Marketing Insights to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic – Weekly Recap of News You Can Use

Week of May 18, 2020


Greetings from the home office.

As business shifts from crisis survival mode to adaptation and long-term recovery, brands could find that some pivots made to their core offering and marketing strategies prove to be long-lasting. Both a blessing and a curse, the pandemic accelerated the timeline for innovation. The urgency of the situation also forced greater collaboration across not only departments but geography. In this roundup, we’re taking a look at how messaging strategy and consumer behavior have evolved and what marketers can expect as states slowly begin to reopen and we all attempt to regain a sense of normalcy.

How is messaging strategy evolving?

“During these uncertain and unprecedented times of social distancing and quarantine, remember we are all in this together as we adjust to the new normal. Stay safe.”

Sound familiar? It certainly feels like just another version of every other brand’s message right now. But, as the weeks roll on and brands continue to execute meaningful campaigns to secure their place in the rebound, it’s crucial to monitor messaging strategy in relation to consumer sentiment and competition.

You don’t want to say the same things everyone else is saying, but you want to acknowledge the landscape. Your message a month ago may have been wonderfully empathetic and yet disruptive, but now it sounds like everyone else’s.

Are consumers tired of COVID-19 messaging? Are ads resonating? Is it time to change themes? It depends. This study by Ace Metrix shows brands are having a harder time breaking through the clutter in a sea of sameness. However, opportunity still exists to connect with consumers using pandemic related messaging, but it will take a fresh creative approach to capture viewer attention. Learn more.

Source:  Ace Metrix

With the 2020 Olympics postponed, what’s a sponsor to do? Press pause on the campaigns they’ve spent two years perfecting or pivot to adapt to the circumstances? Here’s a look at what each brand is doing with their $100 million buy-in to the four-year stint in The Olympic Partners program. Learn more.

The disparate opposition in opinions on how the pandemic is being handled makes a brand marketer’s job even more difficult. No matter what you do, you can’t appeal to all audiences. This blog offers tips on how to tailor messaging for each channel that takes your brand, market and consumers into consideration. Learn more.

How is consumer behavior changing?

On average it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. After weeks of altered consumer behavior due to quarantine-induced lockdowns and staggering unemployment rates, it’s likely some will endure. This brief from Marketing Dive dissects Kantar’s latest COVID-19 Barometer that looks at how consumer behavior, attitudes and expectations have been impacted and what the lasting effects may be. Learn more.

This study conducted by Survata on consumer buying preferences shows that despite rethinking their total spending, consumers are choosing brand-name products over store brands or private labels in certain categories. Consumers are three times more likely to research products prior to purchase and 40 percent of respondents cited trust in the brand as the biggest influencing factor driving purchasing decisions. Learn more.

Source:  Survata

Although consumers may prefer brand-name products, supply chain shortages could force them to settle for whatever they can find on the shelf. The big question though is what the long-term impact will be. The key to regaining straying loyalists is understanding what drives the desire for a specific brand and leveraging that to connect with consumers on a deeper level. Learn more.

What should marketers expect?

This blog from Forbes considers what marketers should expect in the post-pandemic future and how to shift marketing strategies to reflect the changes in consumerism and start gaining a competitive edge now. Work now to position your business to successfully meet the pent-up demand as restrictions are lifted and consumers are back in the market for your products or services. Learn more.

Nielsen has mapped out three scenarios for re-emergence beyond the pandemic: rebound, reboot and reinvent. Scott McKenzie, Nielsen Global Intelligence Leader said, “The world is fundamentally recalibrating right now. Consumer habits are changing at pace and understanding those changes, in the context of these scenarios, will be critical as businesses prioritize how they too recalibrate to meet the changed circumstances driven by COVID-19.” Learn more.

Like Darwin said, “adapt or die.” Adapting your brand’s marketing strategies is a must for survival on the other side of the pandemic. This webinar by Nielsen provides insight into shifts in media consumption, the importance of continued advertising investment and marketing strategy action items to adapt for success. Learn more.

Compiled by Salesforce Research, the sixth annual “State of Marketing” report is based on insight from 7,000 senior marketers leading through this time of change. It underscores the importance of finding innovative ways to improve the customer experience and drive engagement. Learn more.

We hope you’ve found our compilation insightful. Stay safe and if you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog to get next week’s roundup delivered straight to your inbox.

Google My Business Expected to Become More Powerful for SMBs Post-COVID-19

During the COVID-19 crisis, many local businesses have turned to Google My Business (GMB) to keep their customers informed of business updates related to the pandemic (updated hours of operation, temporary closings, etc.). Keeping location information on Google updated is important under normal circumstances, but it is even more important to keep relevant business information updated during a pandemic. As users adapt to a new normal of social distancing, it’s imperative that businesses ensure their location information is up to date to keep customers informed and safe.

Engagement and Search Query Shifts

It is no surprise that engagement and search queries have shifted on Google My Business over the past couple of months as many businesses have had to drastically change how they operate. Instead of users searching “What are your hours?” users are searching “Are you open while we shelter in place?” Driving direction requests are down 60 percent across all verticals while website clicks and phone calls are starting to increase.

The COVID-19 impact on Google reviews is still a mystery at this point. In March, Google announced they would be temporarily disabling reviews (leaving a new review, responding to reviews). However, over the past few weeks reviews have started to trickle back onto listings. Turning reviews back on signifies that GMB functionality is returning to normal, meaning businesses and marketers will need to once again monitor reviews on Google.

As online behavior shifts, so should local businesses. In addition to keeping location information on Google up to date, consider updating your website and social media channels with relevant business information and updates.

GMB More Powerful Post-Pandemic

As businesses begin to reopen and customers start to venture out of quarantine, users will turn to Google My Business for quick and accurate location information. According to a study by BrightLocal, 68 percent of local marketing experts said GMB was more important now than it was a year ago. Businesses should be prepared to use GMB as a tool to communicate reopening information to customers.

One feature of the GMB tool kit expected to thrive post-pandemic is Google Posts. Google Posts allow businesses to more easily communicate with customers by publishing information in the search results. Due to the ease of use and ability to quickly communicate, Google Posts will likely gain wider adoption among GMB users after the pandemic.

Google My Business is anticipating the reopening of businesses and evolving their digital tool kit in response. To tighten up integration of online ordering, Google acquired and Pointy, both online ordering systems. Additionally, Google may roll out new tools in the pipeline earlier than expected.

Google My Business has always been a valuable tool for businesses to publish their location information for customers. Over the past few years, it has evolved into a local marketing platform that allows businesses to directly communicate with customers through Google Posts, manage reviews, purchase local advertisements, etc. Over the next few months, we will continue to see the GMB platform evolve as customers progress towards normalcy post-COVID-19.

Marketing Insights to Navigate the Coronavirus Pandemic – Weekly Recap of News You Can Use

Week of May 4, 2020


Greetings from the home office.

Little by little, the tide is beginning to shift. States across the country are beginning to ease lockdowns and lift stay-at-home orders. Businesses are reopening, and brands are starting to shift their messaging to reflect the improving consumer sentiment. Despite many unknowns in a sea of challenges, advertisers are cautiously navigating into the next phase. Some brands are restarting their advertising efforts. Those that aren’t are most certainly thinking ahead to develop their strategic media plans and consider their messaging approach for the next several months. Now is the time to maximize your brand’s positioning and take proactive rather than reactive actions.

This week’s content roundup reflects this evolution towards a glimmer of optimism.

A survey conducted by Mitto found that 41 percent of consumers are tired of COVID-19 related ads and are ready to hear non-pandemic related messaging from brands. The key for marketers will be targeting messaging appropriately based on the differing restrictions in each market area. Learn more.

After weeks of somber advertising messages showing solidarity with the quarantined public, brands are beginning to shift messaging to a lighter approach. While it’s certainly difficult to predict what life will be like after months of isolation, brands are preparing for an improved Q3 and incorporating humor to help us all feel hopeful about a return to normalcy. Learn more.

Marketers are now focusing on making their communications relevant in uncertain times and are overly cautious about sending the wrong message. Here’s another look at how some brands are using humor and levity to provide a much-needed break from the sad news of the pandemic. Learn more.

The initial panic is subsiding, and advertisers are beginning to take a proactive approach to their marketing. With so much of the future still uncertain, brands remain cautious of spending but are resuming search campaigns and planning for multiple future scenarios, most notably in the travel industry. Agencies, as well as CMOs, are optimistic about the remainder of 2020. Learn more.

Source:  Twitter

Although there are must-do actions every brand must take during this time, focusing solely on the short-term could mean “winning the battle but losing the war.” Now is the time for strategic planning to prepare for the rebound. Here are six rules for brand revitalization in the post-coronavirus future. Learn more.

Here’s a look from Ad Age at the latest marketing efforts by some of the biggest brands in the marketplace, updated daily. From Chick-fil-A encouraging kids to #BandTogether on musical projects to Zappos’ Customer Service for Anything, marketing creativity is blooming. Learn more.

Although every industry vertical has been impacted differently, the path to navigating the pandemic can be broken down into three stages – respond, rebuild, recover. Priorities evolve as a business moves through each stage. Google has created a guide to help marketers stay ahead of the changing landscape and proactively shift digital marketing strategies to align with consumer needs at each stage. Learn more.

Source:  Google

We hope you’ve found our compilation insightful. Stay safe and if you haven’t already, subscribe to our blog to get next week’s roundup delivered straight to your inbox.

The 5 Ws of Paid Search During COVID-19

While some parts of the country have started to open up, many of us are still at home – working from home, schooling children from home, exercising from home, shopping from home, doing nearly everything from home.  With daily routines disrupted, it’s no surprise that consumer behaviors have changed as everyone attempts to adapt to their “new norm.”

Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to stretch their marketing dollars by adapting their paid search program so that it’s relevant to their customers’ new reality.  Here are the five Ws we keep top of mind when making adjustments to clients’ paid search campaigns.

WHO Are We Targeting?

While every industry has been affected differently, they’ve all been affected. For some businesses, their target demographic has completely changed as a result of this pandemic. Consumers who may have been less inclined to buy their products or use their services in the past may now have a sudden interest or need for them. Other businesses have completely pivoted just to stay afloat. They’ve started offering new products or services that are suddenly in high demand since they already have the necessary infrastructure in place. We review targeting for each client to ensure it aligns with any changes they have made to their business and adjust settings and bids accordingly.

Geo Targeting – Some clients are unable to offer their products and/or services where they had been historically. Others may be expanding their geo-targeting to cover additional areas during this time. We’re adjusting geo-targeting as needed, while taking into consideration any restrictions within each of their target locations.

Demographics – We expect to see shifts in who is searching for some clients’ products or services.  In some cases, it may make sense to open up demographic targeting to reach additional audience segments.

Audiences – We expect to see some volatility with certain audience segments, so we’re reviewing performance and adjusting as needed.

If search interest for a client’s business has been down or we’ve seen a decline in conversion rates or purchases, we’re lengthening the membership duration for some of their audience segments, especially those with shorter durations. This will provide more time to retarget those consumers who didn’t convert once the dust settles.

We’re also creating an audience composed of visitors to clients’ Coronavirus FAQ page on their website. There are a number of ways this audience can be leveraged to aid in rebound efforts, giving us the opportunity to tailor ad messaging specifically to those consumers who didn’t convert while the country was shut down.

WHAT Are They Searching and WHAT Are We Saying?

Keywords – If not already included, “open near me” or “open now” are being added to the target keywords for brick and mortar clients that are open. Search term reports are reviewed regularly to identify other keyword opportunities, as they will continue to be important as more and more businesses begin to open their doors again. We also utilize search query reports and the keyword planning tool to identify any new COVID-19 related keywords to target.

In addition to looking out for new keyword opportunities, we also keep a close eye on each client’s search terms report to ensure their ads aren’t generating irrelevant impressions. Negative keyword lists are expanded where necessary.

Ads – Ad messaging is being reviewed to ensure it’s sensitive to the current situation and still relevant to the state of the client’s business and the new reality of their customers.

If there are any safety concerns that would make consumers hesitant to purchase a client’s products or services right now, messaging is being altered to explain the changes that have been implemented to help alleviate those concerns. For example, Papa John’s has implemented a “no touch” policy where they ensure no pizza is ever touched once it comes out of the oven AND they’ve implemented a “no contact delivery” on all app and online orders to make sure their customers feel safe. These types of operational changes are important to include, as they may help consumers overcome any hesitation in placing orders.

There has been a surge for various products during this pandemic where fulfillment has been an issue. We’re working closely with clients to pause any efforts for products that are currently out of stock.

Ad copy and calls-to-action are being updated to reflect changes in clients’ business operations like changes to how products and services are offered or delivered.

As shelter-in-place orders are gradually lifted, it will be necessary to ensure ad messaging is appropriate and relevant to all the target areas for each client since they likely won’t reopen at the same time. Ad customizers based on the user’s target location is one way ads can be tailored to the most relevant consumer based on how a client’s business is operating in their area. Duplicating campaigns is another option we have that provides more control over spend and targeting. This allows us to have one set of campaigns targeting areas that are still closed with messaging that speaks to those consumers, and a second set of campaigns targeting areas that have reopened with appropriate messaging.

When the time is appropriate, we plan to create new ads that leverage the IF function to provide special offers or messaging to the audience we created for visitors to a client’s Coronavirus FAQ page, to get them to convert.

Ad Extensions – These typically need updated for most clients as well.

Call Extensions – We’re working with clients to ensure the number being used is still accurate and, if applicable, that it’s routing appropriately to any employees who are now working from home. If business hours or availability for answering calls have changed, we’re also adjusting call extension scheduling to reflect those changes.

Location Extensions – We’re updating Google My Business listings for clients to reflect any changes to business and hours of operation so their customers know when they’re open.

Action Extensions – We’re replacing Calls-To-Action in Bing such as “Visit Store” or “Directions” with CTAs that reflect the current state of the client’s business.

Callout Extensions – Callout extensions that highlight services clients can’t currently honor, such as “Open 24/7” or “Same Day Delivery” are being updated.

Structured Snippet Extensions – We’re temporarily removing products and/or services a client is unable to offer/fulfill at this time.

Sitelink Extensions – Updates are being made to sitelinks that are no longer appropriate or applicable. For example, extensions that pertain to shipping are being updated to reflect any changes to shipping policies. Sitelink extensions with broad verbiage pertaining to new safety measures, health and safety, etc. are being added for clients that have a COVID-19 FAQ page.

WHEN Are They Searching?

Everyone’s needs and priorities have shifted. We’re taking measures to be sure our clients are in front of the right consumers at the right time.

Ad Scheduling – We’ve all had to make changes to our daily routines, so consumers may be searching earlier in the morning or later at night. Current performance is being reviewed and adjustments are being made to ad scheduling and bids to maximize spending efficiency.  What historically may have been a client’s top converting time-of-day or day-of-week may no longer be the case. Schedules are being opened up for clients with a decline in search interest on their current schedule.

For clients with Call-Only campaigns, ad scheduling is also being adjusted to align with the changes in business hours to ensure the business is open and available to field calls.

Automated Bidding Strategies – In times of uncertainty like this, Smart Bidding strategies require additional monitoring. Changes to the competitive landscape often impact campaign performance and automated bidding strategies (especially tROAS and tCPA) may need to be adjusted to align with changing consumer behaviors. We’re reviewing any automated strategies for settings/parameters that need adjusted based on the current landscape.

WHERE Are We Reaching Them?

Channels – The impact on search volume will vary between channels, as will the performance. For some clients advertising only on Google, we’re launching campaigns for their top products and/or services on Bing to help make up for any loss in volume. For clients that are already advertising on both, performance between the two is being compared to see if any budget shifts between channels are warranted.

Networks – We’re closely reviewing search partner network performance since impression volume could fluctuate due to changes in search volume on networks owned and operated by each channel.

Devices – With many consumers still confined to their homes, mobile searches have been decreasing and desktop searches have been on the rise. We’re monitoring device performance and making adjustments as needed. As people begin to go back to work, we expect to see further shifts in device usage.

WHY These Changes Matter

For clients whose business has slowed, adaptations like these to their paid search program will ensure their marketing dollars are being maximized and that they are positioned to rebound as soon as shelter-in-place orders are lifted.  For clients in industries where interest has increased for their products or services, quick adaptations like these ensure they’re seizing the new opportunity and maximizing ROI.