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Adapting Creative for Times of Crisis


Excerpted from the Queen B's story in the current issue of DMAW AdVents ...

Back in February (doesn't that seem like a lifetime ago?) Time magazine wrote that the coronavirus had become "The World's Largest Work-From-Home Experiment." That was weeks before any U.S. state had issued a stay-at-home order. Much has been made about our nearly instantaneous remote workforce. But, what does this "new normal" mean for marketers?

Many of us are asking ourselves timely questions. How do we stay relevant during a pandemic? How do we create a sense of urgency about our organization when there are clearly more urgent issues on everyone's mind? Are we better off waiting until the current crisis abates? Or can we use our creative — albeit carefully — to build stronger relationships?

Regardless of what you're selling — a product, solution, or worthy cause — emotion is one of the most effective tools at your disposal. Of course, this is particularly true for nonprofits. But, in the creative we do for all clients, even for fairly technical B2B solutions, we always strive to blend promotion (a free trial, a discount, a value-add) and emotion (how the solution will benefit you, personally or professionally). Appealing to emotion is key to getting a response and inspiring lasting loyalty.

And emotions are certainly running high.

That said, regardless of your industry, it would be a mistake to generate creative that takes advantage of "FUD," fear, uncertainty, and doubt. There is more than enough of that in our daily lives. Right now, marketing creative must acknowledge current events but not appear to use them in an exploitive way. A respectful copy tone — even if your brand personality is typically more casual, light-hearted, or youth-oriented — is especially important.

Ask yourself whether what you have to say matters. Not six months ago or six months from now, but in the present, which is anything but ordinary.

If you have ongoing campaigns, you're going to want to review them and make sure your creative doesn't strike a false note. For example, you may want to pull back on the urgency of calls-to-action. "Act now!" "Don't wait!" or "Don't miss this opportunity!" may sound disingenuous when your customers have more important things on their mind. If you position your offer with the tried-and-true verbiage "There's never been a better time," your customer may be tempted to correct you. Let's face it, there have certainly been better times.

Some common marketing jargon could get you into trouble as well. You certainly don't want to promote content that's "gone viral," or humor that's "infectious," or a "killer offer." Any dark comedy is better saved for another day — we once created custom cartoons that depicted a network manager's demise because he didn't purchase the right security solution. Arguably funny at the time (and quite effective), we certainly wouldn't recommend it right now.

I'm not suggesting you stop marketing. Just make sure the marketing is relevant.And, not tone-deaf.

And, you can do that no matter what industry you're in.


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