Sometimes in marketing, it isn’t about the sale—especially when we’re facing challenges as a global community. In times like these, brands have an opportunity to show up, offer help, and prove that they’re invested in their communities—not just their profit.
The truth is that every brand will be judged for their behavior during times of crisis, and no one wants to end up on the wrong side of history. This is why it’s important for you to revisit your brand strategy, consider what the core of your company is, and show up in a way that aligns with it.
The good news is that you don’t have to close up shop or completely abandon sales in the process. There is a time and a place for selling, but first you need to focus on meaningful ways to connect with people. When you focus on people and purpose in your marketing, you can always ensure you’re doing good business. Luckily, you can do this in both big and small ways.
How to Put People First (and Still Do Marketing)
If you’re not sure what your brand should be doing right now, here are some of the smartest ways to help people, along with some of our favorite real-life examples to inspire you.
1) Create content around your values.
Your Brand Heart is comprised of your purpose, vision, mission, and values. It’s the core of who you are, and what you believe in. (If you don’t know your heart, use our free workbook to articulate it.) Now is the time to walk the walk, not just talk the talk when it comes to your principles. Think of content ideas or initiatives that reflect your values in an authentic way.
Example: Value Our Partners is one of our core tenets, which we believe means helping them navigate their marketing in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. We published our best tips to be a smart and responsible marketer, which included some immediate steps brands should take. This was a simple way to let our partners know we’re here to support them during a confusing time.
2) Offer your product or service for free or a reduced cost.
This doesn’t mean you have to give everything away for free, but there are many ways to provide helpful support:
- Offer a discount or trial
- Send out product samples
- Ungate your content
These simple gestures are a meaningful way to help your community (and show you’re invested in them).
Example: Knowing kids and students would be homebound, Skillshare has provided a number of classes for free, and offered two-month access for students with a .edu or .k12 email address.
3) Create a digital experience.
Just because people can’t come to your store or show up to your event in person doesn’t mean they have to forego the experience entirely. There are plenty of ways to leverage technology to bring your brand into the digital space.
Example: The Spy Museum’s mission is to “educate the public about espionage and intelligence in an engaging way.” To continue this work, they have created digital tours of the museum, welcoming people to explore exhibits from the comfort of their homes.
4) Engage through social platforms.
Social media is the best place to maintain connections, joke, laugh, commiserate, and build connection, etc. Conduct polls, present challenges, solicit tips, show behind-the-scenes content. These are all ways to humanize your brand and remind people they’re not alone.
Example: The Getty asked their Twitter following to recreate famous works of art using objects they had at home. This was a simple and incredibly entertaining way to encourage people’s creativity.
We challenge you to recreate a work of art with objects (and people) in your home.
🥇 Choose your favorite artwork
🥈 Find three things lying around your house⠀
🥉 Recreate the artwork with those items
And share with us. pic.twitter.com/9BNq35HY2V
— Getty (@GettyMuseum) March 25, 2020
5) Host a virtual event.
When you can’t meet IRL, you can still meet online. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen major brands like Adobe, Salesforce, and Facebook turn their biggest conferences into virtual events, helping them maintain meaningful connections with their communities.
You can get especially creative in the digital space by recording remote video (here are 6 types of video to pre-produce) and engaging with attendees via live polls, Q&As, and more.
Example: For the Adobe Summit 2020, Adobe created a library of 140 videos, and made all content free to the public.
6) Donate your product, time, money, or energy.
Sure, you can’t give away your entire inventory, but making a meaningful donation is a great way to show up for your community. It doesn’t have to be big either. You can provide your services to a nonprofit doing important work, offer free 30-minute consultations, donate products, etc. There are all sorts of ways to get creative with this.
Example: Taco Bell has sent meals to frontline healthcare workers to show their support.
“You inspire us, and we’re deeply grateful for all that you do. On behalf of @tacobell and its franchisees, thank you.”
— Matt Prince (@Matt_Prince) April 2, 2020
Similarly, Lush cosmetics has offered 30-minute phone consultations to stay connected to their community.
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We miss seeing all your shining happy faces, and we guess it’s fair to say you missed us, too. 🧡 While our store locations remain temporarily closed to ensure safe social distancing, we still wanted to bring you those in-store benefits. We decided to create our very own over-the-phone, 30-minute consultations so we could chat with our Lushies. Wondering how you can add more hydration to tired tresses? Skin feeling a little dull? Or maybe you’re just looking to switch up your routine. Head to our link in bio to treat yourself to some human* interaction and book a consult with us today. *It still counts as human interaction, even if it’s over the phone. **Please note: This service is currently only available to customers in Canada and the United States. In addition, shop managers cannot answer questions about order status or delays.
7) Teach people something.
No matter your industry, you have some sort of valuable knowledge to share. People have nothing but time to learn right now, so create a tutorial, educate people about a topic, or show them a pro trick that will make their lives easier.
Example: To help people stay centered and calm during quarantine, Iris Telehealth (which offers telepsychiatry services) started offering virtual 30-minute guided meditations on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
8) Offer helpful services and solutions.
Every industry is facing its own unique challenges, and it’s likely that your team has some creative solutions—or knowledge—to help solve them. Whether you’re sharing a few quick tips to work more effectively or launching a new product/service to fill a need, focus on helping—not just selling.
Example: Customer experience platform BirdEye accelerated the release of its Interactions tool, which helps businesses and customers stay connected. They also offered a free 60-day subscription to businesses affected by the pandemic.
9) Share relevant information.
Our inboxes have been flooded with COVID-19-related announcements from brands, and we’re pretty sick of it. Many brands feel the need to over-communicate about their response, but they are only adding to the noise. Instead, only communicate if what you have to say will provide value to people in some way.
If you do plan to create news-centric content, make sure you are using credible, objective sources. For more tips, find out how to newsjack without being a jackass.
Example: The Calm app has used its Instagram to provide helpful tips to relax. By doing this, Calm is being of service to its followers and following through on its brand promise.
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Try this simple grounding exercise when you’re feeling overwhelmed by worry, lost in a spiral of negative thoughts or stuck in a painful memory.⠀ ⠀ Calm yourself by naming:⠀ 👁️ 5 things you can see⠀ 👂 4 things you can hear⠀ ✍️ 3 things you can feel⠀ 👃 2 things you can smell⠀ 👅 1 thing you can taste⠀ ⠀ 🔗 Link in bio for resources to use and to share.
10) Partner with someone.
There are a lot of people in your brand’s larger community who can provide unique guidance, insight, or support right now. This is a great time for your brand to reach out to experts, thought leaders, and other key figures to collaborate on content.
A Few More Things to Keep in Mind
No matter what type of content you create, what service you provide, or what way you show up, remember to put people first.
- Lead with empathy. Put yourself in your community’s shoes. What do they need to hear, know, or do to feel better? For inspiration, check out these great examples of empathetic marketing.
- Nurture your existing relationships. Instead of seeking out new people, take care of the people who are already in your sphere. Check in, provide support, and look for opportunities to engage in a natural way.
- Focus on value. Here are 7 ways to make sure your content will truly help.
- Communicate with optimism. We need people to lead with kindness, care, and hope. Cultivate that sense of calm by communicating positively at all times.
Things won’t always be this way. But one thing is for sure: People will remember how brands behaved. Make sure you showed up the right way.