The Importance Of Values Marketing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Look around you … you’re indoors (likely), you’re in front of a screen (almost always), and you’re experiencing a very different April than you expected. The disruptions of COVID-19 have quaked every life, culture, and industry in the past few months, and while it has caused many social institutions and business models to screech to a halt, it has also shaken open new spaces for opportunity. 

“Every business out there, every business model, has shifted. Everyone’s at home in front of their computer screens and while we’re all going through this shared experience, there’s a prevalent disconnect … so begins this quest to create a personal connection.” says Sarah Hardwick, Zenzi Founder and CEO. 

Contact Zenzi to find out how your customer’s values may be changing.

That connection begs for more than standard “we’re in this together” messaging … it needs to go deeper, and to a more fundamental aspect of your audience as consumers and as humans. That connection starts with values. Because “you as a person, in times of change and uncertainty are sticking with the fundamentals of what you know and who you are … in other words, your values,”  says Hardwick. 

These values exist in each person on an intrinsic, elemental level, formed during childhood and reinforced through life. Every reaction to the current pandemic, every purchasing decision, even every seemingly subconscious choice about what to do during the next few minutes — all of these things are affirmations of your values. As Hardwick puts it, “Values are your navigation system. Values are your stars. Values are your markers for the trail ahead. When we’re all pacing our rooms, our offices, our kitchens, our bedrooms, whatever, trying to figure out what’s next — the place to start in figuring it out is understanding your values.” 

As such, as a brand, this is no time to be vague, and this is no time to be unclear on how to speak to your audience. “What’s keeping your customers awake at night? What are their hopes, dreams, frustrations? Speak in a way that is personal,” advises Hardwick. Know what your company stands for and know what your audience stands for. Operate from that level of mutual understanding and motivation. That is where the true togetherness and connection lies, and it is also the key aspect to employing Values Marketing effectively. 

However, this is far from a “one size fits all” approach. “Companies need to carefully consider which values are core to their brand and translate those into action items and steps to pivot into a new direction.

To elaborate on this concept, it’s helpful to be familiarized with the Zenzi Values Wheel, which organizes the most prevalent and strongest values into 6 distinct types. During the pandemic, Security is the one that most people resonate with as they are hunkering down, taking extra precautions, and prioritizing their stability and wellbeing on amplified levels. But don’t discount the equally present needs of the other Value types. Pleasure-seekers will be craving escapist entertainment, whereas Purpose-seekers will go out of their way to support companies that have give-back programs or are finding a way to fund their furloughed employees. Priorities and needs such as these are as significant as the impulse to be extra secure, and if an afternoon thrill or a way to help out are what consumers are wanting, it is key that a brand speaks to them personally on that level. 

Another way of looking at it, says Hardwick, is “ask yourself as a business, ‘What am I providing you with?’ but instead of a product or service, is it peace of mind? An escape? A sense of helping out in times of need? When we think of marketing now, we think “What are people’s psychological needs in the moment right now and how can we deliver that to them in a way that’s beyond just the functional benefits?”

To market during these unprecedented times, it’s just simply not enough to go forward without consideration of what’s happening, or how it’s affecting your customers. It’s also not enough to just appeal to a sense of boredom or to offer a generic message from corporate about how the company is responding. Companies should rely on Values Marketing now, more than ever, to reach customers and make an impact that will not only sustain them throughout this crisis but establish loyalty and increase consumer engagement afterwards. 

Bottom line, says Hardwick, “Brands are coming full circle, back to the core of why they were founded and how they can best serve their customers. It’s forcing us to get real. And values are the key to forging that authentic connection.”

For a free analysis of core values in your industry, contact Zenzi.