How brands can add value through digital during uncertain times

TechnologyApril 27th, 2020

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Senior Strategist, Mariana Ciocca, explains how digital experiences are the key to building a genuine connection with consumers.

Surges of over 70% in internet traffic were reported by KPMG UK at the end of March. Verizon said total web traffic in the US was up by 22%. As lockdown redefines our interactions, the spotlight is on brands’ digital offerings. And while many brands are pivoting their products and services to online-only, it’s the changes made without sales in mind that stand out. 

As far as we know, shifted lockdown behaviors have an expiry date—but that doesn’t mean brands should just wait it out. There are opportunities to make temporary changes to products that might not lead to direct sales, but could lead to increased mindshare which will ultimately pay dividends. Thoughtfully designed digital experiences created to meet new, emerging needs will go a long way to lighten the load of lockdown and strengthen relationships between brands and their customers.

Take Apple’s Screen Time as an example. It was designed to track the amount of time we spend on our phones in an effort to lessen screen time in favor of productivity and digital wellbeing. Now in lockdown, our world exists behind a screen. Our devices are how we’re working from home, keeping in touch with friends and family and staying up to date on news and lockdown guidelines. So, highlighting how much time we’ve spent on our phone might not be the most useful metric right now. Instead, Apple could show people how intentional vs. mindless their scrolling is—or how much of their screen time is spent connecting with others. Shifting the measurement outputs that the app provides would be one way Apple could broaden their impact for users and quickly flex an existing product to meet a shifted need.

Already, we’re seeing brands do just that. Here are four early examples that we’ve seen in the wild:

  1. Mattel launched a new digital destination to help parents and caregivers encourage kids to #keepplaying during quarantine. It offers play-from-home information and tips for parents, including new Mattel content and free resources like printable activity pages and online games

    Why we like it: Mattel found a quick way to respond to a real, new and urgent need: entertaining children all day, every day. The new content and resources increase engagement with the brand, while delivering on their mission to “inspire the wonder of childhood” - even in lockdown.
  2. Anheuser-Busch presented Trivia Happy Hour on Facebook Live, hosted weekly by the brand’s Busch Guy spokesman. It gives people a chance to win prizes and donate to the U.S. Bartenders Guild - which Busch also contributed $50,000 to. 

    Why we like it: It plays on an existing and established behavior (bar trivia), but delivers on the new lockdown need of continuing to create moments of togetherness, which is Busch’s mission. A clever way to repurpose the Facebook Live channel that had grown relatively stale for many marketers, the output not only unites the Busch beer community, but helps to keep bartenders on their feet. 
  3. West Elm released chic virtual backgrounds for Zoom calls. Spanning different interior styles, there’s a background for everyone who wants to avoid giving coworkers a sneak peek into their bedrooms.

    Why we like it: Allowing coworkers to have very intimate views of your personal space can be awkward. West Elm took this lighthearted insight and treated it as a need that they could solve. And while the backgrounds wouldn’t have taken much effort to pull together, they definitely make an impact. In using their product images as a solution to a privacy problem, West Elm is also cleverly marketing their stock to a pool of over 200 million daily Zoom users.
  4. Blink Fitness joined forces with Sworkit to introduce customizable at-home workouts. The personalized workouts allow users to create custom routines by shuffling exercises and varying the length of their workouts. They are also temporarily offering a free 30-day trial for non-members. 

    Why we like it: While the new partnership had been in the works, Blink acted quickly and flexibly to reprioritize their roadmap and expedite the launch. They capitalized on an existing digital property, but flexed its features and offerings to engage more people, and give users both support and control over their exercise routines.

As we settle into the new normal, keep an eye out for other brands that launch smart, nimble solutions to the new challenges that lockdown presents. Chances are, they were pretty good at anticipating their customers’ needs before a global pandemic, too.