If you want to study somebody’s beliefs and perceptions, study their behavior, especially when they are alone. Despite moments of despair and fear during this unique moment in history, I find myself incredibly inspired by how this experience offers an opportunity to understand human behavior in ways we never have before. Social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, provide a rare – some may say, once in a lifetime – unobstructed portal into the human experience. An opportunity for marketers to acquire a higher level of customer loyalty and advocacy than ever before. For example, what content do customers like to watch when they have no distractions? How do they engage in personal relationships when no demands are pulling them away? What do they want to eat when their regular workout routines are disrupted? How do their private personas differ from their public personas? How does isolation create visibility into the core of who your customers are? These points of view offer a look into a new Marketing paradigm.
Brands that can tap into and implement these insights into their Marketing strategies will come out of this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever. They will be the ones with a clear competitive advantage – the ability to transform the way they engage their audiences forever.
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Business as Usual Will Not Prevail
Everything today is about COVID. And the current conundrum among marketers is how do we communicate during this time? How do we connect? How do we balance the need to remain relevant and top of mind, while demonstrating compassion and empathy? Should we sell? Should we hold back? It’s a hard balance. Some are getting it right. Some are failing miserably.
Marketers, by their very nature, focus on the problems directly in front of them. Driven by economic demands, they utilize machine-based connections and historical data to inform reactive, immediate decision making. With a heavy reliance (or rather addiction to) machine-assisted audience collection platforms (the walled gardens of the world), marketers are often too focused on short-sighted gain. Short-sighted gain almost always comes at the sacrifice of genuinely understanding the causal relationship between the customer and the data.
The uniqueness of this pandemic is making machine gathered and historical data less actionable. Marketers are being forced to take a more holistic view of data and the humans behind the data, in real-time. Marketers are also being forced to think through multi-faceted Marketing strategies that address the needs of today, in ways that build long-lasting brand resonance tomorrow.
This means marketers will need to use human engagement, not machines, for collecting customer insights; take more proactive risks (in this less reactive climate) and do more things that connect directly with their customers.
It’s Time to Get Personal
Human nature dictates that people tend to only accept, believe and surrender to the thoughts and actions that are equal to their emotional state.
And right now, people want empathy. They are asking for it. According to Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer, 70% of consumers are seeking reassuring messages from the brands they trust, and 77% want guidance for navigating the “new normal.” Not surprisingly, social media consumption has skyrocketed 61%, but what is surprising is the content and tone of the conversations. They are becoming less superficial and getting more personal.
To communicate with consumers in today’s COVID landscape, marketers must focus on identifying their audience(s) current need states and understanding their emotional drivers.
Marketers have lots of historical online and offline behavioral data on their audiences. But now, thanks to captive content consumption brought on by COVID-19, marketers also have direct insight into how their audiences work, engage in content, and consume tangible or digital products while in isolation (or while practicing social distancing).
Mapping historical data with real-time behavioral trends of today gives marketers a more robust unified view of their audience(s). Marketers can then leverage this information to define distinct cohorts and build future-based predictive models, unlocking limitless opportunities for enhanced value exchange.
Tying Insights With Customer Need in Unprecedented Ways
The process illustrates a six-step blueprint for deriving customer intelligence signals in the current landscape.
1. Unify the View of Your Customer With Current/Historic Media Engagement Tied to Online and Offline Data Signals
Work with your agency or data partner to align what data you currently have in your arsenal. What online and offline data points can you see today? Are you able to combine and normalize this data, or is the data in silos? What media signals can you access? Do you have a DMP where you can unify this data against media signals?
Once you have a more unobstructed view into your dataset, run a correlation analysis to establish what data points are trending and align with the use cases most relevant to your brand.
2. Develop Cohorts by Matching a Brand’s First-Party Customer Data With Your Unified Customer View
This enrichment process can be done with your brand’s customer data platform, or with your agency/consulting partner in a data clean room. Use the correlation analysis gathered from step one to build your high-level cohorts. Refine these cohorts once first-party customer data is introduced.
3. Pass These Cohorts Through a Cognitive Resonance Filter to Develop Need-State Definitions
Establish a direction on how to define need states for your brand — a work back process that aligns brand positioning, creative and qualitative data. These needs states should then be validated in a quant methodology using context-based definitions from past media engagement.
4. Analyze White Space From the Derived Need States to Determine Opportunities to Provide Value
Where are there glaring opportunities that your brand has not yet considered? Is there an opportunity for rapid messaging and creative changes? Work with your internal creative teams to pull through these opportunities, insights, and recommendations.
5. Use Insights to Create Loyalty Triggers and Messaging Alignment
This is a data, creative and psychological intense process using the derived insights from step four to develop two to three loyalty triggers per cohort. Map your messaging to these cohorts. It will be essential to lead with empathy; weave in comfort, entertainment, and responsibility, and focus on a non-traditional value exchange for your audience(s) (less selling, more giving and helping).
6. Leverage Learnings and Gap Analysis to Build a Robust Post-COVID Marketing Strategy
How Will Brands Come out of This Pandemic?
COVID-19 has created uncertainty for marketers who rely too heavily on walled gardens to tap one-dimensional audience data. Marketers who use this pandemic as an opportunity to create a new, higher level of empathic value exchange and consciousness will be the ones to better connect with their customers today while preparing for the new normal of tomorrow.