If you’re feeling a little fatigued right now, you’re not alone.
Marketing during a pandemic has been one of the more exhausting endeavors of my professional life so far.
But I’ve found that sometimes it helps to look for inspiration in how other companies have dealt with uncertainty.
Not only did we find that inspiration in these 3 campaigns, but we were also reminded of some profound marketing lessons that will surely outlast this pandemic.
1. Lexus redefines ‘business as usual’
At first, this video seemed to be making a painfully obvious claim: “This is not a time for business as usual.”
My gut reaction was that I don’t need Lexus to tell me as much. But the ad takes a turn from there:
“Or is it?” the narrator says. “What if business as usual means putting people first and understanding their needs? If that’s your business 365 days of every year, then business as usual is precisely what these times require.”
What this teaches us
Regardless of whether or not you believe Lexus puts people first, the car company touched on an interesting issue that we all too often encounter in marketing.
We’ve seen countless businesses touting their values of “empathy” and “putting people first” during this tough time. But what happens when “this tough time” has passed? Do we go back to putting people second?
Which brings us to the point: If you were putting anything other than your audience first before COVID-19, then you’ve been doing marketing all wrong.
And that’s kind of what we’ve been trying to say for a long time now about content marketing. Done correctly, it always puts people first, because it does more than just talk at audiences. It actually gives them useful information.
So if there’s a positive that will come out of this, it’s that authenticity and empathy will hopefully become the new business as usual for all marketers.
2. Disney gives its audience what it wants: ‘Hamilton’
This is one of the most ingenious marketing schemes I’ve seen in a long time.
Since 2016, everyone has wanted to see “Hamilton” and no one has been able to (at least not without spending a stupid amount of money and planning a year out).
Now Disney says it’s bringing the play to your living room a year ahead of schedule, but only if you’re a subscriber of Disney+.
Well, sign me up!
What this teaches us
This is a masterclass in using a well-timed content release to achieve a commercial goal.
The timing is good for a few reasons:
- People need something to look forward to right now.
- Depending on how things go in the next few months, Disney will either need a) a way to keep a quarantined audience on their streaming service instead of the competition’s or b) a way to keep a fresh-out-of-lockdown audience from forgetting about them. Either way, “Hamilton” will do the trick.
Then there are the commercial goals. Disney is a newcomer to the streaming wars. Its Disney+ service only launched in November, and it needs an x-factor to help it contend with heavyweights like HBO, Netflix and Hulu.
More importantly, Disney’s other core business segments – retail, merchandise, amusement parks, resorts – are hurting right now. Digital content is, in many ways, its savior.
By releasing Hamilton a year earlier than expected, Disney is using that content to get more subscribers when it needs them most.
Starting to sound familiar?
Whether Disney can hold onto those subscribers is a different story, but it’s a heck of a lead-gen ploy. And that’s the crux of the lesson: Regardless of what’s going on in the world, people will have an appetite for great digital content, they will flock to it and they’ll remember you for it.
Marketers tend to struggle to think of themselves as content creators first. But your blog is your streaming service, so to speak. It’s no Disney+, but you still need to think of it first and foremost as a place for great content, and not just as a marketing tool.
That mindset is what separates the great content publishers from the good ones.
3. Oracle reminds us that treating customers great is the best marketing of all
This last campaign is more obscure, but the actual lesson is on the nose.
On May 13, Oracle announced that it would be making its financial planning and scenario modeling tools free to all of its Oracle Planning Cloud customers from now until April 20, 2021.
The tool helps businesses run incredibly detailed “what-if” scenarios for a “wide array of possible economic situations, including payment delays, inventory fluctuations and supply disruptions.”
A lot of businesses could use that kind of tool right now. At least during the lockdown companies knew what they were facing. Now, as some parts of the country (and the world) open up, there’s a heightened level of uncertainty about what will happen next, and that makes forecasting incredibly difficult.
What this teaches us
It’s probably good to be an Oracle Planning Cloud customer right about now.
I don’t necessarily think this free offering functions as an immediate incentive that will pull market share away from Oracle’s competitors (although it might).
But this sends a strong message about how the company treats its customers and underscores how much Oracle values its existing relationships.
And that’s a powerful incentive for leads on the outside looking in.