CPG & How to Communicate With Consumers

Nils d’Aulaire, Creative Director

As CPG marketers, we know how to build a long-vision roadmap for messaging, how to develop thoughtful creative strategies, and how to plan media around the normally predictable tempo of seasons, holidays, and cultural events.

That’s all gone now.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves scrambling to try and figure out the best way to communicate against a backdrop of rapidly shifting in-market and consumer sentiment that is all happening in real time. Some businesses are surging. Some have gone dark. How any given brand should communicate with their audience is changing on a week-to-week, and even day-by-day basis. Any semblance of predictability is in the rearview mirror.

From this chaos, however, a new model is emerging of how to best communicate with your customers. It requires constant re-evaluation of what’s in-market, a shift towards using media in more agile ways, and new rapid-response workflows. It also requires a bit of bravery, as brands must shift their objectives from short-term promotional messaging, to long-term emotional brand building. By focusing on the needs of consumers first, and their own needs second, brands can build the goodwill and trust that will best serve their bottom line in the long run.

It’s a lot. But to help CPG brands navigate these uncharted waters, Pandora’s Studio Resonate has developed three Communication Pillars that can be used as a lens for messaging to consumers, ensuring both that we’re reaching our customers in the most effective way, and the long-term health of our brands.

But before even starting to develop a communication strategy, it’s important to understand the shift in media consumption habits. You can assume that your audience is consuming content differently than they had before the COVID pandemic. It’s critical to assess the media channels where your customers are currently spending their time, and to create messaging that resonates in those spaces.

By now, most brands have removed any messaging that feels discordant against the current backdrop. Phrases like “get in touch” and “work hand in hand” are a thing of the past, and even words like “opportunity” can be construed as taking advantage of the situation. But we’ve recently entered a new phase of customer sentiment, as the endless recitations of themes like “in times like these” and “being in this together” have created some COVID-19-related marketing wearout. As a result, some brands are moving away from directly calling out COVID, and creating more of a subtle nod to the fact that times have changed.

The most important thing is to always stay true to your brand positioning, values, and tone of voice. If your brand doesn't have the authority to speak to something, don’t say it. Consumers are savvy and will be quick to react negatively to brands that are seen as creating an inauthentic connection to the crisis response. Lead with empathy and transparency, and always match your brand messaging with brand behavior.

With that, these communication pillars can define how we rebuild the ways that we talk to our consumers today.

Celebrate People

  • Find authentic connections between your brand and the people working to make a difference.

  • Tell stories of grit, bravery, and perseverance both big and small. It’s not just doctors and nurses who are risking their health for a larger cause.

  • Celebrate the human spirit by shedding light on the best parts of humanity.

  • Make it about them, not you. Your brand should occupy a very small space in these stories.

Provide Tools

  • Educate consumers on how to best use your products. For example, if you’re a soup brand, provide recipes for dishes that incorporate soup in new and unexpected ways.

  • Provide a value or a service to your customers. This can be as simple as creating content that makes someone’s day a little brighter.

  • Provide tips or tricks. Any little lifehacks that make living under these new conditions more bearable.

  • Give people a break. If you’re a family brand, for example, you could provide entertaining content that would occupy consumers’ children’s attention, providing a much needed moment of solace for parents.

Offer Inspiration

  • Provide hope and reassurance, reminding people that this will be over someday — but be careful not to overpromise.

  • Encourage self-care. Many people are struggling with new stresses and responsibilities. Remind people that it’s important to focus on themselves, too.

  • Give people permission to indulge. This is a new and challenging world we’re living in and we don’t necessarily have to be as strict or as hard on ourselves as we normally might.

  • Provide a “we see you” moment. Acknowledging the hardships and challenges that people are facing can be a real comfort when it’s executed in the right way.

Of course you don’t want to adhere to all these pillars — some will be more appropriate for certain brands than others. But by identifying where your brand fits within these guidelines and rolling out these communications in a thoughtful and compassionate way, you can be sure to stay connected to your customers, and to build long-term brand loyalty that will serve you well into the future.

One last thing to keep in mind: If you do have marketing ideas that are a great fit for your brand, but aren't appropriate in this current climate, don’t throw them away. Keep a record of all those great creative concepts, taglines, and messaging strategies, because even though it may not feel like it, one day we will be on the other side of this. And when that day comes, it will be a comfort knowing that not only did we do right by our consumers during this unprecedented crisis, but that we’re armed and ready to hit the ground running to ensure the success of our brands for years to come. And of course, if Studio Resonate can help you meet any of these goals, please don’t hesitate to let us know. We’re not going anywhere.