Marketing With Sensitivity While the Pandemic Continues

Marketing With Sensitivity While the Pandemic Continues

Marketing With Sensitivity While the Pandemic Continues


Marketing With Sensitivity While the Pandemic Continues

Kim Kardashian rents an island, gets all her friends tested for COVID 19, and throws herself a blow-out birthday bash.  That’s all fine and well, but did she have to flaunt it on social media?  

“FFS. Read the room, Kim.”

We’re a year into the Coronavirus pandemic. Whether you believe that everyone should be vaccinated or the virus should just run its course and “herd immunity” will save the day, the truth is, the Coronavirus, SARS COVID-19, looks like it’s here to stay. The “pandemic” may morph into an “endemic” disease that appears regularly, like influenza. It is a virus, after all, and viruses mutate.

And with the virus, our way of living has mutated—possibly forever—as well. Think about what’s happened over the past year: We have seen the stock market yo-yo up and down, some businesses have closed, while other businesses thrive. People work from home now, and “Zoom fatigue” (sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end attending one online meeting after another) is a very real phenomenon.

Parents have had to change how they view raising their kids as schooling from home is still a widespread practice globally, not just in the U.S. This means that people are home. A lot. 

People are also still scared. The virus can be deadly. It can do some real damage to a person’s respiratory system. I also know a friend who pulled her 86-year-old mother through COVID-19. The elderly woman was supposed to be a statistic: she has congestive heart failure and a form of slow-growing leukemia. In other words, this woman’s immune system is pretty much shot. But she survived. The range of how COVID-19 impacts health is wide and uncertain.

It doesn’t look like any of it is going to change any time soon. In short, we have “new normals” cropping up all over the place, and they’re happening so fast, it’s hard to keep track.

So how do you market yourself, promote your product or service, get people to buy what you’re offering in the middle of all this change?

If you look around, there is something else happening in the world: We are finding out how much others care. 

People are helping other people (I love it when I see someone at the doctor’s office assisting an older person put a mask on and making sure they’re ok).

Think about what happens in the face of a big tragedy. People put aside their own cares and biases, and they help.  

So how do you market in a world that has completely changed because of this pandemic?

Unlike the Kim Kardashian example above, follow the lead of what you see others doing. Read the room. Being sensitive doesn’t just mean paying attention to what’s happening in the marketplace. It’s being a keen observer of how people are acting and interacting in all aspects of their lives. 

Here are some easy ways to get you looking more closely at what’s going on in our world: 

  1. DON’T BE TONE-DEAF. If your digital marketing and advertising comes off as tone-deaf, insensitive, with a “look at ME” attitude as opposed to offering genuine help and service, people notice. I think Kim Kardashian’s brand was hurt, a lot, by that party she hosted. She showed herself to be selfish and uncaring—exactly what everyone thinks of the uber-rich and famous. 

Instead, craft your messages so that you show that you are paying attention to what’s happening. Don’t blatantly use what’s happening–that’s cheesy. But don’t blatantly ignore it either.

Always think “sensitivity.” Look around. Pay attention to what people are talking about and how they’re talking about it. People are buying less because of frivolous needs and more because they see it as essential to their survival. Help your target market understand why your product or service can help them survive better, more comfortably, or with greater ease in a world that’s been turned upside down and sideways.

Also, pay attention to how your marketing looks.  If you’re showcasing many people and aren’t properly socially distanced, or are wearing their masks incorrectly, you can hurt your cause. Be sensitive to what others are going through, and make sure that you mirror that in the way your marketing looks.

  1. DON’T BE DESPERATE. So many businesses are struggling. Think about the entertainment industry–that’s bars, restaurants, hotels and other establishments that we have traditionally used as our “watering holes.” They had to shut down or were severely curtailed in the number of customers they could serve. But what happens to them? What happens to all the businesses that supply those establishments with everything they need to operate?  They’re shut down or severely curtailed as well.  So you see a desperate push to “sell! sell! Sell!”  But how does that come across when your audience is struggling? They can’t “buy, buy, buy.”  People are struggling financially, but that doesn’t mean that you come off as desperate. It means that you get smart, that you look for ways to communicate the value you bring to your buying public. You work to build communities that then work to take care of each other.  
  2. WE ARE ALL REMARKABLY “INTERTWINGLED.”  This is a continuation of the previous point.  “Intertwingled” is a term crafted by Ted Nelson, an American pioneer of technology and father of such terms as “hypertext” and “hypermedia.”  What it means is that we are deeply interconnected, and technology has made us more so. So instead of sticking to rigid categories and institutions, figure out the many ways your product or service affects other categories and niches. Look for and celebrate resiliency.
  3. BE INCLUSIVE. Race and class distinction have become the big categories of distinction.  It is VITAL that all your marketing be inclusive, caring, sensitive to issues of race and class. It is about inclusion, not exclusion. Kim Kardashian was flaunting her wealth, power, and inclusivity among the world’s “jet setters.” There are HUGE movements underway to ensure that all different kinds of people—no matter what color, what race, what sexual orientation, even what size—are included. Your marketing should do the same.
  4. USE TECHNOLOGY SMARTLY. Technology has made our world complex. We used to have just a website. Now the website needs to be integrated with our social media. It needs to be able to be viewable on multiple devices. Our TVs are as “smart” as our phones—and that’s just the start. Smart means that you look for ways to integrate, to find the adaptive blends of “analog” and digital—real world and virtual. We can no longer hide behind technology. We need to use it in the spirit in which it was created—a medium for communication, a way to make our lives easier, not more difficult. 

Being sensitive in this new, soon-to-be post-pandemic world requires that we be more open with each other. We need to be far more transparent in our dealings with others—and that includes how we promote our products and services. Because there is so much fear about the unknown, and it’s so very raw right now, we need to deal in trust and fairness.  Work to promote a “common sense of reasonableness and good spirit” from Richard Reisman. 

Just as with anything in life—bad things happen, and they can either bring us together or tear us apart.  Sensitivity in these troubled times will bring us together. We should always be mindful of what our customers and clients are thinking and feeling—but in troubled times such as we find ourselves, we need to be a thousand times more in-tune with others.


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