How to make a difference during a disaster – the Advertising Perspective
09 April, 2020
Humans often face disasters be it earthquakes or forest-fires to war with countries or even microbes. Here we sift through the advertising that has been going on in the media.
Media broadcasts have always helped to propagate information and save lives through timely interactions. This has gotten more convenient after the advent of digital communication. Critical updates on safe escape routes, location of relief centres, the dos and don’ts, and tracking stranded people and others have gotten easier. Now, when media channels are using their resources for these, marketers face a dilemma - to advertise or brand or stay mum! We explore more in this blog.
REMEMBER, “CONTENT IS KING”
The quickest way to understand what content to put out there is by understanding what the people are going through. Imagine being at the epi-centre when the disaster strikes. There is going to be chaos and panic, a need to protect oneself. Look for ways how the brands can value add to the people.
- The last thing that your ‘customers’ need to endure is a long compulsory government update on the disaster. Nothing affects a brand image more. In that 30-75 seconds, your brand can potentially lose more customers.
- Sales and offers are a big no-no. When Hurricane Sandy struck, American Apparel made the bold choices of opening the store and having their sale on. Their ads read - “In case you’re bored during the storm, 20 per cent off everything for the next 36 hours”. The spokesperson confirmed that it was to only mitigate the loss.
- - Use humour with care. A retail brand had used twitter to promote “Prices that you blow you away” after the Sandy hurricane or Starbuck’s “Collapse is Cool” right after 9/11 attack did not sit well with any audience.
CONTEXT! CONTEXT! CONTEXT!
Keep in mind that even the best of efforts goes in vain when there is no empathy. Empathy sets the context, especially during difficult times. Here are how marketers brand intelligently during catastrophes.
- Make use of long-form or informative content.
Target’s article on crisis management community centres when Hurricane Sandy hit the USA was timely. It included a supply checklist and tips that one needs to follow. The brand provided meaningful information at the right time building brand experience for the consumers.
As the recovery-period set-in, INC.com started talking about how to disaster-proof a business.
Multiple brands came with credible and useful information to mitigate the situation.
NBC's planned launch of their OTT platform Peacock with the telecast of Olympics. In Peacock, unlike Netflix or Disney, ads would have been streamed too.
- Re-purpose existing your content. A talk that your brand had created and shared before on managing stress for PTSD adds value if it is modified to the context and shared now.
It is important to be flexible. Understand where people are, in terms of channels of marketing, mental, emotional and physical state. This groundwork is essential to create and to understand how to add value. Perhaps an FMCG making more essentially available in the disaster zone would be more valuable than having a checklist, but a brand doing both wins.
Being prepared for these contingencies would work in marketing too. It is prudent to assess the geographic area for the possibilities of calamities. Have the resources prepared to act fast in case of crisis. Be watchful of the advertisement campaigns that are on-going and try to geo-fence them from the affected area. Re-look your digital media calendar to make relevant changes and be current.
These kinds of information can go well into recovery phrase, where conversations, thought-leadership articles can be published. To curate an experience, brands often give away some of their products for free, or the brands try to position themselves in the memory of survivors – making them stick around for a long time! Brand with empathy can always power through any crisis.