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Compassionate Digital Marketing During Covid-19

Posted on: July 13, 2020

Blog Post by Dr Anna Tarabasz and Dr Tahir Rashid

We are all living through unprecedent times in which the role of digital marketing has changed significantly. When many businesses around the world are either still closed or reopening after lockdown, and health and safety of citizens is a paramount concern, organisations should be sensitive about the messages they communicate through the digital channels. A compassionate and empathetic approach to digital marketing needs to be taken. But first we need to understand how people have been consuming information and entertainment through the digital channels during Covid-19. This was the subject of discussion by expert panel in the second webinar on Engaging Digital Channels: Effective Toolkit in Times of Crises to celebrate the launch of our Book Digital and Social Media Marketing.


Covid 19 and its impact on digital media consumption

(Image Source: Visual Capitalist, 2020)

According to World Economic Forum (2020) and Global Web Index (2020)  Covid-19 significantly impacted media consumption across all generations. Lockdown and curfew imposed to flatten the curve significantly increased the percentage of people staying at home and therefore more willing to reach to online media channels. The study conducted in the UK and US in April 2020 shows certain patterns of repetitive behaviour. Visible shows that the propensity towards online video consumption is higher (by 51%) among Gen Z than before Covid-19. In comparison, Millennials consume not only more but as well a significantly bigger variety of digital channels, diversified across online videos (+46%), online video & streaming (+41%), followed by online press (+36%) and ex aequo (+35%) broadcast TV and music streaming. Boost is noted too in digital media consumption by Gen X, mainly broadcast TV (+45%), online TV/ streaming (+38%) and online videos (+35%). The least change was noted by the Baby Boomers, who noted double-digit growth in few media too (approx. 10-15%) with a visible peak only in broadcast TV (+45%).


(Image Source: Visual Capitalist, 2020)

With the visible shift towards “digital on-demand” entire businesses needed to change too. Not only because channels have changed, but as well due to the fact, that the most desired content needed to be revised Post initial hunger for looking for COVID-19 related updates and to search for mood uplifting content with the rise of digital channels such as TikTok as highlighted in the webinar by Hadeel Hmaidi, a digital content strategist. Moreover, quarantine internet activities seem to be quite similar despite the age group! Finally, users began searching not only for valuable content, but separated sources from those more trustworthy to less trustworthy ones.


Seeking out trustworthy sources

The study further showcased that apart from sources considered by default as credible (WHO website or government websites and newsletters) users were looking for other trustworthy inputs. They categorized as such news channels, websites and scientific articles. Surprisingly low credibility was observed for expert blog posts, social media and word-of-mouth from family and friends, which usually play an important role and are perceived as reliable.


(Image Source: Visual Capitalist, 2020)


Compassionate brands

Following the existing search pattern for specific content, brands needed to stay relevant. In the time of lockdown and a declining economy, with many struggling to make the ends meet, they could not speak the language of benefits, indulgence and self-fulfilment. At the same time to maintain a high level of brand awareness organisations redirected their efforts to CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility. But this time instead of talking about eco-friendly solutions or sustainability they have focused on compassionate digital marketing. This highlights the importance of reviewing the digital marketing plans to reflect the changing external environment. Unfortunately, not all marketers understand the driving force behind that change as some of them think juggling with catchy phrases will be sufficient to create an appealing content. Compassionate marketing is neither about using proud sounding words, nor relating to threatening circumstances. Moreover, marketers should be very much aware that especially as customers are now spending more time online than ever before they will consume the content more selectively.


According to Serena Pasqualetto, Digital Marketing Manager at Pixartprinting and lecturer, the key is to being flexible, responsive and adapting changes in digital channels and the plan. As such during Covid 19 creative campaigns promoting social distancing, being safe and staying at home became visible. A common trend across all brands – from FMCG, through automotive to telecommunication became visible, riding on the wave of fear to #flattenthecurve and maintain #socialdistancing. Currently, empathy seems to be the buzzword as brands aim at creating meaningful content that truly resonates with consumers.


But to become a compassionate brand it needs to go beyond the simple identification of its essence drivers, to reassess its core values, and ensure they are still relevant. Companies need to take advantage of opportunities to show compassion by asking customers questions and listening to their responses, verifying if compassionate communications add value. Carla Dawson, Growth Digital Marketing strategist, states that by becoming a customer centric origination, digital transformation is not an option, it is a requirement for survival. Last, but not least, considering the audience both as a collective and at the individual level, it needs to support customers beyond the transaction to remain true and relevant as organisations are once again rethinking their digital marketing strategies as they come out of lockdown.

If you are interested in finding out more about how to support your organisations’ digital marketing channels, content and data strategies as part of the Buyer Persona Spring, you may want to read Digital and Social Media Marketing book.


Image References 

K. Jones, 2020, How COVID-19 Has Impacted Media Consumption, by Generation, Visual Capitalist'https://www.visualcapitalist.com/media-consumption-covid-19/'