Many brands and businesses are asking themselves an important question during this shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic: “How do I connect and deliver messaging to my customers without appearing that I’m selling them a product?”
Stores and businesses are closed or operating at half-capacity worldwide due to the virus, but companies are able to keep in contact through social media and online. But they have to navigate these waters carefully so as not to offend customers or send the wrong message.
The key is authenticity and sensitivity.
“As we’re all working from home, people need a distraction and we’ve found that fashion media is taking that need seriously while being self-aware and supportive of those impacted by the pandemic,” Lynn Tesoro, cofounder and chief executive officer of HL Group, to WWD (Women’s Wear Daily). “Messaging needs to be authentic.”
And, there is an appetite for stories that not only give people a break from the grim news cycle, but stories that inspire hope and a sense of contentment — things we used to take for granted.
Jill McDermott and Sara Andréasson, cofounders of Michele Marie PR, told WWD that they “are helping brands to communicate compassionately and personally. Brands want to do their part to help victims and the community. Now, more than ever, is the time to communicate authentically with consumers.”
Many businesses are using their skills, employees and merchandise to help wherever they can. For example, fashion houses and designers are creating face masks from fabrics that would normally go into their fashion line.
“Sincerity and authenticity are critical,” said Tesoro of the HL Group. “We’ve been saying this for years, but consumers today have a strong ability to filter out opportunistic activity. It is not in a brand’s best interest to work to expand its audience, but should focus on reaffirming the company’s values to its most loyal consumers. Right now, people are looking to digital and social media as an escape and we’re seeing engagement spiking through these channels.”
But brands have to be cognizant of their messaging and how vital it is to do it right.
“Most of our clients have a very engaged audience and are primarily connecting through social media. Messaging around coronavirus needs to be delicate — no one wants to capitalize on a horrific virus,” said Andréasson of Michele Marie PR. “They are choosing what is authentic to them in order to help, whether that be giving a percentage back to charity, offering deep discounts or offering incentives, and some are even donating extra products directly to people in need.”
Brands now need to question what really matters and to whom, to determine a new baseline.
“It is not just about demographics anymore,” Wentzo and Walters told WWD. “We have embraced the digital age, but this pandemic has dropped all of us at the center of it.”
For many businesses, a large part of the disruption due to the coronavirus emergency is the delay or cancellations of festivals and events. The goal is to continue to meet client goals and initiatives by pivoting to such things as virtual appointments and video messaging.
“With so many businesses in turmoil and being affected by the coronavirus pandemic, we felt like it was important to maintain a sense of optimism, forward-thinking and normalcy, always with the utmost sensitivity,” Wentzo and Walters told WWD. “It has been a morale boost for our amazing team, family of brands and network of influencers, stylists and talent with whom we work because it underscores a sense of community.”