Business As Usual Is Dead

March 20, 2020

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We are living in unprecedented times that challenge even the basic assumptions about how the world operates and how we should live. People are having to learn how to connect with each other virtually and keep some semblance of normalcy to their work and life. There is no doubt in my mind that this pandemic will change how people think, feel and behave in the same way the Depression, world wars, 9/11 and even the last recession changed our norms.

If you think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that include psychological, safety and emotional needs as a foundation, the current crisis must be having some impact on how we are prioritizing our own self-interest compared to other needs such as social and esteem needs that impact what we might desire or purchase.
As I watch the news or read online, I am shocked by how many advertisers have not changed their marketing already in the wake of this new world reality. For some marketers, they should be pulling all of their advertising. For others, now is the time to market items that people need to work and live at home for a longer duration. I kept seeing E*Trade ads over the last few days thinking why would anyone want to open a new account after they lost 30% of their investments in the market, or car commercials if no one is going out of their house?

There is a theory in marketing that a consumer’s aperture is open to listening and considering a message at only certain times. The very definition of “aperture” is an opening or hole, and in a camera, it is an opening of the lens to allow a certain amount of light into the exposure. What is a person’s aperture for buying during a worldwide pandemic? Are they even seeing or hearing your current message?

I am sure health and safety rise to the top of the hierarchy, alongside basic human survival needs like food, shelter, and in this day and age – Netflix and a fast internet connection. Their aperture for buying a car, a house or any other large purchases may be closed due to the economic uncertainty we are experiencing. On the flip side, consumers may be wanting to purchase items that make the quarantine more bearable like items for entertainment (games, movies, etc), for better connections like video cameras, productivity software/apps or printers for work. With millions of people working from home, there is a captive audience who is looking for distractions or things to keep them motivated and connected.

The bottom line for marketers is that this is no time for “business as usual.” You do not have to take advantage of the situation, but you cannot ignore it. Your communications must acknowledge what your customers are feeling and help meet their changing needs and perspectives. The companies and brands that demonstrate empathy for their consumers are more likely to come out of this crisis with stronger connections that those that choose to ignore it with messages that were created before this pandemic. So if you have not asked your customers about how they are feeling, there is no time like the present to begin. Everyone has time to fill out an online survey or answer a poll right now. Do it now and you will be better prepared than marketers who are running their business as usual.