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3 step Recovery

Published May 8, 2020 on The Vendry - Good Company - By Pauline Oudin, Head of Strategy


With the world upside down, marketers are hard-pressed to effectively manage their reduced marketing dollars. Some experts remind us that an economic crisis is not the time to reduce brand awareness. After all, those that continued marketing during the 2008 depression came out significantly ahead of their competition. On the flip side, some brave brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s leveraged their brands for PSA-type messaging, which came back to bite them with consumer-led social backlash. Is this a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation?  We believe that like every answer these days, the correct answer exists within a gradient of grey… 


Let’s start with a few strategic insights:


A. Consumers today are hungry for content
This has become the mantra of all Covid-centric marketing plans: consumers have both increased time to consume entertaining information and are on the hunt for content that is adapted to their current unique home-bound situation. 

B. Connection and community is more important than ever
We’re seeing an explosion in creativity as people try to use technology as a bridge across physical distances. 

C. Consumers are #quarantineshopping
With major retailers shutting down, brands that rely on direct e-commerce channels for business are poised to win big online. Meanwhile, those with more elevated sales channels need to pivot to provide a new type of human connection-led interaction. 


Interesting insights, but what should marketers do about it? At GRADIENT, we believe this shapes your upcoming marketing plan into three separate phases - immediate action (the now), connected extension (the recovery) and coming together (the new normal):


Phase 1: Immediate Action

Raise awareness and reaffirm brand love through content and community.  Human connection is key for social creatures such as ourselves, whether it's in person or by other means.

For now, this will obviously all be digital experiences and virtual connections but a few key rules apply no matter your industry:

  • A red thread: Not all content is created equal. And we’ve seen a lot of brands rushing to create content to capture Share-of-Voice only to have their credibility canned by poorly conceptualized content. Make sure that you have a clear “Red Thread” in your content that addresses actual needs but also reflects brand truths. 

  • Clear virtual brand guidelines: You cannot expect team members - or even home-bound influencers - to pick up content creation without clear guidelines and/or support on how to bring a brand to life virtually. We strongly recommend that brands create their own, or work with their agency partners, to establish the right backgrounds and staging for virtual get-togethers, the right rhythm of content sharing, the right lighting set-up, etc. 

  • The right digital tools for the job: Zoom is great. So are Google Hangouts. But that doesn’t make them the perfect tool for a livecast panel.  Nor are they adequate for interactive large audience experiences. But there are a LOT of great tools from inexpensive Mevo cameras with proper lighting, several livecast broadcast listing websites to promote your content, Augmented Reality tech, etc..  Don’t assume what you are using is the best option.  Do your research and custom fit the technology to your brand DNA and the needs of your consumer, not vice versa.  Click here for GRADIENT's most recent analysis of virtual event tech.

  • Phase 1 KPIs: Awareness and Digital following.


Phase 2: Connected Extension

We celebrate as the world re-opens and recovers, promoting fresh ideas that inspire emotional resonance & human connection.  In this phase, it will be essential to meet consumers where they will feel comfortable, not expecting them to come to you.

We all know that we won’t be going straight back to 5,000 or even 2,000 people concert halls as soon as confinement ends, and yet consumers will want to reconnect somehow, safely.  We will be going from 1 time 2,000-5,000 people to 100 times 20-50 people. How can your brand intimately connect with consumers in a scalable and budget effective way?  How can your brand support the need for smaller group connections in a brand-adapted way? Is it by creating friend get-togethers at local bars to support the hard-hit industry, sponsored by a spirits brand? Is it post-confinement beauty salon support? 

What is sure is that you won’t have much time to plan for it once the opening starts, so use your time now to plan. Your objectives for this phase: local trade and retail support, UGC and Sampling. 


Phase 2 KPIs: Social trending and Trade re-purchasing


Phase 3: Coming Together


At some point in the (hopefully near) future, most folks will be comfortable getting into groups of more than 20-50.  This phase will be defined by bringing a community together and engaging brand experiences adapted to the new normal.


What will the festivals of tomorrow look like? How will the Coachella’s and major sports sponsorship activations change?  At GRADIENT, what we envision, at least for a while, is a strong need from consumers to see brands supporting communities. Our faith in society has been severely shaken, and consumers will want to see how the brands they support with their reduced spending dollars will shore up their challenged communities. Many brands have significant “Social Responsibility” programs which are mentioned on their websites or in a corner of an activation. We believe these existing efforts will need to be brought front and center. Consumers will need to feel good about consuming. They will want to spend, but only if they feel it is supporting a worthwhile effort. So how will your brand lead its consumer-interactions with a social-responsibility message first? 


Phase 3 KPIs: Brand association with social responsibility messaging


A sample timeline for a Spirits Brand


A sample timeline for a Beauty Brand



Humans have been separated abruptly and for a prolonged amount of time.  Marketing strategies moving forward need to be crafted with human connection and community-driven actions at the epicenter of the brand's strategy and thinking.


What will this look like for your brand?

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