Caption: Graphic by Izzy House using images from iStockPhoto
Interrelational marketing that benefits the community
COVID-19 has affected everyone. Businesses have been sent reeling in the wake of closures and social distancing. It has been devastating. In the midst of this pandemic, there are opportunities to stand out. Now is not the time to sit back and wait for it to blow over, but to take action.
Interrelational marketing represents the woven emotional relationship between your brand, your audience, and the world. It’s not up or down, funneled, or round and round - it is intertwined. Everything your company does matters. Your brand is like a person with a distinct personality. Just like when you engage with another human, how you deal with a crisis can make all the difference in how your brand is viewed. Your audience wants to know if you care about them, their community, their world.
Too many times, a company will design a product and push it on people. They don’t ask what we want or what we need. COVID-19 has inspired some companies to retool and produce things that are in short supply that will help all of us. Instead of going forward as if everything was normal and worrying about overproduction goals, they have taken the high road and dedicated their production to help the community survive. In return, they become the subject of positive conversation.
Some companies are showing that they care during this pandemic. They are making an impact in their communities and getting noticed in return. The marketing benefits that they are receiving are not demanded or even the intention of their efforts but is freely given by those they aim to help. This is called reciprocity. If you help someone, then they will want to do the same for you in most cases.
COVID-19 has created many supply vacuums that didn’t exist a few months ago. This situation creates opportunities for initiatives for donations, programs, and product development.
Pivot to provide
Aerospace companies have been leaders in innovation for years. Additive printing, or 3D printing, has enabled these companies to create new parts and prototypes in a fraction of the time and expense than traditional methods. This gives them the ability to pivot on a dime. During this unexpected pandemic, aerospace companies have the talent and the means to develop products and services to aid healthcare in treating COVID-19 patients.
One such company that specializes in additive printing is Rapid Application Group. They focused their efforts to design and produce thousands of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) masks and face shield devices for their local healthcare and first-responder community. Their designers and staff created a face mask that can be sterilized and reused with replaceable N-95 or HEPA filters and has printed thousands of units. They saw a need in their community and did not sleep until they had a solution to the crisis. In doing so, they were also able to demonstrate their capabilities and receive valuable brand awareness.
Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company recently participated as part of the Antelope Valley COVID-19 Task Force to design and build a prototype for patient oxygen hoods for COVID-19 patients. These hoods have been designed to provide an oxygen-rich environment for patients suffering from respiratory complications but are not severe enough for the more sophisticated ventilators. Its pressurized environment pushes air into the lungs, has easy access for healthcare workers, and helps keep the virus contained.
Another aerospace company that pivoted to produce life-saving devices and falls under the Virgin umbrella is was Virgin Orbit. Guided by a group of doctors, medical researchers, and medical device engineers of the Bridge Ventilator Consortium, Virgin Orbit was able to put their engineering resources to work and create a low-cost low-cost ventilator. It was fast-tracked through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is now producing 100 units per week.
Caption: Some of the first batch of ventilator units designed by Virgin Orbit to treat COVID-19 patients.
Their goals were altruistic in nature, yet the results produce good publicity for the company. The activities enhance their brand as well as the companies that have partnered with them to produce this life-saving device.
Boeing has got a black eye with the recent faults with their aircraft. It impacted sales of future aircraft, current flights that were canceled with carriers demanding to be compensated, and an increase in the fear of flying which impacted ticket sales. They are in a public relations nightmare. COVID-19 gave them the opportunity to support pandemic initiatives and provide life-saving aid resulting in some positive news to the public.
Boeing is using the resources on hand to make a difference. Engineering, manufacturing, and logistics expertise is being utilized. Company-owned aircraft have been donated to transport medical equipment, supplies, and personnel to healthcare professionals located in viral hotspots. They have donated tens of thousands of units of PPE – including face masks, goggles, gloves, safety glasses, and protective bodysuits.
In addition, they have partnered with other companies (Solvay, Argon ST, Trelleborg Sealing Solutions) in an effort to manufacture face shields for healthcare workers using their 3D printing capabilities.
What is the result? They are softening their image and inserting themselves into our communities as one of us who is trying to do their best to help their neighbors in a time of crisis. It is a start to healing their image while providing a much-needed service to help save lives.
Hazards of backfiring
This action must be authentic. People do not like to be used. When you give, it has to be large enough to be seen as a sacrifice with no expectations of a return. If your business donates a few boxes and tries to use the gifts as a marketing ploy to garner public sympathy, it could backfire. Your efforts must be genuine with the right heart.
Giving of your time
Gifts can include your company’s resources and efforts, not just products and money. Many small businesses are hurting and don’t have the extra funds to donate materials or cash. Your organization can organize donation rally points, feeding groups for families that are hungry, wellness checks (remember social distancing), mask making, and more. Find out what is a critical need in your community and position your company as a leader that is solving the problem.
It works in the other direction as well. Do you need donations? If you are the company leading the effort, saying Thank You and promoting those donating businesses can help you fill those shelves.
Post Thank You's on social platforms with their names and logos making sure to tag them. This action can stimulate sharing and expand the reach of your initiative into new circles. The donating entities receive a positive brand exposure that encourages them to share and it inspires other businesses to donate. Everyone wins.
Interrelational marketing is about establishing relationships with your audience. Think of your brand as a person. Make it a hero that people can turn to and rely on to do what is needed to support the community. In the midst of this pandemic, there are opportunities to stand out.
So, go out there and do something. Show love and dedication to your community and they will show you love in return.