Juntae DeLane is a sought-after strategist, thought-leader, and influencer. He is the Founder & Chief Strategist at Digital Delane, a dynamic digital agency, and the Founder of Digital Branding Institute. He is often noted as a Top Social Media and Content Marketing Influencer and has spoken around the world advancing the practice of digital branding. If you can’t catch him on stage or online (@JuntaeDeLane), you can probably find him at the gym, doing his 1,000th push-up. #notreally
Digital Branding in the Post-Pandemic World: What Stays and What Goes
This article graciously contributed by Juntae DeLane, Founder and Chief Strategist, Digital DeLane.
2020 was a tumultuous year for individuals and businesses alike, and even prior to the pandemic that changed the world, the shifting landscape of digital branding saw massive changes. When the pandemic hit, many brands scrambled to adjust their marketing and distribution strategies. Many didn’t survive.
Those that did adapted and found new ways to reach and serve their target markets—or they found a new target market. Here are three lessons on digital branding in the post-pandemic world—what stays and what goes.
Lesson One: Your Alignment of Brand Values Is More Important Than Ever
Starting with the Occupy Wall Street movement, corporations learned that at some point, consumers run out of patience when brands align themselves with unethical practices. The #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements also added pressure for brands to “practice what they preach.”
Consumers want brands to exhibit values they believe are important—but they expect those brands to do more than pay lip service to the ideal. If your idea of supporting a social cause is to post a few memes and call it good, your audience may call you out.
This became apparent last year during the pandemic. When many big brands placed ads and promoted social posts about how much they appreciated their essential workers, some faced criticism. Commenters flooded thank-you posts with replies suggesting the companies could thank their essential employees by paying them more instead of spending money on national ad campaigns.
Of course, 2020 wasn’t the first time big corporations were ever criticized for failing to live up to their values. But it was a year when people were spending a lot more time on social media due to canceled events and, in some cases, job loss.
Consumers not only had more time to spend on social media, they had more time to research companies and consider alternatives. Now, more than ever, brands have to be responsive to their audiences, or they may get left behind.
Lesson Two: Reassess and Respond to Shifts in Consumer Behavior
The “time out” of lockdown had other effects on both businesses and consumers. Many large companies like Facebook, Square, and Google agreed to continue allowing many employees to work-from-home.
This in turn led to shifts in dayparting, a term coined by the broadcast industry to split up advertising by time slots based on when people might be home.
Advertisers later started applying it to social media advertising, choosing to release sponsored posts when they believed their audience was most likely to be online. (Obviously, no one ever uses social media when they’re at work in an office. I’ve never seen that happen!)
But in all seriousness, a Nielsen study last year found that almost 30 percent of surveyed home workers admitted to watching TV or streaming online content during daily working hours. Another 31 percent said they spend time on social media.
Meanwhile, despite many people expressing boredom during the lockdowns, podcast listening actually dropped because professionals were spending less time commuting to work in their cars—previously a common time for listening to podcasts. On the other hand, email open rates are up. All these changes are enough to make your head spin!
What does all this mean for marketing your business? First, you should reassess your customer base. Ask yourself these questions:
Who is my customer? Am I still marketing to the same audience? Look at your data analytics and you may be surprised. New audiences may have found your brand due to a shift in dayparts or other dynamics.
Where does my current audience live? I don’t mean in terms of geography. Where do they spend their time, both online and offline? Where are they during work hours? Are they spending more time on social media at different times of day? Have they found a new platform?
Lastly, How can I adapt to these changes?
There are many potential answers to the last question. Even as people return to in-person events, many others plan to stay online, or at least continue offering online options. From beer festivals to conventions, a large number of people now prefer to attend events from home even post-pandemic.
It’s not hard to see why—although there are some perks to attending an event in-person, there are also downsides, like the financial and time cost of traveling, missing family time at home, etc.
Last year’s Rock Star Beer Festival is one example of an organization that found a great way to pivot to online events. When they realized it wasn’t feasible to have their usual in-person beer festivals around the country, they created a tasting event—that consumers did in their own homes instead of at a festival. They provided guided tastings, comedy routines, and band performances in a streaming event. Guests enjoyed tasting beer in their own homes—and no one had to worry about appointing a designated driver!
In the future, many companies will continue to use live-streaming and online events in one way or another, even as they return to in-person events (like Rock Star Beer’s Boozy Cauldron tour, currently coming to a tavern near you). This is in part due to the fact that in 2020, virtual events were valued at $78 billion. Businesses have even popped up to help manage hosting for these hybrid or online events, such as VSummits, which focuses on events management as a service (EMAAS).
The hybrid model is ideal for maximizing profits, as it allows marketers to reach people who might not attend an in-person event for a variety of reasons—not being able to take time off from work or family responsibilities to travel, being unable to afford hotel or travel costs (especially important with rising gas prices), or having difficulty with travel due to illness or disability. At the same time, people who are willing and able to attend in person can still do so. This allows consumers to access the best of both worlds.
Lesson Number 3: I Want to Adapt For My Customers, But How?
This is a great question. I tell people not to be too hasty—in many cases, there’s no need to throw out everything that worked in the past. Instead, consider how to rework previous successful campaigns.
For example, maybe your company did well with cold-calling as a sales method. Then the pandemic hit and many offices were closed, with employees working from home—and that may be a permanent shift.
In this case, you might look at focusing more on email campaigns than cold-calling. Your marketing department can rework the selling points from phone scripts into emails designed to get the end user’s attention.
If you relied on print ads in the past but need to reduce your marketing budget due to economic pressures, consider Google Ads. These allow you to target a more narrow, specific audience than print ads, which often reach a broad variety of consumers.
You can also set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget, so essentially you choose how much you want to spend. Google Analytics also offers ways to look at your data and learn more about what does and doesn’t work in the current market.
I’d also encourage you to consider adding a virtual option to future event marketing efforts. You may decide that your event should remain all virtual, or you may be willing to invest in recreating in-person events. Either way, adding a digital version at a lower cost will create the opportunity to increase your audience size.
Additionally, virtual events provide you with even more data on how users interact with your event, which you can use to give your customers more of what they want. And if you never hosted any kind of event before, now is the time to consider one.
Finally, reconsider your buyer’s journey. Due to pandemic-related changes, the sales cycle has grown longer for many consumers. Meanwhile, with more online sales, there may be fewer touchpoints in the cycle, and this can hurt your sales.
You need time to nurture the relationship with the consumer, so adding more touchpoints may help. These may be events, fireside chats, or community or group activities. If you add these extra touchpoints, consumers are more likely to be primed and ready to buy when they receive your promotional email or talk to the sales department.
If you have questions about digital branding in the post-pandemic world, or need some help with your digital branding strategy, please contact Digital Delane for a free consultation.
Juntae will be speaking at several in-person Digital Summit events in 2021. To hear from him and other amazing experts, check out our full 2021 calendar, with 14 in-person events scheduled this year!