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Brands pivot their marketing strategies in the wake of the coronavirus

 As Australian businesses brace for the impact of Coronavirus, we take a look at how brands around the world are already adapting.

In a much-shared blog post, Sequoia Capital Silicon Valley’s biggest venture capital firm – declared coronavirus (COVID-19) the ‘black swan of 2020.’ A rare, unforeseen event that carries potentially severe consequences. I’m sure the disruption felt by many brands and businesses around the world would have them agreeing with the sentiment.

Travel and events industries in particular have been hit hard by the fears, cancellations and quarantine conditions over the past months. Those with their supply chains impacted by Chinese disruption have also faced stock shortages. Some companies, however, appear well-positioned to benefit from the shifts in consumer behaviour.

A surge in the ‘homebody economy’ is boosting stocks for brands that cater for web sofa surfers, like Amazon and Netflix. That’s based on the increased media consumption and online shopping already occurring in China, where the quarantine sanctions have been in place for weeks. Likewise the demand for video-conferencing services like Zoom has increased in line with employees working from home and at home fitness brands like Peloton benefit from gym closures.

But even among these brands, reactive marketing has been restrained. Owen Lee, chief creative officer of FCB Inferno, told The Drum, “Brands are nervous about appearing to profit from this crisis.”

Instead, savvy brands are making subtle shifts in a bid to adapt to the changes in consumer behaviour. Sequoia‘s blog quoted Darwin, predicting that the businesses that would survive the disruption “are not the strongest or the most intelligent, but the most adaptable to change.”

Agile marketing decisions

The automotive industry has been one of the first to adapting, shifting their offering from showroom to social media. In China, Mercedez Benz ran a campaign on the WeChat app that let their customers see a 360-degree interior view of its GLB SUV. Meanwhile, Geely has recently launched a service that lets customers browse and buy its cars online and get them delivered to their homes.

Quarantine conditions have unsurprisingly seen Chinese nightlife is dwindling, but Absolut Nights, an events brand associated with Absolut Vodka, have found other ways to keep their guests entertained. In February, they launched a one off live-stream event through Chinese video sharing app Douyin (the Chinese equivalent of TikTok), featuring local DJs. It’s not just Absolut, nightclubs across the country are attempting to keep bored locals entertained by holding ‘cloud raves’ online.

Fitness brands are taking a similar approach as Chinese residents adapt to indoor, gym-free lifestyle. Nike has been posting at home workout videos on TikTok, replacing weights with water bottles. Fitness apps, that offer home workout routines, have also reportedly seen an upsurge of downloads.

Meanwhile in the UK, beauty brand Lush made reference personal hygiene vigilance with their recent hand-washing campaign. Store posters – which encouraged customers to come inside to wash their hands for free – didn’t mention coronavirus outright. However a statement from the company said: “We’re using our shop windows to promote the hand-washing guidelines as advised by the NHS in the UK and other public health organisations around the world. The current situation with the spread of the new Coronavirus means that it is more important than ever that people regularly wash their hands” 

An appetite for content  

Successful brands are adapting quickly to their customers change in lifestyle and priorities. They’re catering for their isolation not only with services that make their lives easier, but make their lives more entertaining. Quarantine conditions are leading to feelings of boredom and isolation, so people are naturally turning to their smart phones to alleviate this. 

In China, Weibo saw usage grow by 31% as users flocked to the micro-blogging platform for some much-needed human contact and Douyin (Chinese TikTok), reportedly grew by 102%. Content consumption is increasing too. Michael Norris, Research and Strategy manager at AgencyChina, a consultancy in Shanghai, told the AFRthat while internal research showed that skin care purchases in China are down 30% (this time on the previous year), time spent watching skin care-related video is up 300%.

While there may be a downturn in customer spending, there is an increase in customer touchpoints and attention. As Vogue Business pointed out, the outbreak of Covid-19 has accelerated trends that were already developing in China, including investments in e-commerce, gamification and live streaming.The message appears to be – your customers will spend again. If you can adapt and offer them value in this time of uncertainty, you will win their loyalty and when normal life resumes and they do spend again, it will be with you.

 Brands pivot their marketing strategies in the wake of the coronavirus

Aaron Brooks is the Co-Founder of Vamp, an influencer marketing and content platform.

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Loren Webb

Loren Webb

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