April 20, 2020 | 3 min read

How Executives at Consumer Brands are Responding to Coronavirus

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What are leaders at consumer brands focused on during the coronavirus crisis? After the first-order need to keep their employees and customers safe, how are they thinking about the challenges to their businesses, operations, and messages?

Over the past several weeks, we’ve spoken to leaders from our customer community to discuss some of these questions.

We’re committed to our community at Amperity, and one of the many things that community represents to us is a chance to learn from each other. Here are some of the common themes that have bubbled up:

Now is the time to listen

Brands are used to getting out in front of trends and driving their message in the market. It’s always important to be in sync with the prevailing vibe, but successful brands have a role to play in creating that vibe.

At the moment, however, people at large are feeling uncertain about their safety and livelihoods, and the leaders we spoke with recognize that it’s not the time for aggressive messaging.

Instead, they are carefully listening to consumers, trying to understand what people are going through and what they’re asking for.

This means looking for signals outside of purchase data: conducting surveys, analyzing recorded conversations with call centers, even data-mining threads on Reddit.

Some of the leaders of larger companies we spoke with are also polling their own employees to get one read on consumer sentiment, feeling like they don’t want to ask customers for survey responses but recognizing that their employees are consumers too.

Pull back on paid media, invest instead in community

Brands have had to rethink their investment in paid media due to both a reduction in commerce and the need to direct resources toward supporting those most affected by the pandemic.

Instead of paying for advertising, these leaders are doing what they can to help their employees who may be out of work, as well as raising funds or supplies to back up first responders or vulnerable members of the communities in which these organizations operate.

The efforts to take care of their employees and communities happen to double as soft brand messaging, making it clear that they have the right values and priorities.

Make the most of new customer data

There’s no sugarcoating the fact that revenues are down as consumers pull in and purchase less, either due to budgeting caution or economic necessity. But the buying that is happening is overwhelmingly online, meaning that many brands are getting more data about customers than they had previously, when more customers were shopping in stores.

In some cases the new data is from new customers, and in other cases it is from existing customers shopping online for the first time. Either way, this represents an opportunity for better personalization in both the short and long term.

Health & safety first

We’re listing this one last because it was no surprise to hear, but throughout these conversations there was a constant thread of concern for how the crisis is affecting employees, customers, and the public at large. It was clear that for all of these brands, this is first and foremost a human problem, and not just one to be reckoned with in dollars and cents.