A person wearing a snorkel and mask in Sydney, Australia. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/JENNY EVANS
A person wearing a snorkel and mask in Sydney, Australia. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/JENNY EVANS

World leaders learnt valuable lessons from the Spanish flu pandemic just over 100 years ago which cost about 50-million people their lives. As we face Covid-19, many countries are in lockdown and information around the virus is available to the public 24/7. Businesses have had to take a step back to adjust their strategies to meet the needs of the market, and marketing leads have had to follow suit by immediately re-evaluating all current and planned campaigns and initiatives.

While revising your marketing strategy, there are three key areas to keep top of mind:

1.     Remain true to your company purpose;

2.     Leverage your core assets to lead with action; and

3.     Communicate with compassion and authenticity

1. Remain true to your company purpose

A company’s purpose is an articulation of why an organisation exists. It is far more than a simple value statement, but rather the overall role and responsibility that a business plays in society and its direct community. By focusing on purpose and values, businesses will make the right decisions around how to manage the crisis. Always ask the question: “Is this right?”

Purpose should also embody the needs of internal and external stakeholders. As a priority, employee health and wellbeing needs to take precedence. According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer, 78% of respondents agree that businesses have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from the virus in the workplace and do not spread the virus into the community. From a communication perspective, there needs to be a large focus on internal communications.

With purpose as the North Star, chief marketing officers (CMOs) need to decide what is relevant and important for external audiences. Will their products or solutions help solve the challenges presented by Covid-19? Here the focus should shift away from selling and rather be directed at solutions. Decide what is important now and relevant to your audience and cancel or postpone what is not.  A recent survey by MyBroadband revealed that 96% of SA ICT companies continued to market during lockdown. The reason is market demand and the rise of digitalisation during remote working.

We are seeing key trends emerging. These include accelerated digital transformation, prioritising local manufacturing, minimising supply chain disruptions, and an increase in demand for virtual training and skills development initiatives. 

2. Leverage your core assets to lead with action

Purpose-led organisations should leverage their core assets to lead with action for the greater good of society.  According to the trust barometer, 89% of respondents want brands to shift to producing products that help meet the challenges of Covid-19.

Creating a sense of community and connectedness is key. Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. Here, actions speak louder than words. Locally Distell took a hands-on approach by adapting its operations to address the shortage of hand sanitiser. It produces alcohol, a core ingredient in sanitiser. Food and beverage manufacturers are accelerating production lines to keep up with increased demand. In the UK, empty Best Western hotels are now being converted into makeshift hospitals.

Many of our global manufacturing customers are also taking a “wartime” approach to manufacturing, with many of them producing masks, medical equipment and hand sanitisers.

3. Communicate with compassion and authenticity

There has been a significant shift towards online and digital marketing.  Globally individuals are consuming higher volumes of content. According to GlobalWebIndex, over 80% of consumers say they consume more content since the outbreak, with broadcast TV and online videos (YouTube, TikTok) being the primary mediums across all generations and genders. Not surprisingly, 68% of consumers are seeking Covid-19 updates online over any other activity. Audiences are being inundated with continuous information around the disease, and many brands are trying to jump onto the viral bandwagon.

Audiences are looking to support trusted brands that are empathetic and authentic. According to the trust barometer, one in three consumers have already punished brands that did not respond during this time. Instead, the message should be that of support for the community and the needs of those on the frontline such as health workers, and farmers, manufacturers and distributers that are keeping society together. It is vital to be aware of your tone of voice and be sensitive to imagery that is used at this time.

While this crisis won’t last forever, a lack of consideration for present market needs could have a long-lasting and negative effect on a brand’s reputation. If CMOs and the C-suite place purpose at the core, lead with action and communicate with compassion and authenticity, a business will have a greater chance of weathering this landscape. 

  • Sandra Fraga is chief marketing officer at Syspro.


the big take-out

Purpose-led organisations should leverage their core assets to lead with action for the greater good of society. 

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