The “New Normal” Media Plan
When uncertainty strikes, many marketing instincts gravitate towards waiting out the change until the outcome is clear and conceivable. Although it may be easier, this tactic can be more harmful than beneficial in the long run. Due to being blindsided by the pandemic, many companies have resorted to pausing their media plan indefinitely. A better tactic is to incorporate new realities into your media plan to gain an advantage over competitors.
If history has taught marketers anything, it’s to push through uncertainty – not hide from it. For instance, many companies were fearful of declining revenues and started cutting back on various departments during the Great Recession, but the brands that pushed through with a strong marketing strategy came out on top.
There have been several “new norms” in 2020, but going into 2021, your focus should be on a “New Normal” media plan to keep your business at the forefront of consumer value and ahead of the competition. The following steps can help you prepare a “New Normal” media plan to adapt to the changes brought on by the pandemic and keep your business growing.
Revisit Assumptions About Consumers
Change is inevitable in the aftermath of a pandemic. The key is to stay informed and adapt when necessary. This starts with your target audience and how the pandemic has changed their buyer behavior – how they consume, what they consume, and why they consume.
Some general consumer changes during and post-pandemic you should know:
- Buying behaviors are more focused on necessities as 64% of consumers are worried about job security, and 88% are concerned about the impact on the economy.
- Consumers are becoming more mindful of purchasing habits, reducing waste, and negative environmental impacts when possible.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – consumers expect companies to address social and environmental concerns by volunteering, donating, and minimizing negative impacts on the environment.
You need to make sure your customer base hasn’t changed their habits, and if they have, you need to adjust your media strategy to encompass that new reality.
In the face of uncertainty, it’s better to have a plan that can bend with the wind if there is a change in conditions than one that will crack under pressure. An inflexible media plan can be as detrimental as no plan. You want to go in different directions depending on the increased or decreased severity of the pandemic.
For instance, a media plan focused around being close in proximity and sharing might’ve been a hit pre-pandemic, but during and post-pandemic, you’ll need to adjust your advertising message to be more perceptive and considerate of the current environment. To do so, you need to keep up with trends and make adjustments when necessary.
A bad example of media plan flexibility is KFC deciding to run an ad where one person licks another person’s fingers despite the pandemic’s enormity. However, a good example would be Coke’s advertisement with spaces between letters to support social distancing.
You also need to try out new marketing channels and new messages that are more likely to resonate. Running A/B tests and other testing forms will help refine an appropriate message for the times and get it to your consumers.
- Assessing channels successfully used by your competition.
- Staying informed on current trends.
- Testing one channel at a time and try a variety of promotions and content before analyzing results.
The key to not sounding tone-deaf is to take a moment and empathize with consumers who have been dealing with the pandemic. Businesses and consumers have faced significant challenges, and the future is unknown. Purchasing behaviors have shifted significantly with high expectations for companies to relate, support, and empathize with consumers.
In fact, due to COVID-19, studies have shown that:
- Almost 75% of respondents report an increase in leaderships’ CSR expectations or demands.
- 89% of consumers say they want brands to shift money and resources to produce products that help people meet pandemic-related challenges.
- 53% feel ‘Purpose-driven’ companies have fared better during the coronavirus pandemic.
Among many marketing responses to the pandemic, Ford is notable for reminding consumers about the company’s support in prior crises (like in WWII) while mentioning their dedication to fighting COVID-19 in new ads like “Built for Right Now” and “Built to Lend a Hand.” For additional support, the ads promote consumer financial support by offering 6-month payment relief for new buyers, with Ford paying for the first three months and deferment for up to three months.
A good way to spread brand awareness without appearing tone-deaf is to sponsor events or get endorsements from local individuals who are involved in local causes. People want to see more good in the world, and you can do that through a good cause marketing strategy which consists of choosing the right partnership, considering promotional options, and setting/managing goals.
When marketing to a specific city or location, consider:
- Appealing to city pride
- Getting local endorsements
- Participating in local newsjacking
- Partnering with local causes
- Sponsoring community events
Adapt to the “New Normal” or Fall Behind
The pandemic’s uncertainty has made it significantly more important that you adapt your media plan to meet consumer expectations and appropriately address the climate we’re in today. The “New Normal” media plan helps you avoid tone-deaf mistakes that can be disastrous to your reputation. Like when Corona advertised their new Corona Hard Seltzers and told consumers to go get tested after possibly being a “super spreader” of COVID-19 when drinking Corona Hard Seltzers at a beach party. Obviously, there’s not much they can do about their brand name, but their tactic should’ve been altered in a more considerate direction. Which, is why you should adapt to the “New Normal” media plan and stay socially and environmentally informed.