As society navigates the global crisis, staying informed is crucial. But staying connected is just as vital to peoples' wellbeing during physical and social isolation as people remain home to stay safe and flatten the curve. More than any one leader or single organization, brands have the opportunity—and the responsibility—to help keep people connected and comforted amid this crisis.
The brands we trust and love are so deeply integrated into our lives—through the products we buy and our shared values—that their presence during trying times offers steadfast assurance that we are all in this together. Through continued advertising in moments of adversity, brands can grow exponential share of heart and mind, and ultimately share of market.
People don't want brands to be silent. An Ipsos COVID-19 survey, conducted March 26-28, revealed 9 out of 10 U.S. adults believe "it is completely acceptable for brands and companies to communicate at this time." Sustaining advertising in times of crisis continues a brand's dialogue with consumers and offers consistency and reassurance, while also presenting a tremendous opportunity to build voice and influence. Even in more typical times, pausing communication quickly leads to brand erosion. Just 72 hours after a campaign, ad recognition (-28%), brand awareness (-18%) and intent to purchase (-8%) begin to dissipate.
Now is the time for brands to future-proof their relationship with consumers by investing strategically in innovation, production AND marketing. A Harvard Business Review study across 4,700 public companies looked at strategy selection and corporate performance during past three global recessions. Only 9% of the sample flourished after the slowdown, outperforming competitors by more than 10% in sales and profit growth. Winning companies stayed close to their customers' needs, implemented defensive strategies such as improved operational efficiency and offensive strategies, including a focus on R&D, enhanced production AND consistently strong investments in marketing.
P&G—the gold standard of advertisers—is doing just that. While the company is experiencing 5% organic growth as a result of the frenzy to buy household products, they confirmed they are increasing advertising spend to protect their share of mind as consumers experience a variety of competitor brands. Instead of sitting back and riding the wave, they are embracing their role as a trust mark to ensure their voice continues to resonate and their presence is felt during the crisis.
But still, many advertisers are pondering: Is it worth the investment if consumption patterns have changed? Do people even want to hear commercial messages? Should we be part of the conversation? The answer is an emphatic yes.
The real questions are 'how best to reach audiences' and 'what should our communications strategy be.'
As always, and especially in times of crisis, people turn to audio to connect through shared experience, for the comfort of community, and to celebrate the human spirit. In particular, live, local radio is inextricably linked to the communities it serves, rooted in a unique ability to tap into culture in real time and to reflect what matters most to audiences. People listen to local radio, and radio also listens back. That's what makes audio content very real and powerful: it is a two-way, trusted relationship. So now, as advertisers are trying to support their business, communicate their purpose, and define their voice during the crisis, there is no better platform – no more trusted partner – than audio, to help them connect intimately, meaningfully and with empathy.
Edelman's global Trust Barometer underscores this truth. The study points to the importance of intangible values, especially in times of crisis. 71% of participants responded that they will lose trust in a brand forever if they perceive that it is putting profit over people. Now is the time to implement a purpose driven brand strategy: 84% of participants said they want advertising to focus on how brands help people cope with pandemic-related life challenges.
Brand equity is at stake, reputation matters. While investing in advertising at this moment presents a unique opportunity for accelerated long-term growth, brands simply cannot pretend it's business as usual. Now is the time for brands to be human and sensitive to the challenges that consumers are facing. Finding the right balance of brand, product and community message in the right tone and voice is critical.
It is clear that brands can't remain silent. Their voices matter to consumers, to communities and to their own business. There's no question that the power of audio is what every advertiser should be investing in right now.
Myers calls audio a top 5 marketing growth category for this decade, fueled by digital and podcasting ad spend boom. In fact, the Myer's Report forecasts audio spending to grow 24% in the next five years—while linear TV is forecasted to decline at 6.7% annually. These projections underscore the tremendous opportunity audio presents to brands as the medium with strong reach, deep engagement and demonstrative ROI.
Audio can help brands tap into the nuances of experiences unfolding in communities around the country. Audio can communicate purpose in times that call for empathy and a human voice. Audio can respond nimbly and shift messaging as consumer sentiment evolves. Audio creative can be built quickly and cost effectively and optimized in real time; even amid the logistical challenges we all face.
Our advice to our partners during this time is to:
Gradually, "during" the crisis will become "after." For those brands rising to the moment, communicating with purpose and with the right media partner, advertising can ensure their brand endures in a trusted, relevant context today and beyond.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.