Week by week, our understanding of the COVID-19 threat continues to evolve—and so do the messages brands put into the market. Initially, companies moved quickly to release sweeping statements on the situation and how they planned to keep employees and consumers safe. The messages were genuine and it was what we needed to hear in that moment.
Those announcements were followed by a shift to CSR and giving-focused communications, with many brands rolling up their sleeves and joining the fight against the virus. Those messages were genuine, and it was the right thing to do in that moment.
We are now entering a third phase of communication, as consumers and businesses continue to adjust and settle into social distancing and life in quarantine—”the new normal”. Our world has gotten a lot smaller; most of us aren’t commuting; none of us are travelling; and in many instances our lives have been reduced to a few square blocks—locked down in our neighborhoods. Local is all we know.
In this new normal, companies providing essential services now face the challenge of (a) letting the public know that these services are available, and (b) how these brands can help customers through this difficult time.
For brands, letting local consumers know you’re there for them could be the difference between making it through the pandemic—or not. While many big brands are experts at managing massive national campaigns, they are less experienced deploying this kind of hyper-regional messaging.
Yet consumers right now are looking for local: They want to know the products and services that are on their doorstep, from groceries and take-out to household items and hygiene products. They want to know which restaurants are open; which retailers are offering delivery and curbside pickup; which businesses are still operating and need support.
That means combining marketing automation with tactics such as geotargeting to deploy regional and personalized digital campaigns. While some retailers are shifting away from direct mail and in-store flyers because of concerns around contamination, it’s important to keep in mind that consumers’ inboxes and social media feeds are being bombarded with COVID messaging (some of it from brands they haven’t interacted with in years). Any digital outreach must therefore be razor-focused.
In addition, now is the time to embrace your inner old school: Brands must use all the tools at their disposal to get in front of consumers and get their message out, and that includes still very effective tactics like road-side signage, banners, and window clings, all communicating simple messages like “We’re open”, or “We offer home delivery & curbside pick-up” or “We have disinfectant”.
With a situation like COVID-19 comes a need for back-to-basics communication: Give people what they need, and let them know you can help. Going local is an important part of that approach.