Why the rules of engagement are more crucial than ever

The concept of the right person, right message, right time has been the holy grail of marketeers for decades. The campaigns that live long in the memory follow these 3 simple rules and we were able to achieve them long before technology advanced to its current levels. However, in the current crisis a lot of marketeers have forgotten these basics, and most are struggling to understand the new unique perspectives of their target audience.

Advertiser’s initial reaction to the pandemic was to take stock and pull spend to protect their businesses which was of course the right call – there’s no point quoting Binet and Field as your business goes bankrupt after all. Then as it became apparent that “normality” was months away and plans couldn’t continue to go on hold for that long, the ‘I can’t do the campaign execution we had planned; it doesn’t work in this new world; how do I make it relevant?’ panic set in. This is when brands started making bad decisions across their targeting, messaging and timing and it’s important we learn from their mistakes quickly.  Two questions every marketeer should have or be considering in this climate are:

Can you legitimately talk about CV19 or are you just jumping on the bandwagon?

Obviously to a greater or lesser extent every sector and every business has been affected by the crisis but how closely related are you to the solution? How many dots does your creative (and the audience) have to join up to show you have been affected? If it’s too many, maybe it’s better to focus on the wider impacts of lockdown such as mental health and people losing their jobs. Would you think more of an insurance brand if they said, “we care, we are here for you” or “we have protected the jobs of our workforce and are focussing on their wellbeing”? And if you can’t say that then just focus on the quality of your product, don’t crowbar in a coronavirus strap line, people can see straight through it.

Is now the right time?

Decisions should be influenced by market conditions but not dictated by them. Media pricing has dropped across all channels and platforms by up to 50%, resulting in better reach and frequency. Basically, more bang for your buck. But is now the optimal time for your proposition or cause? Would you be launching a multi-channel campaign if it weren’t for the current crisis? If the answer is no that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t run a campaign at all, but equally it also advocates that you shouldn’t change your comms strategy. It is just as important in the current climate to establish why your cause is the worthiest or why your product is the market leader and the best value.

If you are in any doubt on how to proceed with your messaging, just look back at how brands successfully aligned to social zeitgeists of the past including “diversity” and “the environment”. Coronavirus represents a disruptive force of unprecedented scale, but the rules of engagement are unchanged. In a cluttered market, middle of the road campaigns will get lost in the noise. Now is a time to be bold – whether that means sticking to Plan A or engaging at a level meaningful enough that it cannot be perceived as a token gesture.

By Ben Foster, Director of Digital