WFH #8: Plan your emergence now

Marketing during COVID

For the last month or so, marketing has been almost 100% reactive. And rightly so. We’ve all been trying to come to terms with this ghastly thing, so we’ve all been scrambling to figure out what to say.

The first “We gotta say SOMETHING” wave has settled down. Most brands went with some variation of “We’re here for you”—and the resulting messages were almost invariably sincere, considered and accepted as intended.

The ‘almost’ in that sentence refers to the relatively few crass or tone-deaf ones. In general, I’ve been kind of proud of my fellow marketers so far. Yes, there have been some missteps (we analyze a small one in WFH#4), but even these usually came from a good place. The few blatant profiteers have been made to do the Gal Gadot Walk of Shame. (Poor Gal and friends tripped over the invisible cringe line by assuming we civilians turn to actors and pop stars for comfort in times of crisis).

But, while no single Branded Expression of Concern set off the alarms, the sheer number of them started to get on people’s nerves. To some, it got almost as annoying as the post-GDPR, “We Care About Your Privacy” pop-ups. (Which actually meant, “We heard YOU care about your privacy so now we have to change our ways.”).

So: concern expressed. What now?

For me, it’s time to think hard about how you’re going to market when the world starts to emerge from these dark, distancing days. Even better, start working on your emergence strategy and campaign.

Plan for emergence now

Like a political campaign team surprised by the candidate’s infidelity, we’ve been ‘chasing the story’ for weeks. It’s time to think about getting out in front of the story.

My friend Axel Chaldecott, (the C in the legendary HHCL), brought this up over (Zoom) drinks recently. He said the best marketing rarely comes from being reactive and that brands now have an opportunity to think ahead.

But how do we plan for emergence when we have no idea when it will come and what it will look like? Will it be a gradual dawning as different sectors of the population come out blinking into the light? Will it be the deepest recession since the 1930s? Will it be the Trumpian fantasy rebound? (Hint: no, it won’t. Turns out reality show caricatures don’t make good leaders… who knew?).

For me, it’s not important to guess the shape or timing of the emergence. We just have to think ahead to a time when something that looks like normal economic life is beginning to return, and decide what we’ll want to say at that point. Who we’ll want to be.

It’s time to create your great Emergence Campaign.

In the spirit of, “Never let a crisis go to waste”, this is an ideal opportunity to invest time and resources into something really great.

Your emergence campaign doesn’t have to be about the crisis at all. It just has get the ball rolling again in a big, bold, confident way. To show your customers and prospects that you still care about all the things you always cared about (and maybe a few more things too). That you’re still here, still strong and still investing in the market.

Maybe you want to make a big offer. Or press Fast Forward on that product launch you had to pause. Or come out with that amazing content play you never had time to develop. Or re-engineer your demand generation flows. Or package up ten new customer success stories into the ultimate credibility machine. Or finally do that brand building work that always got pushed aside for the next urgent thing.

There are so many things you can’t do right now (events, hospitality, sales visits, open days, executive showcases…). So divert that budget and those people into something big. Something that will make a major impact when we all start to emerge from the chaos.

Yes, you could just go quiet and wait for the emergence to start. But then you’ll be chasing that story too.

The brands that emerge best and fastest from this crisis will be those who started thinking and doing now.

Call a Zoom meeting.

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