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Marketing with Heart: How Kindness And  Compassion During Crisis Can Bolster Your Business and Your Brand

TEGNA Marketing Solutions | March 30, 2020

With the spread of COVID-19, supporting your local community has never been more important. Here are a few ways your brand help locally and meet your customers on the other side when the smoke clears.

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Over the past several years, marketers have seen the rise of ‘brand activism’. It’s due in part to consumers’ growing preference for brands that support social good.

In fact, an August 2019 study by Markstein and Certus Insights determined that 70% of consumers want to know what the brands they prefer are doing related to social and environmental issues.  Moreover, 46% pay close attention to a brand’s social responsibility efforts when they purchase a product. 

In the age of Coronavirus, supporting the greater good will be even more important.  

When chaos knocks, for many companies there’s a pivot. It often becomes less about marketing and more about “hitting numbers.”  

However, a sole focus on the numbers may not be enough. Reaping upside in the recovery requires businesses to reveal their brand’s “beating heart” during the downturn.  

What you say, how well you’re listening, how empathetic, truthful and helpful you are will be part of consumers’ decisions. How you treat them will inform whether they spend time and money with you or your competitor.  

Tell the truth, and treat people with respect,” says Youval Meicler, CEO of Texas Mattress Makers. Meicler has been in business for 41 years and faced significant challenges in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. To support his customer base and the community at large, he gave away countless mattresses to his community. According to Meicler, when you take care of the community,the rest will work itself out.”  

Consider a sampling of industries below. These suggestions are inspired by real-world responses to customer need in the age of Coronavirus. Be sure to share your thoughts with other business leaders in the comments section. 

Credit cards. Remind clients of your online account-management tools and how those tools can make a difference when stress is high. Make it easy to get in touch with your brand. Offer updates on everything connected to travel, given current restrictions. In a word, you need to become a vital informational resource. Consider also how lowering fees or delaying payments might help your customer base.  

Shipping. If your brand has endured over a long period of time, remind customers that Coronavirus is not your first “crisis rodeo.” Keep your small-business clients updated online, and offer them access to customer support teams. Show your commitment to government guidelines how workers minimize contact, follow hand-washing requirements and keep facilities clean and disinfected. Help provide your customers answers to their questions, such as, Is it safe to touch boxes?”  

Technology. Will your services be disrupted? Will product shipping be delayed? If your corporate teams are working from home, let clients know the “lights are still on” in your firm. Offer customer support around the clock and provide free technology services to those who may not normally gain access. Outside Washington, D.C. school systems are providing free Chromebooks to students in need so they can participate in distance learning.  

Retail. No doubt, retail is among the hardest-hit categories during Coronavirus. But just because the doors are closed, doesn’t mean the customer relationship is over. As Meicler points out, “superior customer service is priceless, especially in hard times. If you have the capacity to help people get to the other side, that’s what you’re supposed to do. That’s what’s kept my business alive.”  

Drug stores. In a crisis, consumers see urgent care centers, drug stores and pharmacists as the front line of defense. They receive your communications willingly and eagerly so don’t be afraid to share your messages loudly and proudly, with highly visual and clear creative. Consumers want to know your updated store hours, drive-through shopping options, online services and more. Consider offering free prescription delivery, and free shipping with no minimum. If you have a rewards program, be generous in this period with promotional add-ons. Make it easy for customers to use their reward points every day. 

Online banks. The possibilities for online banks to do right by their stakeholders are endless. In the past, we have seen online banks suspend fees of all kind and defer payments for auto loans and home mortgages, similar to what banks in California have recently announced. One leading brand pledged substantial funds to address emergency needs—food, health care, emergency housing, and childcare—for communities where its staffers lived and worked. Others have covered short-term disability benefits for those who are ill. All these types of initiatives are worth amplifying.  

Beauty. While retail doors may be closed and consumers aren’t going out as much, feeling beautiful within the confines of the home is still important to consumers and will incredibly be important when recovery begins. Make sure your brand stays front of mind by waiving shipping fees, providing makeup tutorials and supporting consumers’ health and wellness during difficult times.  

Marketing with heart means infusing your brand with humanity. Focus on clear marketing messages presented with sincerity. Consider initiatives and campaigns that provide real value in a time when many are hurting, anxious and need assurance. Maintain personal connections and show that your brand is doing all it can to help your customers and your communities through this period of uncertainty. If you go the extra mile for them, they will walk the extra mile back to you as soon as they are able.

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