Building Community During a Crisis - Marketing Roundtable



On April 23, CEOs Anda Gansca (Knotch) and Rachel Tipograph (MikMak) hosted the sixth installment of the Marketing Roundtable Series. This week’s discussion centered around how brands are creating community with their audiences as well as within their internal organizations. Panelists from brands like VMware, BlackRock, H&R Block, and Intuit came together to share their experiences and strategies. Here’s what they had to say: 

“Gather around an idea that you all love.” 

Just like how communities came together to support each other during the initial uncertainty of COVID-19, people are now gathering around meaningful causes and inspirational ideas. Brands, a vehicle of creating and disseminating messaging and content, have an important role to play at this time. One family-focused brand noted that they have been “over-indexing on things that you would imagine to bring comfort”, specifically things that can be shared, like recipes, between people staying at home. “It makes the family feel more comfortable” and stay occupied together, the panelist noted. As a legacy brand that plans to be here for another century, it is important to be remembered in the community as the company that helped families stay together and comforted during the pandemic.

Supporting meaningful causes is another way to both inspire your own teams as well as to show customers that your brand values go beyond just words. “What companies do for the world matters to people”, one panelist explained. “I think it’s more important now than ever before.” One panelist’s team aligned behind sponsoring the Boston Marathon, while another panelist shared that his company wanted to “support and educate disadvantaged children.” The value of these endeavors goes beyond the direct impact on what is being sponsored. It can be uplifting to unite for a cause, and foster the sense of community. 

“Consumers have different things on their minds -- be empathetic.” 

Part of community building involves having empathy for one another, and that includes the empathy brands have for the communities they serve. Brands are keeping a daily pulse on consumer feedback via engagement data, and leveraging it to define their metrics and priorities. “To us, the biggest metric right now is customer sentiment,” said one panelist. With content strategy, “we are looking for favorability and trust over sales.” 

Additionally, brands have also been tracking changes in behavior that are reflective of the reality that their consumers are facing, notably financial uncertainty. “We are in a scenario where many Americans are $400 away from a very bad situation,” one panelist empathized. As a result, consumers are thinking and acting differently when it comes to purchasing decisions. There is a scarcity mindset that is pervasive in consumer behavior now that financial and supply chain stability can no longer be taken for granted. When it comes to product, information, content, one panelist noticed that “consumers have no patience now”. Brands have been adjusting and pivoting their marketing to reflect these changes. One panelist shared his brand’s response: “We edited our TV spot, we changed our narrative on digital.” 

“Don’t just solicit feedback. Listen to it.”

Internally, since the pandemic began, employers have been avidly soliciting feedback from their employees to evolve their work from home policies. One panelist shared how his organization leaves 30 minutes for anonymous feedback after every weekly town hall. Another panelist described how her team has a survey after most big meetings about what’s working and what’s not. “Most importantly,” she said, “you have to listen to the feedback.” Having the flexibility in your systems and processes to adapt and make changes based on feedback is necessary for maintaining team health and a sense of community, especially under stressful working conditions. 

Leaders are responsible for boosting morale, creating community, and preserving wellness as brands continue to navigate COVID-19. Rallying behind meaningful causes can have an uplifting effect, and having effective communication about brand values and priorities will provide comfort and reassurance to both team members and consumers. 

Catch us every Thursday, as MikMak’s Rachel Tipograph and Knotch’s Anda Gansca host their COVID-19 insights webinars. Join our mailing list to stay up to date.

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