The Actions We Can Take

If you haven’t been personally thanked or comforted by the CEO of a conglomerate yet, then either you haven’t signed in to your email, or you’ve been binge-watching and re-watching “Tiger King” for the past six weeks.

Sigh. We’re exhausted by it all. You? Yeah, that’s what we thought.

By no stretch of the imagination are we mitigating the weight of these days. At the same time, we’re merely a creative communications agency. We have big brains when it comes to branding, marketing, advertising, and communication, but those scientific, medical, and economic things are not in our wheelhouse.

So, we’re going to worry about what we can worry about and let the big brains handle the rest. 

A little history…

Our agency — and many of our friends in this industry — have survived previous national and economic shocks. Many businesses across every sector have survived and seen the truth that expansion always follows contraction. There’s a certain peace of mind that comes when we’re able to pause and remember that simple fact.

Shortly after 9/11, we saw a handful of companies kick off campaigns to inspire commerce. General Motors began running the “Keep America Rolling” advertising campaign before the end of  September 2001.

It was a controversial decision, but the former president of North American operations Ron Zarrella explained to AdAge, “We know this is a difficult time to talk about an incentive program, but GM has a responsibility to help stimulate the economy by encouraging Americans to purchase vehicles, to support our dealers and suppliers and to keep our plants operating and our employees working.”

The result of that campaign? AdAge reports that auto sales in the United States broke records in October of 2001. That year was the second-best year ever for U.S. auto sales.

And you know what else happened around that time? A little company called Apple introduced this thing called the iPod in October of 2001. The timing of that launch didn’t seem to hurt. Right?

One of the other facts that’s giving us comfort right now is remembering that California’s economy suffered the least (relatively speaking) in both 2001 and 2008 and grew the most during the recovery cycle. Given the State’s aggressive efforts to “flatten the curve,” we are optimistic that this pattern will repeat.

What we’re hearing

Even with that optimism, many business owners, CMOs, and marketing managers are feeling justifiable trepidation. A handful of our regular clients are communicating with their customers with an eye towards the future, a couple have cut back their spend on marketing and communications, and a couple have pushed back start dates for major projects by 30 to 60 days.

Yet, the universal message from each of these clients — this is temporary.

The spirit of resilience from these companies — some major regional players, some local businesses — is encouraging to us. After all, we believe that beyond providing services or selling products, companies can be rocks of strength and beacons of hope for the many that are scared and confused. We believe there is an opportunity for these companies to reach out to their communities to remind them that they are open and available.

On a personal note, my wife and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary at the beginning of April. One of our favorite places to go in celebratory situations is Duende, a Spanish joint in Oakland’s Uptown district.

 Our family needed some comfort and cheer this year, so we ordered a meal to pick up and eat at

home. Was it the same as being there and hearing the commotion and seeing the colors? Nope. But seeing Chef Paul Canales and his crew behind the counter made me happy, and watching my family enjoy the fantastic food gave me comfort. Rock of strength. Beacon of hope.

Our friends at Ashby Lumber are staying open (albeit with reduced hours) to serve the people charged with keeping business and homes safe and secure. Rock of strength. Beacon of hope.

Heck, even big conglomerates are doing what they can to help those of us working and learning from home. For all the negative press Xfinity gets, the company is offering homeschooling programming as well as entertainment that serves as a welcome distraction. Major insurance companies are offering rebates because there’s less traffic on the roads. That’s something.

There are hundreds if not thousands of businesses across California, the United States, and the world that is doing the same thing.

Rocks of strength. Beacons of hope.

From a marketer’s point of view, this is a valuable message to amplify, and it’s essential.

Here’s what you can do now

Reach out to your customers. Help them with communications and (yes, really) advertising. Let them see you’re there and available to help. Inspire them to dream. Be part of their lives. Here’s how:

Social Media — let your fans and followers know what’s going on, offer your support, ask for help, provide information where appropriate. Our friends at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival asked us to help them publicize where local filmmakers are showcasing their work online to help their community stay relevant and connect. Biro & Sons want their clients to know that they’re ready and able to get going as soon as possible.

Social Media Advertising — Reaching out beyond your loyal audience to introduce your company, without being cheesy and aggressive, will serve you well when consumer confidence and activity returns.

Email Marketing/Newsletters — The key is to offer information, distractions, and comfort to your audience in these times. We believe that these communications should bleed optimism and provide a reason for these people to find you in the months ahead. We’re working with our friends at Circa to help OAK find that balance.

Get ready for the turn

Okay. Now, let’s be optimistic and start to look toward the turn. There are some things that you can do now to help you be ready. Here you go:

Build a Marketing and Communications Strategy NOW — Look at who your customers are, how they engage with your business, and what you can do to get your name in front of them now. It’s time to start thinking about how new and existing customers are going to find you and how you can reach them.

Get your Brand House in Order — Buyers are going to look past you unless you have a carefully crafted message and a clearly articulated brand promise. Further, if you don’t have visual assets ready to deploy, then you’ll use valuable time creating those as demand grows.

Clean up your Website — When did you last refresh the content and visuals on your digital home? Do you understand where your visitors are going and how to reach them? We can’t understate how important this is, especially since your potential customers can’t meet you face to face for the foreseeable future.

Start creating Advertising assets — Getting a head start will be necessary to many businesses, especially in hyper-competitive industries. Your company was amazing 45 days ago, right? Your business is still amazing. Let new people know all about it.

This most crucial of all these is a strategy where you and your agency (we know a good one!) talk about realistic goals, budgets, and comfort levels.

Do this now!

We are an agency set up to be creative, practical, nimble, and cost-effective.

We’re in this for the small guys. We’re in this for the “Too Big To Fail (for our family’s sake)” companies. We’re in this because we believe it’s the corner, regional, and state-focused businesses that will lead the charge back to a roaring economy.

Let’s talk. Let’s grow together. Let’s succeed.

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