It sounds like common sense really, doesn’t it? And it’s something we’ve been pushing as an agency since day one – brands must think audience-first in order to succeed online. Especially now, during the changing economic climate. Brands who focus on the needs of their consumers, rather than simply going after conversions, will shine on the news feeds and strengthen their online communities. Let’s take a look at how the “audience-first” approach is working for brands during the lockdown.
Lockdown causes surge in internet usage
The ‘new norm’ of social distancing is forcing people into the confines of their own home. As naff as it is, humanity is surely breathing a collective sigh of relief that at least we have the internet to pass the time. And pass the time we do – there’s been a huge upturn in screen time, resulting in a 25% increase in engagement on Instagram and TikTok in the past month alone, and a massive 72% increase on #ad content by influencers.
But people’s internet habits have changed. People are now seeking entertainment – an escape from the doom and gloom of the media – and looking towards more productive ways to spend their time. Cue an increase in traffic to eduction sites, sites about gardening and baking, and of course an increase in online streaming.
Time to redefine your brand
As we’ve stressed previously, it’s NOT time to pull the plug on your marketing spend. In fact, Kantar research shows that 92% of consumers do not think that advertisers should stop advertising completely during the crisis. Instead, there’s a clear expectation that brands should play their part, using their social influence for good and under no circumstances being seen to exploit the situation. Here are some examples of this influence in practice:
- Gymshark changes their logo to Homeshark and the resulting Instagram post becomes their most-engaged post of all-time (1.2m likes and counting)
- Joe Wicks hosts free live PE lessons for schoolchildren on his YouTube channel
- Amazon makes online video and music content free (whilst seeing its stock price soar)
And the brands showing us how not to do things:
- Wetherspoons boss tells people to continue going to the pub and then announces he won’t be paying staff or suppliers
- Sports Direct hiked up prices of equipment by over 50% and tried to remain open as an ‘essential’ retailer, putting staff at risk
- Topshop employees were apparently laid off with no redundancy
If your brand is in a position to do good – do it, and shout about it. There are big PR wins to be had right now, so get creative and do your bit.
Again, being human and thinking audience-first is a no-brainer, and should be at the forefront of your mind no matter the circumstances. However, it’s now an absolute must. Consumers are more likely to be fussy with who they give their money and attention to – they’re less likely to put up with selfish behaviour, sub-par customer service and poorly-planned posts.
Now is a great time to look at home-grown content – stuff that your audience can relate to. Think user-generated content, raw footage and content shot on mobile. People aren’t going to want to see fancy, million pound sets, glammed up girls and far-flung locations. They want bed-hair, loungewear and quarantine realism.
As isolation leaves us striving for connection, brands who are offering interactive experiences have been applauded. We’re seeing loads of this around and it’s fantastic. Think livestream exercise classes, cooking tutorials, quizzes, gigs and more. It’s pushing businesses to think outside the box – especially those in industries most-affected by the lockdown, such as restaurants, venues and festivals. We’ve been loving the following:
- Defected Records host virtual festivals featured big name DJs
- Bongo’s Bingo provides Saturday night entertainment in the form of lockdown bingo
- Manchester International Festival announces online event roster
Focus on brand building
It’s short-sighted to continue to simply focus on driving conversions, and customers may be put off by overly-pushy sales messages. It’s time to be creative, share brilliant content that stands out, be confident in your messaging and give followers a reason to join your tribe. Don’t get lost in a sea of sameness – the situation and the impending economic crash is going to be a real tester for brands. Simply put, those who fail to adapt and fail to resonate with their audience won’t come out the other side.
Audit your ad creative
Brands are getting caught out where they’ve allowed a pre-lockdown ad to run and it promotes the wrong types of values. KFC had to pull an ad that included people licking their fingers after receiving over 150 complaints (people literally have nothing better to do than complain now). We advise running an audit on your advertising creatives – both design and copy. Anything that may be deemed as insensitive needs to get in the bin. Creative-wise, we’re seeing brands pull away from imagery of human contact, and we’re seeing more isolation-focused creatives.
But take advantage of cheap ad costs
I know we said not to focus on conversions, but there are still big gains to be made as advertising costs drop massively. We’re seeing the cheapest Facebook CPMs in a LONG time, allowing brands to reach around 5x as many people than they could say a month ago, for the same amount of spend. If you’ve got a solid product, plenty of stock and 🔥 creative, you can double down on your advertising now while competition is reduced, making it easier and faster to get results. (While you’ll see short-term gains, be aware of your long-term strategy and don’t get carried away).
It’s sink or swim for brands. Be human, empathetic and authentic. Provide the best damn customer service you’ve ever offered. Think outside the box. Be bold. Take calculated risks. Put your audience first. Outshine the competition. Demonstrate your value. Rise to the top. You got this.