Panic or Prudence: Media Strategies for Your Post-Pandemic Future

By Bryan Noguchi

Many of us are now entering the second, third or fourth week of restrictions on our movements, and it is becoming ever clearer that overcoming this current global crisis will be a marathon, not a sprint. We wanted to take a moment to share some thinking around paid media strategies for the coming months.

“Potter isn’t selling he’s buying!  And why?  Because we’re panicking and he’s not.”

George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

 

Don’t panic.  Take the long view.

Be prudent and honest with yourself.  Unless your products or services are deemed personal or business necessities, it’s unlikely anyone is thinking about you right now.  I suspect that your response and lead-gen media programs are already experiencing sharp downturns, and it’s making less and less sense to chase actions and audiences that aren’t there at the moment. Dialing up spend on that front might even damage your brand image.  So, depending upon the type of business you are, unless you can fulfill customer expectations via delivery or virtually, or if your sales cycles are long (over 10 weeks) requiring minimal face to face interaction, while it kills me to counsel this as the director of paid media, I’d say suspend or significantly reduce your spend on DR (direct response) efforts for the next several weeks.  If you’re seeing a 90% downturn in response, spend proportionally and accordingly. This is not to say that you should halt your spend entirely – quite the opposite is true.

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

John Wanamaker

 

Hone your understanding of your media objectives – know the difference between your direct response spend, and your brand spend.

Even super sophisticated marketers have a hard time defending brand/awareness spending – it’s pretty hard to measure efficacy against awareness objectives compared to modern digital DR spends.  But here’s the kicker – funnel analogies are valid: nothing in at the top means nothing comes out at the bottom.  And today, you need to position yourself so that when things start to return to normal, people ARE thinking about you.  This means that you need to revise your thinking around what “hard working” media really is.  The simplest example I can give you is paid search – everyone thinks of this as low-funnel, DR, “click” based media.  But the reality is far more nuanced and wholly intuitive:  ask yourself, if you search for a company and it doesn’t come up, do you think it exists?  The implication here is that search, in addition to traffic driving, has a big role to play in your brand awareness efforts.  So whether you like it or not, odds are you’ve been engaged in some awareness activity already.  That’s just one channel – a lot of things contribute to awareness and perception.

This is an opportunity to sharpen your activities in this arena and to get comfortable with the idea that some of your media spend won’t have simple metrics like “cost-per___”; statements that we’ve come to associate with DR and digital and social media.  You’re playing the long game now, and you’re betting that investments made now, will pay off down-funnel when things calm down.

For now and for this portion of your media investment, you’ll want to focus on impression efficiency, target delivery and impact.

A few key items to note:

  • Be targeted – understand the universe you’re trying to reach: how many of them are there?  Where is the best place to find them?  What is the most efficient way to reach and connect with them?  How can I minimize wasted impressions?  Remember that your existing customers are only a part of a given universe, the question is are they 90% of that universe or 0.9% of it?  Your agency can help answer these and other questions.
  • Frequency matters. People need to remember you when the time comes – that doesn’t come from seeing one ad once, but from the totality of exposures and the consistency of what you’ve been saying.
  • Message matters. This is your upper funnel investment, so it’s not the place for “buy now” or “click here” and you won’t be judging performance off of direct sale or clicks.  This is about who you are and what you stand for and making sure that those ideas resonate with the people that see and interact with your ads and your brand.

“We are here!  We are here! We are here!”

Whoville, Horton Hears a Who

 

Craft your message.  Be the company you and your customers want you to be.

It’s not enough to simply proclaim your existence.  This is your moment to focus and step above the cacophony and to assure your audiences of your reliability, steadiness and purpose.  This is your opportunity to help your future customers imagine that brighter future (which WILL come) with you as their trusted partner.

What matters now is:

  • Transparency – how are you addressing this emergency?
  • Shared purpose and outcomes – what’s in it for your customers and you?
  • Making a positive impact – how will we stand out and be remembered?

One thing is certain – we should be re-evaluating all pre-Covid 19 messaging – times have officially changed, and we are here to help you with that.

“What good’s a reward if you ain’t around to use it?”

Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope.

 

Obviously, today job #1 is to make sure that you ARE here when things bounce back, and if it’s a question of survival or advertising, we’re here to tell you to focus on the former.

We’re also here to tell you that it’s not a hopeless moment to invest in your future, but that you have to be prepared for a different set of success metrics that drive to a different goal than what you might be used to.  And as long as you haven’t been out there hoarding toilet paper, hand sanitizer and ammo, we’re committed to partnering with you to plan that path.

Learn more about team and services at Ideas Collide.