We've all heard of something going "viral" on the internet. This generally refers to when some piece of content generates a lot of attention very quickly and people start sharing it all over the place - social media networks, blogs, websites, you name it. Those in the marketing or advertising industry know that what is likely behind content going viral is a very creative and well-prepared viral marketing strategy.
But why is it called "viral marketing"? Because the content literally spreads like a virus! And don't we all know something about how a virus can spread these days - in the age of the Coronavirus/COVID-19.
Since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, the world has been at somewhat of a standstill. To prevent the spread of this contagious virus, businesses, workplaces, schools, college campuses, stores, restaurants, and several other public places worldwide had to limit their services, switch to remote, or shut down completely.
But how has this affected the marketing industry? Should brands change their campaigns, or steer away from viral marketing strategies moving forward?
Being sensitive to their audience is always something that brands need to stay on top of, but especially at a time of crisis. Many people fell ill to the virus, or took care of people who were ill. Others are still financially burdened due to being out of work or having to close up shop during the lockdowns. Parents are also struggling to homeschool their children because of school shutdowns. So how can marketers create campaigns that reach viral marketing status, yet stay sensitive to the hardships and setbacks of their customers during the age of COVID-19?
Craft marketing messages that spread hope
Both the media and internet are still inundated daily with updated information about the coronavirus pandemic. From more new confirmed case reports and death counts to talk of lockdowns happening again, it seems like nothing but bad news out there. Especially if your audience is among those who have been infected, have a loved one who's been infected, or experienced a job loss or business closure.
With all the fear and negativity flooding your audience's television, inbox, and social media feeds, now is the time for your brand to be a voice of hope. People are looking for some calmness and peace during these uncertain times. Shift focus off of how you can best market your product or service, and instead restore your audience's hope for the future by crafting marketing messages that spread happiness, healthy living, family bonding, and good memories of the times before this pandemic interrupted their lives. Spreading hope is the best way to inspire your audience to share your message and follow your lead in inspiring others!
Tailor content to help customers cope with shut downs and social distancing
We are all still somewhat struggling to cope with the effects of the quarantine, lockdown, shelter-in-place, or safer-at-home orders that were in place in various parts of the world. In general, this meant spending a lot more time at home than usual. Companies are still having their employees work from home, parents are still stuck homeschooling, and college students are doing remote learning as the new norm. Some restaurants are still closed except takeout only, and businesses not considered an "essential service" (such as hospitals, doctor's offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, and banks) are still suffering after having experienced mandatory closures. And in some places, when people leave the house for something, they are still being advised to follow "social distancing" rules like staying 6 feet away from other people.
Needless to say, it is a lonely and isolating time, especially for people who are used to going out or being around other people. You've likely experienced this yourself, so don't hide it from your audience! Your brand may be a business, but there are people behind that business who have been affected in some way like everyone else.
Remind your audience that we're all in this together by tailoring your content to feature different ways to cope with the shutdowns, social distancing orders, and their effects. If any element of your product or service line could be especially relevant to them during this time (such as something to help improve their remote working experience or Friday night-in when they usually go out), it's a great opportunity to highlight that. If not, you can still showcase a side of your business that might not have been obvious to them before, but can add special value to their lives now. Doing so might incorporate an audience that is more used to staying in the background, engaging them to step out and share your content or become a new customer!
Offer special discounts or run campaigns with donations or giveaways attached
Saving money is a topic that's always hot, but especially during a crisis. Due to job loss, temporarily being out of work, or experiencing cut backs, people are looking for ways to save money on products and services. So what better time than now to offer a special discount? Not only does this tell your current customers that you care, but it may also allow them to keep doing business with you even during a time of financial stress. Discounts always have the capability of looping in new customers too, especially when shared among family and friends.
Showing your support for coronavirus relief efforts is another way for your campaign to go viral. During a crisis, people are looking for ways they can help and will want to join up with your brand's efforts to help too. Campaigns that showcase a company's donation of a portion of the proceeds to organizations that support those who have been most affected by the virus (such as patients, healthcare workers, the elderly, and those who have experienced a job loss) are likely to receive many shares among your audience and beyond. This is one of the only beauties of a time like this - people wanting to get together to give back and help those in need!
No matter what is going on in the world, marketers are tasked with finding new ways to connect to their audience. What new strengths have you found within your brand message during this disruptive time? Tell us about it in the comment section below!