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A New Approach to Marketing

The way we connect with our customers is changing - so how do we change with it? Broadway musicals have always been a big influence on my interests and tastes since I was a little kid listening to "CATS" in my dad's office. My parents try to see a new Broadway show whenever they visit New York, and I've seen several here locally and in Chicago. These days, we're watching them on YouTube and streaming services. Castmates get together over Zoom to record medleys and musical numbers raising money for the various organizations supporting actors and actresses on Broadway who cannot work during this time. Just a few weeks ago my friends and I watched "Hamilton" on Disney+ together - in the room where it happened, just from separate rooms across the city. We've talked a lot in recent newsletters about how much the Coronavirus has changed the way we do business - from online communication and storefronts to signage and safety, it has dramatically changed every aspect of the way we approach communication and engagement. We've all had to dramatically adapt to a new process, but one of the last things to catch up is our marketing strategy. Between the pandemic, the protests and demands for racial and gender equality and representation, and the charged political climate of an election year, there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to reevaluating your marketing strategy for the rest of 2020, and beyond. Finding the Right Voice One of the biggest struggles facing marketing campaigns right now is tone - slapstick humor or decadent luxury might have worked in the past as a sales tactic, but could be seen as inappropriate or tone-deaf under the current circumstances. For instance, the classic fallback of "business people shaking hands" imagery doesn't resonate quite as well these days, for some reason! Understanding your target audience is critical to making sure you haven't entirely missed the mark. Going back to the Broadway example, last week my parents and I watched a documentary on Howard Ashman, the award winning composer of Little Shop of Horrors and lyricist for The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. (It's called Howard on Disney+, highly recommend to any Disney & musical fans!) I was suprised to learn that at the time, execs at Disney wanted to cut "Part of Your World" from the movie, but Ashman refused to budge - it was critical to the character of Ariel. The executives didn't believe the song would resonate with the young audience - and I, for one, am very grateful that they were wrong. Even if we have a clear idea of what our target audience's needs are, we need to understand how to communicate our solutions to their problems as well. iStockphoto recently posted an article that I think sums up an emotional approach to marketing into three excellent points:
  • Show Empathy - People want to know that you understand and empathize with the challenges they are facing currently, particularly in times like this. It's not only important to be conscious of current situations but also to represent it in imagery, in word and in deeds.
  • Tell Authentic Stories - I don't just bring up anecdotes because I like to talk about myself - I might be a chatty cathy, but I am not a diva - I want our readers to know that we stand by the things we say and provide. Customers want genuine, transparent authenticity in every interaction, and if you are putting forward a different face in your marketing than you do in person, that disconnect is going to leave them feeling cold towards you.
  • Communicate at Their Level - iStock's article focuses on video & imagery, but I think the general idea of their third point is that we should be meeting consumers where they are, in the spaces they inhabit in order to facilitate interaction. Whether that is online, in newspapers, or in their mailbox, it is important to reach out across the right channels to connect with your audience in the spaces they inhabit, rather than focusing on the wrong platforms.

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