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Making the connection

View profile for Ilaria Giurini
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The COVID-19 outbreak has had an unprecedented impact, both from a social and economic point of view. A key task for brands and our Firm today is to reassure the public and strengthen their emotional connection – in turn gaining and building trust.

The lockdown, followed by the various measures to contain the virus, has radically changed how customers relate to brands. Moreover, the impact of coronavirus on the economic situation and families' financial resources has radically changed customers' preferences, habits, needs and purchasing choices.

The keywords for brands in 2021 are authenticity and empathy. Customers primarily want to feel part of a community, a sentiment amplified by physical distancing. They also want to feel safe – that there's someone to protect them and think about their safety. Finally, they want to be useful, to play their part after a very difficult period for all.

These five themes for strengthening this emotional connection through digital marketing such as social media, website, email marketing, paid search campaigns or video ads, are a good place to start:

1) Dial up the empathy

How should you get information across? The customer should be at the heart of every communication. They want to feel a company can truly empathise with them, that the brand is close to them, understands their problems – and can deliver relevant solutions. Taking a kind, emotionally literate approach is the best route for supporting most customers.

2) Contextualise content

As digital marketers, we must ensure any message is anchored to the current situation. If we publish an image that doesn't take into account the context of our new lifestyle, there's significant risk. At best it might appear 'out of sync' with what we have to say – at worst it could even offend the public's sensitivity.

3) Focus on customers, not the company

Many companies know that they should share content that's well contextualised with the coronavirus. They may nevertheless forget that the focus must be on the customer rather than the brand. It's more stimulating to send communications relating to customer wants and needs – and how the company can satisfy them.

4) Be available, every which way

Never has it been so essential for companies to keep the conversation with customers alive on all possible channels as it is today. Being largely homebound, people spend much more time on computers or surfing with tablets and smartphones, willing to have online conversations to compensate for those they can't have in person. Activate as many communication channels as possible, including email, chat and social media. Investing in some new services can also pay dividends – including new communication methods such as video calls.

5) Get behind a charity

In this period of great difficulty, companies that are willing to support medical research, healthcare or people in great need within their community are immensely appreciated. Customers will remember which brands did charitable deeds – and those that were indifferent or focused only on selling.

When it comes to marketing, making an emotional connection with your audience has never been more important. We all need to develop trust, tell meaningful stories and showcase our brand's human side. As people like to engage with others, a key part of telling a brand's story involves highlighting the personalities of the people who make the brand memorable and successful. In the long run, this will make the relationship with customers even more transparent and truthful – capable of transmitting a positive message and lasting over time.

One of the main problems for companies today is the lack of liquidity, which prevents them from making large communication investments. Digital marketing, if managed with practical strategies, enables online communication at low cost but with very high-value results.