Nine months ago, when the pandemic completely disrupted the way we do business, marketers didn't have a playbook to reach for that would provide guidance for keeping their brands relevant and top-of-mind. Previous challenges – from 9/11 to the downturn of 2008 – didn't quite apply, as they didn't have the hurdles of remote working and social distance. Yet there has been a tremendous evolution in marketing techniques, performed with an impressive level of creativity, all of which happened at warp speed, as the situation demanded.
One of the most notable changes was the shift in personal events. to virtual platforms. From the very first simply produced virtual events, they have become increasingly sophisticated and complex. In recent months, just about all consumer and B2B brands have participated in some form of virtual event.
One of the many challenges of working in the virtual world is to continue to deliver on the value and personality of a brand. Some of the most successful online events have provided a physical element to complement the online experience, such as a snack box, meal pack, wine tasting, cocktail making kit, or training accessories delivered to the participants' homes. These provide tangible value beyond the online
For example, a leading financial services brand provided their customers with a delivery of recipe ingredients to their homes before an online cooking event began. Participants chopped, stirred, and sautéed alongside world-renowned chefs including Daniel Boulud, Michael Solomonov, Aarón Sánchez and Marcus Samuelsson.
Advance delivery works well in other lifestyle arenas as well. At an event, Lindsay Vonn led an online training class with viewers who had all been given new training mats and stretch bands at home. Another time, music fans listened to Sheryl Crow share stories of her life and sing a few songs, while enjoying snacks from her hometown Nashville. And at yet another, guests made rum cocktails with Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony, after receiving a complete cocktail package (including the rum!).
Just as the host brands provided unique experiences to customers in the pre-pandemic world, they can continue to delight customers from afar. Only the delivery method for these experiences has changed. Consumers' appetites to learn about topics that interest them has never been stronger, and virtual events are a welcome distraction from the stress everyone is feeling. This applies to B2C and B2B as well as internal target groups.
Avoiding Digital Fatigue
Instead of competing for people's time to travel to an event in our pre-pandemic world, we are now asking them to spend even more time on Zoom , WebEx or a similar platform when they are done with their job-related responsibilities. If your audience has been glued to a screen all day, it's a big ask to ask for another hour. You better offer something attractive and different to entice them to focus on their computer screen for a moment longer than necessary.
For example, after a long, two-day, virtual board meeting of a multinational company. the directors were surprised with a 15-minute on-line performance by Chef Mario Carbone, from one of the most popular and hard-to-book restaurants in New York City. Chef Carbone explained the heating instructions for the four-course menu that each of the executives, who were spread across 13 different states, had been given their door that day, along with wines to complement the meal.
A Silver Liner
Indeed, this is where a silver lining is emerging, with online experiences offering potential value in a post-COVID world. Digital experiences can be attractive because they don't have to travel, let alone get dressed. And most importantly, they provide the opportunity to reach a wider audience.
When the annual Harlem EatUp! The festival could not be held in person in May, it was transformed into a virtual event broadcast on ABC7-New York raising more than $ 200,000 to combat food insecurity and support BIPOC businesses in Harlem. The show won its timeslot and was watched by ten times the number of attendees who had physically attended the event in previous years. Because of this success, it is more than likely that the organizers will offer a hybrid personal – virtual festival when social distance guidelines are lifted.
Stay true to your values and don't get distracted
Marketers need to stay focused on promoting the same core values that made them stand out before the pandemic.
Just look at the hotel sector, which has been hit particularly hard, with few people traveling, resulting in thousands of vacant hotel rooms. Too many hotels are solely focused on what they do to keep their hotel free of the coronavirus rather than proactively reminding their customers of the points of brand differentiation that previously appealed to them – such as the personalized service, celebrity chef restaurants, golf . or tennis lessons and other unique amenities.
With a little creativity, each of these unique selling points can be shared, through a virtual experience, be it a cooking demonstration from the hotel chef, a mixology class with the bartender, or swing tips from the golf or tennis pro. Furthermore, an element of the experience can be packaged and sent to the customer as a gift in the form of a meal pack or bottle of native spirit or wine that conveys a unique sense of place. When the weather is safe to travel, the hotels that stayed connected with their guests will see them return first.
It's time to focus on the positive and unique attributes your brand is known for – those points of differentiation from their competitors. Brands should remind customers what they found so special and attractive about them in the first place. Do not allow the coronavirus to quarantine your brand's messages.
Written by Herb Karlitz .