• John Walker

Marketing Messages for a Changed Business Environment

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

After nearly three months of quarantine, business life is slowly resuming, and with it, marketing. But marketers are wondering how to adjust their messaging to connect with consumers whose mindsets are fixed on the pandemic. Ford Motor Company shows us the way.

Ford Motor Company just released a commercial developed by ad agency Wieden+Kennedy. It’s called “Built for America” and it showcases Ford’s automotive heritage, it highlights manufacturing expertise and it promotes the company’s recent efforts to make protective equipment for healthcare workers. Watch it here.

What makes this commercial work is its underlying spirit of optimism at a time when many of us feel bad. This commercial makes us feel good about America by showing “American ingenuity.” It uses the words “put it to work” when so many are out of work and want to return. And it promotes Ford's recent work making ventilators, respirators, and face shields for healthcare workers. By the end of the spot, I’m cheering for America and pulling for Ford. Do they want to sell me a car? Absolutely, and thanks to this commercial I’d feel pretty good about buying one of theirs. Remarkably they accomplished that without showing a single car or talking about any of their features, benefits, or special offers.

While my clients aren’t global brands ready to invest in national branding spots, they are asking how to adjust their messaging to connect with customers in a changed business environment. So here’s my advice.

Acknowledge Reality

This health crisis has been so acute and widespread that it dominates consumers' thinking. “How do I stay healthy?” “How do I care for my family?” “When can I go back to work?” “What’s life going to be like?” Because these kind of thoughts are top of mind, marketing messages have to acknowledge them. And they need to do so in a way that addresses consumer concerns then links those concerns with the product or service being offered. They need to say “you’ll be safe and feel comfortable” with our products or services.

Ease our Burden

The coronavirus health crisis has introduced new complexities into our everyday lives. “How do I keep kids engaged with school work?” “How do I shop at the supermarket safely?” “How do I get a haircut when salons are closed?”

It has also introduced huge unknowns like- “will my job be there for me when this clears up?” or “Will I be able to go back to college in the fall?” And the combination of day-to-day challenges and fear of the unknown creates stress. So marketers have an opportunity to connect with customers by easing this stress through messages about how their business is addressing common concerns. Messages about curb-side pickup or social distancing practices are good examples.

The point here is that safety practices have become a primary concern for consumers and, therefore, communicating them needs to be a primary part of the marketing message. Consumers won’t care if your store has better selection if they haven’t been reassured they’ll be safe shopping there.

I’ll end with another car company- Hyundai- and share one of their great commercials from Super Bowl 2009. This commercial has a reserved tone appropriate for a time of deep economic pain. And it announces the Hyundai Assurance program, a promise that if you buy a Hyundai and “lose your income within the next year, you can return it with no impact on your credit.” Watch the commercial here.

This campaign from ad agency Goodby, Silverstein and Partners acknowledged consumers’ reality and eased their burden. It also sold 31,511 cars. That was a 27% sales increase for Hyundai in a year when the overall car market declined 22%. Not bad for empathy.

This post was written by John Walker, Principal Consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Want to talk about how to adjust your messaging? Contact us today or call: 717-283-7713.

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