This year has turned everything in business – and life – as we knew it upside down. So, did it do the same to advertising best practices? This is a good question, and one which many clients are asking. So, how should you handle marketing in a pandemic? It’s not just the rules that have changed; it’s the entire game. Here’s our take on how to adjust your strategy and, more specifically, your ad messaging right now and into the future.
If there’s one thing we’re big fans of, it’s honesty. You’ll never go wrong speaking the truth in business, in relationships or in your ads. There are even plenty of regulations around that last one (brought to you by the FCC). But how does this relate to the pandemic? Well, there’s a temptation to attract customers by over-promising right now (ahem, fudging the truth).
Imagine you run a yoga studio, and you want to help your members exercise and find some joy during this tough time. So you advertise a “free three-day workshop,” failing to disclose that only the first day is truly free. This is problematic, and would be considered false advertising. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by being honest in your ad about the pricing. Rephrasing it as a “three-day workshop, with the first day free” is clear, truthful – and still appealing.
While honesty is always number one, you don’t have to spill your guts in your ad copy. In fact, some of the best ads come in the form of just a few simple words. So, how does that translate to this current season of life? First, consider the goal of your ad. Next, think about what’s absolutely essential to convey in order to achieve that goal. Then, include only that.
For example, let’s say you want to advertise a limited-time discount for your swim school’s beginner lessons during the months of November and December. Your goal is to get parents to sign up, so the essential message should include “beginner swim lessons,” what the discount is (and its time frame) and where they can go to sign up. Your COVID-19 precautions and safety measures are not an absolutely crucial part of that message, so therefore don’t need to be included in your ad copy.
If you anticipate parents will be worried about safety, which is likely to be the case, you can put a small asterisk at the bottom of the ad, saying something like, “Check out our website to see how we’re keeping our swimmers safe.” But including more detail than that will only bog down your ad and possibly cause viewers to miss the heart of your message.
In normal times, we’re all for humor, sarcasm and even borderline inappropriate humor. But this year has been tough. We’re not saying to lose your sense of humor (because we need that more than ever), but we are saying to be more careful than normal about how certain words and images may be perceived. People have lost jobs, businesses and lives from the pandemic, and your ad messaging needs to steer clear of any verbiage that may make light of that (or trigger emotional responses).
For instance, avoid using words like “killer” when referring to a discount/deal and piggybacking off virus-related phrases (e.g. “our rates are so low, they’re bound to be contagious”). Instead, keep things supportive and value-centric. Also be aware that many people are, frankly, tired of everything this year being focused on COVID-19. So if you don’t need to reference it in your ads, don’t! It might be a breath of fresh air for those viewing it.
Marketing in a pandemic certainly brings about new challenges, but keeping your ad messaging honest, succinct and mindful will help you navigate this time with grace. Need help with your advertising? We’re here for you; just give us a call.