With COVID-19, January 2020 witnessed the onset of a crisis the world had never seen before. Offline operations came to a grinding halt because the pandemic triggered a global lockdown and forced everyone, individuals and businesses alike, to stay home. People all over the globe turned to their devices for work, news, entertainment, and education. Screentime soared through the roof, surging up to nearly 7 hours a day post-April 2020 (a spike of 25%).
Brands had to scramble to get their affairs in order. They could no longer rely on traditional channels to grow their business; they had to embrace digital transformation. They had to recalibrate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to align with the online-first approach and had to find new ways to connect with audiences to stay relevant.
The answer? Content marketing.
Pre-pandemic content marketing trends show that 86% of B2C companies adopted this form of marketing as part of their overall strategy, while 91% of B2B businesses were already leveraging content marketing to boost business outcomes. Revenues from content marketing are poised to reach $137.2 million by 2026 growing at a healthy 16.2% CAGR, no doubt catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Importance of Content Marketing During a Crisis
It is vital, then, to look at why it’s important to incorporate content into your marketing efforts during times of crisis. Here are a few reasons:
With the world is practicing social distancing, it was time to make a digital splash and to make your presence felt online. And by that, we mean upping your SEO game. As many as 60% of marketers feel that inbound is their best quality source of leads. This essentially means traffic that they get via SEO and their content efforts.
Travel restrictions have led to a spurt in ‘near me’ searches as people are afraid to venture out and look to find stuff in their vicinity. This is why it’s imperative to keep your Google My Business listing up-to-date as well as be active on other hyperlocal discovery platforms. Your content should bolster your ranking on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) for your target keywords and help you pop up during relevant online discussions.
In times of uncertainty, be the voice of reason. Show domain authority through your content. Your audience is seeking solutions to their pain points during a crisis, and the onus is on you to give prompt answers and be a beacon of light, in general. About 50% of B2B marketers say that thought leadership helps customers trust their organization, and among actual consumers, this number is almost 83%.
If consumers remember you guiding them out of a difficult spot or lending clarity in any way, they will flock to you when the crisis is over as well. Helpful content goes a long way in positioning yourself as a ‘good guy,’ and the goodwill trumps everything else.
Real-time information and updates
During a crisis, oversharing of information and over-communicating can be a good thing. This is especially true in the times of social media, where you must be available round-the-clock to address customer queries or announce any feature updates. Focus on providing important information ASAP because your competitors are just a click away.
A certain marketing study found that 76% of brands said that real-time marketing increased audience engagement and 56% felt it also led to higher customer satisfaction and positive brand sentiment.
If you’re a food brand, make it abundantly clear if you deliver on Sundays. If you run a SaaS service, have a chatbot talk to customers and answer basic questions before handing them over to a support agent. Timeliness is everything during a crisis.
How Content Marketing Supercharges Brand Loyalty and Customer Retention
Content marketing trends show that visuals can boost brand recall to a mammoth 65% as opposed to just 10% in 3 days for pure textual content. It is common knowledge that it’s five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one. This metric becomes all the more important during a crisis – as loyal customers can be your evangelists during a tough time. Content marketing can help you retain these bottom-of-the-funnel customers. A good example is an outdoor-gear company REI, which has painstakingly created a huge repository of utility content and how-to guides (over 500 resources). They aim to become the Khan Academy or Lynda.com for all things outdoors. Their commitment to being the best teacher and the go-to place for online education is reaping the rewards via increased sales of their tents, backpacks, mountain bikes, and other hiking equipment.
Content marketing can also enhance brand perception. If your brand image was that of a money-hungry corporate, a thoughtful content campaign could change all that steadily. Take the case of Ford; the American automaker launched an ad campaign to offer assistance to customers whose lives had been disrupted by the pandemic. It stopped promoting its vehicles and shifted completely to service-oriented content, thus making an impression in people’s minds as an empathetic brand, full of integrity and values. Take a look at their 30-second ads here and here.
How Brands Leveraged Content Marketing To their Advantage During the Pandemic
The year 2020 saw brands come up with innovative content marketing campaigns to catch the attention of the masses.
- Nike: Nike made full use of the lockdown to craft a campaign around making the most of your time indoors. It opened up access to its flagship Nike Training Club app. The free subscription enabled users to watch workout videos and fitness advice from certified trainers. It also had a dedicated page to share its commitment and initiatives in tackling the crisis. This move paid off handsomely, enhancing Nike’s street cred and reputation.
- IKEA: IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, delivered a content marketing masterclass with its beautiful #StayHome campaign that urged people to reconnect with their homes in the backdrop of large-scale mobility constraints. The 30-second video was not just a brazen product placement but instead tapped into the public sentiment and made people fall in love with their homes again. It was a clever tactic that added value to people’s lives without coming across as opportunistic and commercial.
Also, IKEA Russia released a slew of ads that helped people to get creative at home with their products. They gave out instructional ads on recreating playhouses from childhood using IKEA products and easy-to-follow instruction.
- Other honorable mentions:
- Netflix kickstarted an Instagram series titled “Wanna Talk About It?” to promote self-care and mental well-being during the pandemic.
- Harvard University created a ton of online video lessons on ‘Mechanical Ventilators’ to equip frontline medical workers with the tools and knowledge for dealing with COVID-infected patients.
- The Metropolitan Art Museum gave free access to its library of over 1600 art books to give people an outlet for creative expression and spend home quarantine-time fruitfully.
Content Marketing – Things To Watch Out For During A Crisis
- Focus on educational content: The pandemic has resulted in ‘work from home’ searches skyrocketing by 300%! This means you need to figure out lucrative search terms and craft evergreen educational content around it. Headspace did it brilliantly, using their Instagram page to educate followers on the correct hand-washing techniques while also plugging in their service subtly.
- Keep communication lines open: Another thing that you shouldn’t forget is to give regular company updates via email and/or social media channels. During a period when businesses are shutting overnight, this can serve to reassure your customers that you are still alive and kicking. And thriving. Levi’s parent company nailed this to the letter.
- Avoid aggressive marketing: A crisis is a tough time where everyone’s main objective is survival. It would be totally inappropriate then, as a brand, to resort to pushy, in-your-face strategies. Ditch the hard sell, put yourself in the shoes of your customers, and do whatever you can to help them tide over the crisis.
- Don’t overshoot your budget: Funds can dry up swiftly during a crisis so frugality is the need of the hour. Watch your expenses and make sure you’re not splurging on low-ROI mediums. Viral, organic content is your friend in need.
Content is a delicate ballgame, one which you should play with extreme caution. Done right, it can unlock new opportunities and take your business to the next level. But even a small misstep can sound the death knell for your business. Hopefully, this guide can save you from business disaster and teach you a trick or two on how to utilize content marketing effectively during a crisis.