The coronavirus outbreak has impacted countries and economies in unprecedented ways. Many businesses are acting quickly to protect employees, set up response teams, ensure adequate liquidity and stabilize supply chains. In this whirlwind of chaos, it is easy for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) and niche brands to get lost in the news.
During a crisis, larger brands tend to dominate headlines and stay ‘top-of-mind,’ and that reality has not been different during the COVID-19 outbreak. TechCrunch published that Amazon will be working with the Gates Foundation to distribute at-home coronavirus assessment kits. And fashion companies, including fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara and luxury brands like LVMH, Kering and Prada, have been on front page news for contributing to the fight against COVID-19 by striving to manufacture masks and other medical gear for health workers.
SMBs and niche brands do not have the resources or infrastructure of large brands. However, they do have options and the following are initiatives they can take to maintain top-of-mind brand awareness – even with marketing budget cuts – and prepare their business for when things normalize.
Volunteer Expertise Online
To maintain top-of-mind brand awareness and help their communities, SMBs and niche brands can volunteer their expertise online via on-demand webinars, social media livestreaming and YouTube. For example, marketing teams can host tutorials on ‘How to Write Great Content’ or webinars on ‘How to Build Ads that Stick.’ Similarly, technology and data science teams can host tutorials on the ‘Role of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science in Growth’ or on ‘How to Use Data Visualization Tools like Power BI.’
Since many people are working from home because of COVID-19 and striving to be productive, many would appreciate the learning opportunities offered by brands. Therefore, SMBs and niche brands should harness the talents of their teams to maintain top-of-mind awareness and uplift their communities.
Host an Online Charity Sale
Given the tragic nature of COVID-19, SMBs and niche brands can maintain top-of-mind awareness by livestreaming a charity sale to combat the virus. SMBs and niche brands could contribute the profits of the sale to the urgent needs of their communities and use the rest of the funds to protect their employees by covering overheads and easing cashflow issues. Moreover, following the outbreak, livestreaming has become an important channel for retailers. Therefore, marketing and sales teams of SMBs and niche brands ought to optimize it to maintain top-of-mind awareness.
Indeed, larger retailers have already carried out this initiative during the early days of the virus, and it has worked. For example, online fashion brand, Diane Von Furstenberg, livestreamed a charity sale in China earlier this year, when the pandemic was rapidly spreading across the country. The event raised around USD 25,315, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Adream Foundation to help schools in China sterilize equipment and classrooms.
Harness Supply Chain Networks and Connections
Just like large retailers and brands, SMBs and niche brands have their own set of supply chain networks and connections, which can be extremely useful to communities during a crisis like COVID-19. Therefore, even though SMBs and niche brands may not have the required material or sanitized facilities to make protective gear for health workers, they can work with authorities and medical institutions to obtain the necessary items required to save lives. And in the context of COVID-19, these items can range from hand sanitizers and face masks to ventilators and virus testing equipment. This sourcing effort could undoubtedly go a long way and help SMBs and niche brands maintain top-of-mind awareness once things have returned to business-as-usual.
Interactive Social Media Posts
During a crisis, consumers may not be able to spend money, but they are willing to spend time online and engage in conversations with brands. Therefore, SMBs and niche brands should continue to post fun and quirky calls-to-action on social media to maintain top-of-mind awareness and stay in touch with their customers. Great examples of this can be found on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For instance, Koovs.com recently asked their Twitter audience to share their “AboveKeyboardDressing” moments and tag Koovs. Such interactive posts allow customers to express themselves and feel like they are still part of the brand even during a crisis.
In sum, it is true that SMBs and niche brands require relief from their governments and need the support of their communities to beat the odds and survive the economic impact of COVID-19. However, this pandemic is first and foremost a human tragedy. Therefore, it is equally important for SMBs and niche brands to strive to maintain top-of-mind awareness by contributing to relief efforts of their own communities.
This article was published in the ‘What’s Hot’ section of IndianRetailer.com on March 27, 2020.