How To Connect In This Period Of Isolation

In the first of our features from CSM Sport & Entertainment, Ryan SawrieSenior Director, Integrated Marketing in the US asks how we can create the feeling of connection with enough scale for it to make sense for marketers in an age of isolation.

As social distancing has become the new norm around the world, brands and marketers are naturally reconsidering their campaign plans. A first and obvious thought many turn to is, “How can we pivot more resources to digital and social media for this campaign?” As long-time digital marketers, we think that’s a great idea! 

An uptick in social media activity is already being noticed by agencies and media companies - upwards of 76 percent more likes have been tracked on Instagram and TikTok influencers have seen engagement jump by over 27 percent.  So, here are some things to consider as you ideate around the new normal we find ourselves in. 

Treat digital channels differently

One of the biggest mistakes when it comes to social media that marketers make is treating social channels as a dumping ground. Often this pressure comes from senior leadership in the company who might think that their messaging should appear everywhere possible all the time. 

If the main message you’re getting out to consumers through your social channels could just as easily be captured on a billboard or in a press release, then chances are you’re not tapping into the unique opportunities inherent to social marketing. 

Digital and social media can create consumer loyalty to the point that users become your biggest advocates to their social connections. With a single click, your content gets shared authentically to a wider audience than you had before. Direct messaging lets you create one-to-one connections with loyal customers. Live streaming can create personal, human connection to your brand when a fan tunes in. 

Mexican restaurant chain Chipotle provided a way for its customers to come together digitally. The QSR launched weekly Chipotle Together hangouts utilising Zoom - the videoconferencing software. Up to 3,000 people can join the daily hangout, which will include a Chipotle themed presentation by a celebrity guest. To support the activation IRL, Chipotle is waiving delivery fees for any order over US$10. 

To create a digital connection with your target audience, your social media content will have to be more than a well-planned, witty tweet. 

In this moment, while watching and listening to what your customers want and need right now, with a robust social media strategy and a willingness to try something new your brand can create the authentic connection consumers are looking for.

Tell your story

Humanising your brand is a key step to creating connection with your customers. In a time of uncertainty about employment, the economy and everything else, the way your brand is responding is a story worth telling. Perhaps more than any other medium, social media gives you the opportunity to humanise your brand through digital storytelling. 

Some of the stories you can quickly and simply tell on social media include:

  • How are you supporting your employees in their need to work from home or take care of their children? What technology are you utilising? 
  • What is your brand doing to support the local community? How is the community supporting you? 
  • What’s happening in your industry that is worth celebrating?
  • How can you celebrate your clients and customers as they face their adversity?

Late Show in the Bath Tub

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was the first late night programme to take a humorous approach to what their company was doing in the midst of company shutdowns. While a rerun was expected to air on Monday night, Colbert made a surprise “monologue” appearance from his home bathtub. Dressed in his usual on-air suit and tie, Colbert stressed that every member of his staff was safely home, and added, “If you’re watching this from home right now, know that you’re doing the right thing.”

Guinness All Human

With the cancellation of St. Patrick’s Day parades and events around the world, Guinness found themselves potentially facing all-time low sales for one of their most important days of the year. However, the brand found an opportunity to celebrate the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day with their customers through an impactful social media video. At the same time, Guinness announced a US$500,000 commitment to help communities where their employees live, work and celebrate. 

While not every brand can (or should) pull off a funny stunt like the Late Show can, there’s a unique story for your brand to find and tell in this cultural moment.

When the dust settles from the COVID-19 pandemic, what story will be told about how your brand responded? Hopefully, your narrative will include more than a mass email about increased sanitisation practices. 

Find your core customers’ new normal

Social distancing, city shutdowns and temporary lay-offs have created a new normal for millions of people around the world. Loyal customers may even be unable to purchase your brand’s product or service at this time. Whatever level of isolation or hardship your customers are facing, social and digital activation can allow your brand to stay in touch. 

Cincinnati Zoo - Home Safari

The temporary closures of schools, workplaces and local attractions has led to a unique challenge for parents across the world. While working from home with their children, parents are searching for ways to educate and entertain their kids without the ability to take them to their usual favourite parks and museums. 

In response to their own closure, the Cincinnati Zoo launched the Home Safari series. Each weekday at 3pm, the zoo broadcasts a Facebook Live where they highlight one of their animals, inclusive of an activity that families can do at home. Their first livestream, highlighting fan favorite hippo Fiona, compiled more than 4 million views. 

Stay in & Sling

Sling TV is providing free news and entertainment channels amid the coronavirus pandemic. “Stay in & Sling” will provide users the opportunity to create a free Sling TV account to stay up to date with COVID-19 on ABC News, and on-demand options for kids and other entertainment programming. The Dish Network service hopes the offering will give the provider a leg up on other platforms in the ongoing streaming wars. 

Unemployment, remote working, loss of childcare and shortage of goods are just some of the new challenges facing millions of people. In ways small and large, social media, and your other digital channels, provide a fast and unique way to help meet the new needs of your audience. 

Invite fans and followers to be co-creators with you 

Culturally, we have fully entered into a shift with the preferences and expectations that consumers have from the brands they follow. Authenticity ranks among the highest traits that consumers say that they consider when deciding which brands to support. 86 percent of people say that authenticity is important when deciding what brands they follow and support. 

One of the ways that shift has taken shape is through the types of content that individuals want from brands. With an unlimited supply of content to view and download, consumers find user-generated content to be 3x more authentic than brand-created content, and 8x more authentic than stock imagery. Taking that one step further, content that relates to their passions is 1.6 more important than production quality.  

In a time where your marketing team can’t be together, video production teams can’t be on site to capture content and large events are cancelled, the need to lean into user-generated content for brands has never been greater. Social media provides the greatest avenue for gathering authentic creative from your loyal customers and your employees, and then distributing to your audiences. 

Ikea – Making Home Count

As brands are looking for new solutions to produce digital content without shoots, the TBWA Singapore team filmed a :60 Ikea ad entirely from home footage of their employees. The spot celebrates the realities and joys of our new normal, and authentically intersects with Ikea’s emphasis on home life.

LA Chargers

While staff are away from studios and workspaces on quarantine, the LA Chargers marketing team has turned to player-generated content to tell the story of how the team is functioning amidst global changes. In one video series, ‘Quarantine Cribs', Defensive Tackle Justin Jones takes viewers on a tour through his home setup using only a smartphone. In another smartphone series, players gave fans their recommendations for the best shows to take in on Netflix while staying safe at home. 

In addition to user-generated content, a tried and true marketing opportunity for brands during this time is to partner with influencers. Social media influencers are used to creating compelling content with limited resources and doing it on their own. As brands likely start to flock to influencers during this time, the challenge will be to stand out with partnerships that are uplifting, authentic and disruptive. 

While every brand considers pivoting to digital marketing opportunities, finding ways to tell your story in an authentic way that connects to the felt needs of your customers is key to making an impact. Although options might seem sparse during these times, some fresh thinking and creativity can help you stay connected to the people who love your brand the most. 

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