At the end of 2019, Burger King claimed that they had been hiding a Big Mac behind every Whopper they photographed that year to prove that their Whopper quite obviously outsizes McDonald's burger. But when the pandemic hit, they shared a touching post, "Getting a Whopper is always best, but ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing".
McDonald's and Burger King have long been archenemies in the fast-food industry. After having trolled McDonald’s for several years, the United Kingdom arm of Burger King encouraged their customers to order from their closest rivals, including McDonald’s. While the social media posts won millions of hearts, they also demonstrated a shift in the marketing landscape. We saw businesses coming together and extending a helping hand to their customers instead of engaging in their usual banter with rivals.
As businesses shift from survival to recovery mode, content marketing is adopting pre-existing trends that may reshape how the markets operate in the future. Everything that we have learned about critical marketing for decades has to be reevaluated in light of this sudden change. The period of pestilence, isolation and economic uncertainty has impacted consumer behaviour. Businesses will bear Covid’s imprint, but the ones that will thrive are those vigorously preparing to meet new demands with the right content.
The most crucial factor that businesses need to understand is the existence of opportunities regardless of industry, and content marketers are only limited by their own creativity.
As content marketing teams create strategies for this year and beyond, let us see how marketing will be redefined in light of a global pandemic and the new set of rules that we must abide by:
Transparency in the content will produce loyal customers
Customers know that there is no such thing as a perfect brand. They are not looking for shiny content but are expecting transparent content regarding services and products. This means no hidden agenda, clickbait or indirect sales pitch. Users are getting better at discerning not just the content but also the motives behind it. In order to create a transparent strategy, businesses must consider their offerings and answer their consumers’ questions or address the information that may help build a long-term relationship. It is also good to consider the channels they may use to communicate transparency.
Back in 2013, Buffer made their company salaries public in line with their default to transparency value. In doing so, they declared war on the need-to-know attitude of doing business and set the standards high for their competitors and other influential brands. During the pandemic, when most competitors were severely affected, Buffer was making more profit than ever. They used their content channels to release a detailed report outlining their finances, team and customer impact. They also shared their plan to continue helping other small businesses in light of this situation with the extra profit margin. Instead of hiding their position of privilege, they chose to honestly communicate it, making them stand out in the process, as usual.
Authenticity in marketing messages is crucial today and must be a part of one’s content strategy.
Refining the content with empathy
The best time to show empathy is when people feel most vulnerable. The testing times of the pandemic have brought forth a deeper sense of empathy that goes beyond kin. People have stood for each other crossing partisan lines, building bridges within communities to unify against an invisible force. People now want to be invested in businesses that focus on their subscribers and their emotional wellbeing.
RepairSmith announced that it would donate $100,000 towards free-of-cost 'No-Contact Car Repair' to the worst-hit communities such as frontline workers due to the pandemic. Through the programme, individuals received up to $500 in car repair and maintenance services. They hired more technicians to service cars at homes, creating job opportunities for the needy. They also allowed sick or symptomatic employees to take unlimited paid sick leave.
RepairSmith CEO Joel Milne said, "Amidst uncertain economic times, we believe that relieving the heroes and victims of this pandemic of a financial burden is the right thing to do. A crisis like this is an opportunity for us to support everyone on the frontlines who is working to keep the community safe and healthy".
RepairSmith demonstrated that empathetic content marketing, which may seem like a loss at first, echoes with customers in the long run. In an increasingly uncertain world, businesses may choose to show their human side by delivering personalised, empathetic experiences across every touchpoint.
Meet the consumers where they are
Businesses may stick to a specific platform to share their content based on conventional research and wisdom. With the pandemic, people have turned their attention to wider channels than usual. Since the pandemic has limited people's connection with exclusively offline businesses, this may be the right time to draft a content strategy for online platforms.
Due to the travel ban when the tourism industry was reeling in pain, museum websites saw unimaginable traffic numbers. The famed Musée du Louvre in Paris lost about €90 million after shutdowns, but it reported a tenfold increase in web traffic, as the visitors went from 40,000 to 400,000 per day. They seized this opportunity to revamp their online presence and created a new database of 482,000 items to sell online. Not just this, the museum is leaning heavily on retail and e-commerce. They teamed up with Uniqlo for a co-branded collection of products as part of a four-year licensing agreement and also inked a deal with tech accessory company Casetify, putting some of its most recognisable works of art, like the Mona Lisa, Venus and Liberty, on smartphone accessories.
As the media platforms used by consumers are changing quickly, content marketers should consider expanding to unconventional and new platforms for their own good.
Just-in-time personalised experience
Consumer expectations were already on the rise, but the pandemic accelerated them overnight in terms of digital experiences. As businesses try to outperform each other in providing products and services, a decisive factor will be offering consumers a personalised, just-in-time experience.
A good instance of personalisation is Hardgraft, a luxury lifestyle accessories brand with “down to earth aesthetics”. Their email marketing content touched the exemplary when they gave subscribers the option to pause emails about upcoming products. Even though they were launching new products, they chose to communicate that they were sensitive to reality and were thinking about their customers over selling products.
The concept of personalisation has been around in the content marketing world for some time. But the companies who are adept with data analytics and are willing to create just-in-time personalised experiences across the entire customer journey will outrun others.
Live out the brand values
For many businesses who were forced to stay put, this has been a rare chance to reflect on why they are in the business in the first place. The pandemic challenged customer loyalty while demonstrating what it means to support values-driven businesses. Though quality, convenience and price matter the most to consumers, factors like sustainability, ethical sourcing and social responsibility have also become decisive. Content marketing is an opportunity for businesses to continuously educate their customers about their brand values and how they are practising them.
Spectrum, a leading broadband connectivity company and cable operator serving more than 29 million customers, decided to offer families with students in K-12 free internet services for two months. The broadband company stayed true to its brand value of providing reliable access to online resources by helping students and their parents get an uninterrupted flow of online education during the pandemic. This was a welcome example of goodwill when a company chose to utilise their resources and services to give back to the community instead of taking advantage of generating more profit in desperate circumstances.
It is time for businesses to dust off meaningless mission statements, visions or brand purposes and evaluate their actions with renewed relevance in these changing times.
What does the future look like?
A shift from competitors to experiences
The awakening brought by the crisis has shifted the focus from competitors to the last customer experience. Creating these experiences also requires companies to place data and technology at the core of their marketing while listening to and sensing consumer demands and navigating accordingly. The pandemic has compelled consumers to change their habits, forcing businesses across sectors to rework their marketing approaches. Once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror, the biggest shift in content marketing will be defined by being transparent, practising empathy and meeting consumers where they are.
The oldest trick in the book may still be relevant
For many businesses, the status quo is not sustainable, and history will remember businesses that mirrored the new reality in the way they function and interact with customers. If there is one thing that has not changed since the 1880s, it is people wanting to read, view and engage with words and pictures that educate, entertain and inform. Today, these three goals are met through digital experiences that content marketers will need to leverage.
Some of the above old and new marketing truths embody the confluence of strategies, operations and technologies required to drive growth in a post-Covid-19 world. Embracing them represents the path to recovery and long-term success. For companies and marketers accustomed to the ways of the past, a period of adjustment is ahead. Yet even at this time of flux, we can find familiarity and confident footing in the most straightforward and most critical truth of all: we must prioritise the customer's perspective at present, in the future and beyond.