Driving Impact for Good Where Consumers Are – Online.

Photo of D'Arcy Toffolo

D'Arcy Toffolo

Executive Managing Director

With social distancing in place until at least April 30, and predictions by the CDC that this outbreak could last into the summer, brands have an opportunity and a responsibility to meet their consumers where they are – online. Since March 1, consumer consumption of digital content has increased exponentially.

On Twitter alone, there has been a 20.6% increase in tweets in the United States from February to March (716M to 863M).

78% of U.S. consumers say they are spending more time using at least one digital device since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak (source, GlobalWebIndex). Devices with the highest consumption are smartphones, laptops and smart TVs. Nielsen reports that just in the past week, there was a 13% increase in the use of streaming devices (e.g. streaming sticks and Smart TV apps).

Source: GlobalWebIndex

People are using the web to information share, voice their anxieties and kill time while in quarantine. Common words being used are “home,” “work,” “life,” “country” and “world” (source: Meltwater). The combination of both “home” and “work” suggest that people are talking about working from home a lot.

Source: Meltwater

In just a few weeks (or what felt like a few days), the economy went from instituting health advisories to mandating work from home policies. Even tech-centric organizations like AT&T, Google and Amazon had to pivot quickly to shift business operations online. The chart below spotlights the massive digital transformation happening as a result of the virus.

Not surprisingly, some brands are capitalizing on fear and using digital tactics to make a buck. Pricing gouging on face masks and hand sanitizer on Amazon is one such example. Google’s Trust and Safety team has been blocking tens of thousands of ads capitalizing on the coronavirus over the past six week and is restricting the purchase of keywords related to COVID-19 and pandemic, among other terms.

How can you use digital to connect consumers with brands during this pandemic?

Step 1. Listen

Moore uses a social listening tool that allows us to query a topic or string of topics to understand what is being said across multiple digital platforms. It captures sentiment, where the conversations are happening the most frequently (by geography and platform) and how this content is trending. This intelligence allows us to define how and where we can come into the conversation and add value for our clients – versus showing up as a disruptor. This step doesn’t have to be laborious or exhaustive; in fact, in a crisis, it should be a quick analysis that is distilled down to 2-3 observations or insights.

Why is this step key? There is a lot of noise surrounding the coronavirus (Sprinklr recorded nearly 20 million mentions of the virus were made on March 11. For context, mentions of the canceled NBA games were under 2 million mentions and of Trump were 4 million that same day). Brands must wade through this noise to clearly define their position – and offering – to the marketplace.

Listening also helps ensure that your brand isn’t tone deaf during this time. Consumers will remember and reward brands who demonstrate that they truly care about the circumstances surrounding COVID – and discredit those who don’t have a voice or choose to proceed with “marketing as usual.”

Insights gleaned from social listening should then be pressure-tested against the brand’s vision and mission. What is the brand’s altruistic opportunity and/or responsibility? Where is your target audience consuming digital content?

Finally, listening is a way to react quickly in a crisis and control the dialogue and message. It gives us data-centric intelligence around whether we should halt paid campaigns until the crisis passes.

Step 2. Research your audience.

Having an understanding of where your target audience(s) are consuming content will ensure you reach them at the right time and place. The eMarketer chart below from November 2019 depicts an uptick in digital content consumption and a decrease in more traditional media outlets of TV, print and radio.

Source: eMarketer

If we “double-click” into digital, it is digital video consumption that has grown the most, and at a much faster rate than social media content consumption. According to a recent study conducted by Comscore, digital video is 6x more impactful than any other creative, regardless of where it runs. In 2020, US adults will spend nearly twice as much time watching video on a computer, mobile device or connected device as they do on social networks. Just three years ago, the difference between digital video and social network time was much more narrow than it is today (54.6 minutes on social vs. 108.1 minutes with digital video).

Step 3. Craft the right message.

What can and should the brand say and do to demonstrate impact? Digital content can be generally categorized into two buckets – entertainment or informative. Either way, the content should tell a story. Billboard is providing entertainment content to consumers online: aggregating and publicizing online concerts. They recognize the power of music to ease stress.

The National Park Service used a recent close call “in real life” between a journalist and a bison to publish an infographic about safe distancing practices with wild animals. The teaser content on Twitter was entertaining – and drove to a more informative page about seven best practices to keep in mind.

What the brand says and does should be consistent across all channels – and ladder up to the overall mission and vision.

The opportunity is to bring consumers a “silver lining” to the gaps physical distancing has created – to innovate, inspire, motivate and engage. The responsibility is to use digital to connect consumers looking to make a difference with brands and individuals on the front lines of this pandemic.

Brands of opportunity are serving up relevant, useful content to meet the uptick in search trends. With views of meditation videos increasing 57% on YouTube year over year, Goodful by Buzzfeed ranks first. Searches on the term “telecommuting” have reached an all-time high on Google and YouTube. Indeed.com ranks high in this category. Arryved allows you to purchase beer from afar, eliminating the barrier between the craft beer lover and their next keg. And Corepower Yoga is offering free classes to non-members.

Brands of responsibility include this company which uses an online screening tool to assess the health of the visitor and issue digital doctors notes, to encourage stay at home practices. Early on in this outbreak, ZOOM offered free access to all K-12 educators across the country. GoFundMe’s “Frontline Responders Fund” is helping connect concerned citizens with crowdfunded PPEs and other life-saving equipment (currently at $4.8M raised).

It’s important to remember that digital tactics and strategies should be part of a bigger marketing strategy where all channels are considered and firing. These channels span paid, owned and earned environments and should include media relations tactics, influencer marketing, branding, email marketing and web. In a recent study by Comscore, an integrated campaign generates 36% more impact than if each channel ran solo or distinctly from the others. While this should not be surprising, it is incredible how many brands miss the mark on true integration of both media and message.

To learn more about how Moore can help your company approach marketing during or after a crisis, please email D’ArcyT@themooreagency.com.