How Content Can Help Your Brand Keep Calm and Carry On—Virtually

In all likelihood, the coronavirus has turned your marketing strategy on its head, but agile thinking can help you get your bearings.
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Campbell's Chicken Soup Can

These are extraordinary times. We are being tested at home, at school and at work. New norms, new needs, new relationships and new experiences are quickly emerging. “Virtual” appears to be the word of 2020.

It’s particularly striking how information clutter has prevented the accurate sharing of facts about the coronavirus pandemic. The media world spends a lot of time commenting and analyzing but not consistently delivering the facts, exposing much confusion between the local, national and global stories.

The United States’ decentralized approach to government is a mirror of the siloed nature of how some businesses operate. The result? Confusion and inefficiency in the overall response. The U.S. government and the states certainly need a more cohesive content strategy.

Our Road Ahead

As marketers emerge from the initial shock of the pandemic’s effect on their work and lives, begin to make tactical plans for the short term and prepare for the uncertainty of the near and long term, content teams will be tested mightily because of the need to adapt and change (perhaps often).

“New customer journeys
are being drawn in real time.”

In fact, content maturity models have really missed out on this variable—the ability to adapt to dramatic changes in customer needs, their journey with the brand and massive changes in supply chains.

Here’s how Manifest would have defined strategic leadership in the content category before the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Content is a key differentiator from competitors and a core competency for the business.
  • The customer journey has been mastered and is widely understood across product, brand, channels and content teams.
  • The company has visibility into how content has a business impact and is increasingly personalized.
  • Leaders have mastered how to develop various content types and optimize delivery by segment and individual.
  • The organizational structure has an audience-led dimension.

Your customers’ needs were just rapidly reprioritized, as safety and security come to the forefront. Customers will seek out comfort, want to be reassured and will stick with their familiar brands. Think Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. What’s more, other needs will get a boost, like togetherness and connection, freedom and release, and discernment and wisdom.

In effect, new customer journeys are being drawn in real time, with functional and emotional needs reprioritized, and with a concentration in digital and virtual channels. This rapid change in journeys creates opportunity and risk. Agile companies will no doubt gain advantage compared with companies that stand on the sidelines and wait for normalcy to return.

Here’s a roadmap for how to think and act starting now:

  • Reimagine your customer journey maps with a clear understanding of the needs that must be met and the questions that must be answered. Google insights, social channels and your customer service channels will be good inputs.
  • Overlay your content assets across these new journeys and identify gaps where new content is needed.
  • Develop content fast and atomize it so the content can be adapted to each channel where you interact with your audience. Share the content across your company to ensure consistency in message and to reduce duplication of effort.
  • Ensure your measurement and content creation teams operate as one to allow for rapid learning and adoption of what’s working and for determining what needs to change.
  • Don’t be overly concerned about production quality. Do worry about clarity of communications and the basics. Spell it out, speak slowly and repeat. Imagine you are talking to customers in their second language, because we are all rather distracted.

Are You Up to the Challenge?

As with any crisis, there will be winners and losers. Some brands will be well-positioned for the situation, and some won’t.

The question for the losers will be whether to reposition their brands (which costs and isn’t easy) or react in some other way—for instance, focus on a particular side of the business, focus elsewhere in the portfolio or launch a new brand or sub-brand.

The winners are likely to put all legacy thinking to the side and show a complete understanding of what content drives engagement and action now, and then use that as a critical input into the direction their brands should follow.

 

If you need or want some help, or a sounding board for your ideas, as you reinvent your content strategy at record speed—or you just want to talk shop, please email david.brown@manifest.com.

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