Brand Planning in the Time of COVID

“This is ourselves. Under pressure.” – Queen and David Bowie

These days, going to the grocery store requires nearly as much logistical foresight as planning a summer vacation, a now deferred pleasure.     

Indeed, the traditional travel sales funnel – the one that begins with inspiration-seeking and ends with advocacy-building – is fast becoming obsolete. Ah, how we miss being cyber-stalked with HTML5 banners, beckoning us to relax on sandy beaches or meander through quaint small towns.

Despite the shut-down of life and the tourism industry we should not be placing our travel marketing efforts entirely on hold.  Instead, this is the time to be planning relaunch messaging to ultimately be executed, when appropriate, with a new highly relevant brand voice.

Day after day, we speak to DMO’s scaling back marketing budgets and suspending advertising campaigns.  Curtailing investment makes sound business sense in the short term.  Creating future communications that align brands with the emotions of our current collective consciousness is a strategic imperative. 

One undisputed outcome of this pandemic is the new honest emotional vocabulary we employ.  We name our feelings.  Mightily.  We try to channel them constructively.  More than anything, we try to make sense of them.

 We find ourselves communicating in the new era of emotional consciousness.  Marketers have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the dialogue.

  • Brands that inspire us to do good get noticed.  Oregon’s “Don’t Accidentally Kill Someone,” is an example. 
  • Brands that implicitly acknowledge the value of staying safe also feel just right.  Lincoln’s “Sanctuary” campaign is noticeable simply because of its timing. 
  • And kindness, like Purell, seems to be in high demand.  CBS News reporter Steve Hartman conducted a Kindness 101 course online.  Standing ovations for health care workers appear on the nightly news and daily social media feeds.

There is a fresh Crayola crayon pack of emotions that warrant exploration by brands.  This is why brand planning in the time of COVID makes good sense. It will connect the marketplace to products, services and experiences that acknowledge our collective desire to be lifted up.

Rising from the ashes, defiance, gratitude, and joy are among the deeply powerful feelings brands can consider. Planning how your organization most authentically connects with new consumer emotional requirements must happen now in preparation for a time when pent-up consumer demand is released. 

When the cloud of COVID-19 passes, competition in the travel-tourism and hospitality space will be fierce. Every destination will flood every marketing channel with “We’re Open” messaging and desperate discounting.  The brands that stand out above others will be those speaking with an inspiring voice.

About Julie Garel

Julie is Chief Curiosity Officer of Pratt Street Communications
Categories: Advertising, Brand Management, Market Research, Marketing

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