to push on with innovative customer or employee engagement programmes, but are hesitant to push the button because of this climate of uncertainty. We’re trying to help here too, by co-creating quick start programmes and being agile and adaptable.
At the end of the day, all businesses are trying to stay afloat and do as well as they possibly can. To thrive is not to exploit the crisis; far from it, since any business that does well now is probably succeeding because they are offering something useful. At the same time, though, it’s incumbent on all of us to help where we can, where it’s most needed. If that means ‘free of charge’ initiatives, then so be it. And if it requires agility and flexibility to avoid an innovation bottleneck, then that’s what we must do.