While I am guardedly optimistic the Coronavirus will not gravely impact our country long-term, it is hard not to recognize what a challenging environment we live in. For advertisers, it is even more challenging. Many companies have seen sales fall severely. At the same time, most marketers realize that ceasing advertising is not the smart alternative. The goal is to create advertising messaging today that understands the sensitivities of the moment, does not appear opportunistic and strikes a tone that conveys optimism. We will review some current ads that are successful as well as a couple that are not.
One of the more notable commercials to have been pulled in the last 2 weeks was from KFC . It featured consumers eating their chicken by hand and then licking their fingers. Ordinarily, “finger-licking good” would be exactly what we expect from KFC. Unfortunately, at this time, it is a visual that is wrong on many levels. KFC received lots of flak from consumers within days of starting the commercial, and it was pulled. On the other end of the spectrum Coors started a campaign that depicted their beer as “The Official Beer of Working Remotely”. While there was a bit of humor, the spot it also felt like the brand was trying to take advantage of and make light of the situation. This ad was also paused.
Appropriate Advertising Tone
Two advertisers that have done a good job of conveying empathy while continuing to market themselves are Raymour and Flanigan and Buick/GMC Trucks. Raymour’s commercial opens by acknowledging the challenging times and pledging to support their employees and communities, while helping people find comfort in their homes. The scenes are of families bonding in their houses. The spot continues by talking about their commitment to safety and then pivots to a couple shopping on their computer. The computer screen shows the current financing offer while the voiceover explaines they are now offering their “friends and family” pricing to everyone. The spot closes by reminding us Raymour is here to support the community and make our homes a sanctuary. (Raymour just released this spot as a pure brand message, taking the offer out completely)
The Buick Truck spot similarly begins by stating that things have changed “overnight”. As we watch people traveling safely and comfortably in their trucks, we are reminded that Buick/GMC’s “commitment” to us remains the same. Because we want to feel safe GMC is now offering free On Star Crisis Assist Services. And, if we want a car, they not only have great financing but will defer payments for up to 120 days. This commercial ends with the reminder that Buick/GMC is here to help.
Both of these spots work because they strike the right tone. They are empathetic to our time and the possible needs of the consumer. Both play to the safety and comfort of their products and use that to softly introduce their promotions. Instead of feeling opportunistic they appear to be offers of assistance in a difficult time. The voiceovers are soothing and reassuring, conveying quiet confidence. Both companies offer to complete the transactions online, and deliver to the doorstep. There is nothing about these commercials that feels like the company is trying to benefit by linking themselves to a health crisis.
Brands can stay relevant by showing how they are helping their associates, customers and communities. Brick-and-Mortar stores can even explain how their store closings are helping to “flatten the curve” of the virus spread. Sounding a tone of calm during a time of chaos is reassuring and positions the brand as a leader. As marketers we need to be forward thinking. The current situation will pass, how do we want our brand to be positioned for when it does? (Going dark is not a position) While sales may be down this is a good time to build customer trust. Demonstrate your corporate values. When we return to “normal” brands who handle this situation correctly will be the first to grow. Your advertising messaging today will directly impact your sales tomorrow.