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PRHK Viewpoints: Get emotional

August 26th 2020

“Can we fast forward to 2021?” Most of us are not surprised by statements and comments similar to this anymore, chances are we also agree. It has been eight long months since we first learnt of COVID-19, which has changed the world in more ways than we can count.

Hong Kong is currently going through a third wave of community cases, and Hongkongers are experiencing the most stringent measures in social distancing yet. Marketing and communications professionals are in “issue-management mode” and tirelessly pivoting their recovery plans to ensure brands remain relevant and consumers are both engaged and purchasing.

In a time of such uncertainty, it is tempting to prioritise sales by adopting promotional and price-cutting strategies rather than thinking about how to connect with audiences and customers genuinely and emotionally.

However, when an emotional connection is created and nurtured, additional product value and brand loyalty will follow. Ask ‘how do you feel now?’, ‘what do you need?’, ‘can my product help solve your problems?’ Emotions are the primary driver for most consumer actions, it is therefore crucial to put your brand in the right context and connect with customers through understanding their mind-set.

Each part of the world is at a different stage of COVID-19 and experiencing different levels of lockdown and the re-opening cycle – some places are still in lockdown, some are carefully re-opening stores, some places are near recovery just to go into lockdown once again. This makes localised initiatives and campaigns hugely important, even for global brands.

Individual markets have needed to be highly adaptive and agile in their marketing and communications approach to ensure a hyper-local narrative in order to resonate with ever-changing audience sentiment.

Hong Kong’s F&B industry has experienced a big hit throughout the pandemic, especially restaurants and bars. Government regulations have limited dine-in services, forcing many venues to close their doors. During this difficult time is the solution to just stay put and stop all marketing and communications? My argument would be no. I suggest doubling down on messaging, introducing new and relevant offers, and connecting with customers digitally to help stay top of mind.

There are many examples from the F&B sector that have demonstrated how to establish a genuine emotional connection with customers during different stages of the COVID-19 lock-down and re-opening cycle.

During lockdown, KFC in Malaysia launched an 86-track playlist, titled “KFC You Soon”, to encourage customers to return when they reopen. The accompanying video featured parts of the storefront, table, chairs, trays and sauce dispensers desperately waiting to welcome customers back.

Another example is Burger King in Florida. The brand listened to what customers were asking for – for 2020 to come to an end early – so when Florida’s lockdown was lifted, Burger King celebrated Christmas in July by decorating a branch with Christmas lights and introducing a selection of Christmas themed offers. The activation was supported by a light-hearted video featuring interviews with customers who expressed a desire to “end” and “skip” 2020 and Burger King answered their desires by fast-forwarding the year, and their marketing calendar!

Do you feel the emotional connection here? 2020 has, for obvious reasons, been a very difficult year. Brands that show support and assist customers during tough times will stand a greater chance to win the uphill battle and thrive, both now and in the future, through the brand loyalty created.

This piece was written by Carbo Yu, regional director, Sinclair and digital and marketing co-chair of PRHK. PRHK Viewpoints is an article series contributed by members of PRHK, Hong Kong’s PR & communications association.