Big American Brands: COVID-19 Messaging

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Big American Brands: COVID-19 Messaging

Three insights into the marketing strategies for COVID-19 in the U.S. that have been adopted by major U.S. brands such as The Home Depot, Walmart, Amazon, and Verizon are being transparent, highlighting how they are giving back, and providing information that consumers need and can use.

Transparency

  • One strategy that large brands are using in their marketing materials regarding COVID-19 is transparency, especially if they are closing retail stores.
  • According to Klaviyo, transparency during this time has many advantages, one of which is that it "it ensures customers are up-to-date on the best place to find their favorite products and won’t face any surprises if they do try to visit in person."
  • Additionally, transparency is important because it lets customers know where a brand stands on COVID-19 and "creates a level of trust."
  • Customers are also interested in how companies are treating their employees, so transparency on this issue is important as well.
  • An example of a major U.S. company exercising transparency during the COVID-19 outbreak is The Home Depot, which communicated to its customers that it would be "temporarily adjusting store hours to better serve customers and communities in response to COVID-19. Beginning Thursday, March 19, our stores will now close daily at 6 p.m., while opening hours will remain unchanged."
  • The Home Depot also communicated how it would be taking care of its employees during the crisis by stating, "We’re expanding our paid time off policy to address the needs of hourly associates to help alleviate some of the challenges they may be facing as a result of COVID-19."
  • This announcement clearly conveys when consumers will be able to visit stores and how the company is treating its employees, both of which display transparency.

Highlight Giving Back

  • A great strategy for large companies when marketing during the COVID-19 crisis is to highlight giving back.
  • Any type of assistance during this uncertain time is sure to resonate with consumers and keep that brand's name in the mind the next time they go to purchase an item, even after the crisis is over.
  • Companies should be sure to highlight their initiatives, which may include donating proceeds to the relief effort, partnering with food banks, or sending care packages to healthcare workers, in any communication with consumers.
  • It is critical, though, that the messaging be worded in a way that shows a company is not trying to take advantage of COVID-19 to sell more product. Instead, "brands must be careful that their tone matches the current climate without being flippant or disrespectful."
  • An example of a major U.S. company that is highlighting its efforts to give back to its community during the COVID-19 crisis is Walmart. On March 17, Walmart committed $25 million to "help meet the critical needs resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic."
  • The announcement's tone was appropriately somber as the executive vice president and chief sustainability officer for Walmart, Kathleen McLaughlin stated, "In times of need, we see communities come together to do extraordinary things. This pandemic is no different. We are humbled by the efforts of our store associates, nonprofit partners, and citizens across the globe who are coming together to support those in need."
  • There is no effort to sell products through this announcement and it conveys the company's willingness to work alongside its communities to help with the relief effort.
  • However, the $25 million grants will be remembered by consumers when the crisis ends and Walmart will have been promoted in a positive light.
  • Amazon is another large U.S. company that is assisting with relief efforts as it will be distributing "at-home coronavirus assessment kits, and then deliver the collected samples to FDA-approved test facilities."
  • Again, this company is not trying to sell any products through this effort, but will remain in the headlines as a company that is helping.

Provide Information Consumers Can Use

  • Any marketing materials during the COVID-19 outbreak should contain information that consumers can use, especially in relation to a company's products or services.
  • As recommended by Klaviyo, the goal of a communication during COVID-19 should be to "provide helpful information to customers." Rather than repeat what other companies have said (i.e. hand washing or social distancing), it is better to answer potential questions that may arise as a result of the virus.
  • For example, companies will want to communicate "shipping delays, unavailable or out of stock products, or policy changes" to ensure consumers have the best information possible during this time of uncertainty.
  • An example of a large U.S. company that is providing factual information about how certain policies will be handled in light of COVID-19 is Verizon. This company has set up an FAQ page dedicated just to COVID-19 questions and provides answers to what are sure to be common questions like "If I can't pay my bill on time because of COVID-19, will I be charged a late fee?" and "Is Verizon waiving activation and upgrade fees?"
  • Verizon has anticipated questions its customers are going to have during the COVID-19 crisis, including how the company is supporting schools and first responders and has created a robust FAQ center.
  • Additionally, customers can find information about how Verizon is treating its employees, how its network is being affected, and other issues that require transparency.
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