“We’re in this together.”
“In times like this.”
“Now more than ever.”
“We’re here to help.”
Not long after the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S., we became bombarded by TV commercials and Facebook ads from various brands saying these same phrases. Over and over. So much so, that one of my co-workers pointed out we could be playing advertising bingo every night with all of these now mundane phrases.
Now, I’m not making light of the situation we are in. It has been a very trying few months. The economy is suffering, people are struggling with illness, healthcare workers and grocery store employees are working steadfastly to keep us all healthy and without want. We are mostly trapped in our homes or apartments trying to work or remain sane amidst the chaos. And, because we’re trapped, we’re watching more TV and consuming more social media (seems like a no-brainer, but check out the visual breakdown). Brands now have a very captive audience. An audience that is now tired of the slow, somber piano playing at the beginning every COVID-19-related TV spot. The we’re-here-for-you ads are so commonplace, they are now white noise.
So, how do you communicate intelligently and efficiently as a brand in a pandemic?
- Be different. Be truly, truly different (and relevant). There’s no easy way to do it – it takes a little courage. Take a look at the soaring social media stardom of Steak-Umm. This frozen meat brand thoughtfully took on misinformation about COVID-19 in a long thread on Twitter and they have been retweeted almost 20,000 times. This voice is unexpected from a meat brand, but it is entirely relevant. Sure, they’ve received push back from people on Twitter telling them to “stick to steak” but the love and attention they are receiving for tackling misinformation outweigh any flack they have received.
- Try some humor. Yes, the pandemic is serious, but we can’t furrow our brows with worry forever. Thankfully there’s Geico to help bring some levity to this situation. They have been doing humor really well for years and while they address COVID-19 in their latest TV spot, they do so in a way that’s more relatable. They show the everyday stumbles we may all have like self-haircuts and keeping our kids entertained from the confinements of our homes.
- Be useful. Everyone is cooking more at home with restaurants closed or limited capabilities to serve groups. So, desperate times call for desperate measures – like baking. Doubletree, the hotel chain that famously gives chocolate chip cookies to customers upon arrival, revealed their secret cookie recipe for the first time ever in a step-by-step video guide. The video has been viewed a half a million times and engagement on social media is high. People appreciated the gesture and Doubletree will probably gain some positive brand recall when customers think of hotels for future stays.
These strategies aren’t ground-breaking – I know. But they can help shape a way for your brand to communicate above the fray of white noise. Hell, these strategies might even work in not-a-pandemic, whenever we get there – and we will.
P.S. When COVID-19 returns this fall/winter, please, let’s not use the phrase “we’ve been here before.”
Stay safe out there.