When the COVID-19 crisis started spreading like wildfire across the country, companies in all industries began to worry about how the global pandemic would affect business and the future of the economy as a whole. As the virus became increasingly unpredictable and started to saturate the media, brands wisely began to rethink their marketing and social messaging to avoid seeming “tone-deaf” to the challenges consumers are facing.
Many brands chose to postpone upcoming campaigns they had planned or just canceled them entirely. When the entire world is looking to the media during such uncertain times, you have to ask yourself as a company, “Is advertising my product really important right now?” After all, what brands do and how they behave during coronavirus will be remembered.
Some of the brands we work with have decided or been counseled to postpone influencer campaigns because their product does not have a place in the current market or they need to reexamine their purpose in the market due to the virus. However, we’ve been lucky enough to have some brands that offer real solutions in this time of pandemic pandemonium and they are activating influencers not to market their products, but to help stop misinformation and provide resources for staying safe.
How brands are offering solutions via influencers.
Our client, Georgia-Pacific, manufactures many household goods, among them toilet paper — and lots of it. Toilet paper was inexplicably one of the first home essential products that became scarce seemingly overnight with the social-distancing policies. Rumors online were that toilet paper is made in China and there were supply shortages nationwide. Georgia-Pacific knew they needed to step in and start myth-busting, not only to reassure customers that their TP is produced right here in the U.S., but also to spread the message that “panic-buying” and hoarding of goods is the real culprit in making toilet paper a form of currency these days.
Georgia-Pacific decided not only to empower their employees to share this messaging on social media, but also to activate influencers who had worked on campaigns in the past. In 2018 and 2019, Georgia-Pacific gave influencers exclusive tours of the very toilet paper mills in the U.S. that have been working overtime to produce 120% more toilet paper than normal. Messaging from the influencers was up in less than 48 hours and this messaging has been received with overwhelmingly positive sentiment. Also, did you know that a family of four really only needs 17 double-rolls of TP to last 2 weeks (and yes, that’s with the 140% increase in usage due to being trapped in your home 24/7)?
This campaign was a testament to forming long-term relationships with influencers and leveraging those authentic partnerships in PR times of need. More importantly, Georgia-Pacific used this moment of truth as a brand to educate, not to sell. In fact, they are begging people not to buy more than they need, and influencers are spreading the word.
Our clients, Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book also saw the Coronavirus as the time to offer resources and advice, but on all auto-related matters, of course. These brands had well-laid plans for influencer marketing this summer including promoting road trips and family getaways, but they were wise to stop, reevaluate, and focus instead on utilizing influencers to share resources on navigating the new normal — like keeping safe when getting necessary car maintenance or purchasing a vehicle and tips on how to sanitize your car properly.
These two brands knew this was their time to step up and support consumers by arming them with facts and constant updates related to their industry, and influencers are a big part of spreading the news. Double kudos that these brands also reached out to their influencer community to poll them on what content their audience would find valuable to gauge where they could provide the most relevant support.
So, is influencer marketing the right tactic for your brand right now?
The answer is…maybe. While all products should know the problem they are trying to solve for their customers, right now all of your customers have about 99 new problems, and to be a brand actively marketing, we suggest you try to solve at least one of those. Influencers are an excellent way to share solutions that matter, but don’t forget those solutions don’t have to all be facts and support. Sometimes the solution influencers can help to provide is entertainment, distraction, or best of all, hope. Either way, real people are the best way to help you share your brand’s role in the new, ever-changing future.