The world has pressed pause on life as we know it. The COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping repercussions for businesses of every size, location and industry - including fashion and beauty marketing.
Label PR isn’t the only agency that has had to cancel or postpone events, influencer marketing projects and carefully curated content created weeks ago. Our industry has been hard hit and our fellow marketers are all in the same unsteady boat. A staggering 55 percent of the industry has reported cut budgets and reviews of retainers. Label PR is however leading the way in guiding our clients through the evolving minefield of social media and influencer marketing in this new world. While many have slowed down the pace, our team has tirelessly been researching, monitoring and using social listening tools to stay ahead of the game when it comes to consumer perceptions of brands and their reactions to COVID-19.
Here’s what we’ve found.
When business as usual becomes this unusual, take a breath. It’s OK to cancel your scheduled posts, shelve the incredible content that now doesn’t feel quite right and certainly it’s OK to not post anything until you’ve established your new strategy and tone.
There is no quick fix. With social distancing likely to be the new norm for months rather than weeks, and online being the most likely ‘storefront’ for many brands up to 2021, it’s clear at this stage that businesses will need to adapt their strategies to fit with the evolving situation and continue a long-lasting commitment to their communities across social media as well as their support base within the influencer world.
Unsurprisingly, if a brand can prioritise connecting with its community and enhance day-to-day life in self-isolation, that brand’s ability to commercially communicate via social and influencer marketing in the short and long term will be far simpler.
The lesson is that brands should tread carefully and aim to be part of the conversation and say something when there’s something to say. There have been numerous examples of poor taste, some accidental some not, in particular overusing designated coronavirus hashtags for trivial or mocking posts – but the one guiding rule of thumb for brands on social today should be to provide escape, comfort and expertise where they can. In short to prioritise people over product – and certainly over profit.
It’s a hard pill to swallow for businesses but in an industry where for the past decade we’ve heard that ‘content is king’, we now need to learn that polished posts mean nothing if users cannot connect with what’s being presented – we need to adapt and learn that from hereon in, authenticity and a human side to brands is what will shine through.
We’re in a sensitive situation and the best way to leave a lasting (good) impression is to be useful. Brands should consider how to solve real problems facing their customers. As social media audiences rise (up more than 70 percent across the UK over the past two weeks) it’s time for brands to grow their communities and take care of them – however they can. This is the only way to achieve long-term brand resonance that will last past this crisis.
A great example is our client Regatta Great Outdoors who quickly responded with downloadable colouring packs of hills, hiking trails and more for kids and adults. Taken from their SS20 campaign, the images made the perfect escape for their customers and followers dreaming of heading outdoors while practicing self-isolation. Delivered across social at record speed, the brand’s response shows that ready-made content can be re-purposed to entertain, inform and put people ahead of profit.
As the world recovers, it will be these brands that will retain their enlarged community.
This isn’t to say that brands who find themselves with thousands of new followers should take advantage. The majority of consumers are not open to being sold to at this time and so brands must not be perceived as being opportunistic. In this moment, cultivating genuine rapport and conversation is more important than click-throughs and swipe-ups.
As life slows down, consumer shopping habits are changing and the knock-on effect for brands, and in turn PR, social and marketing agencies, will be felt for many years to come.
A question did arise when Label PR canvased influencers we’ve worked with over a number of years – what content do your audience want to see? The answer was a surprising one.
Consumers are in favour of seeing content from influencers that reflects more than just self-isolation and coronavirus conversation. Users are looking for an escape. By no means should influencers and brands ignore the elephant in the room, but tactfully working together to present content which is reflective of a shared interest or goal is key. An influencer posting a rushed beauty product #ad post is not going to work for anyone but working with a skincare expert to show how to spend time on self-care and give yourself a relaxing facial is giving back and giving useful advice that will resonate with the community for more than a fleeting moment scrolling through Instagram.
While all content should be re-approved for purpose to ensure its complying with a brand’s new strategy of sensitivity in this new norm which we find ourselves, by no means should all promotional activity be pulled and left by the wayside. It is clear that consumers want to open their homes through social media to influencers and experts that can add something to their new realities in isolation. It’s now more about what influencers can add to everyday life in terms of expertise, tips and entertainment than the number of followers they have.
We do need to consider that consumer tolerance for being sold to has dwindled since the first lockdown measures began - but their appetite for genuine, comforting, useful advice from on-brand influencers is growing…Enter your marketing team – they’re now any brand’s first point of contact with their communities and customers. Treat them well.
We have surveyed our clients, social media reports, influencers and influencer management teams to collate a list of tips for handling the ever-changing industry landscape – get in touch to find out more about our guide to social media and influencer marketing best practice during the COVID-19 pandemic | firstname.lastname@example.org
Stay safe and well.