The Delicate Art of Positive Marketing in a Global Pandemic

Why and How Brands Need to be Positive Right Now

Ever since the stay at home orders began, I have increasingly been looking forward to one specific YouTube show each week. That show is Some Good News (SGN). For those who haven’t discovered SGN yet, it is a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak news cycle. John Krasinski hosts this unexpected hit that brings “some good news” from around the world into our living rooms. Each episode highlights positive, fun, and inspirational stories with the aim of bringing us joy and a much-needed, healthy perspective on our current situation. John’s unique combination of humor and kindness has established SGN as its own unique brand. A brand built on positivity.

As a marketer, a lot can be learned from SGN regarding the power of positivity. As we have mentioned in a previous post, most brands during the COVID-19 pandemic have so far pushed marketing messages ranging from “we are all in this together” to something about “staying strong” to specific actions those brands have taken to help out. As the pandemic drags on, and tensions as well as divisions around whether and how to reopen escalate, now may be the time for brands to embrace more positive marketing messages.

So, what is positive marketing?

Positive marketing seeks to inspire positive feelings in a consumer. To impact them in a meaningful way. When you use positive marketing, you offer the customer an emotional experience with your brand. Whether it is a personal sense of well-being, calm or contentment, or a feeling of satisfaction and pride from having contributed to the social good through your products or services, the result is an emotional connection. It is a lot like being around a cheerful person; one cannot help but feel better.

However, in order to be effective at positive marketing, there are some key elements one must keep in mind. Done right, positive marketing can be especially powerful during hard times. But, done wrong, the attempt can feel contrived and disingenuous, if not downright self-serving.

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Positive marketing messages can range from quick and easy “joy triggers” to more comprehensive campaigns. The former likely are short videos, annotated images or stories shared through social media channels and on the brand’s website. They are “quick hits” intended to lift spirits and create a positive impression around the brand. To borrow a line from the past, “to reach out and touch someone.”

So, how do you do positive marketing?

When creating positive marketing messages, the biggest factor marketers need to focus on is finding the sweet spot where the recipients of the message feel better, but not so much that they question the sincerity, and therefore the validity, of the sender’s intent. It’s about being authentically positive. To do this, a brand must stay true to their mission statement and values. They need to be perceived as moral, reliable and real. Is your messaging representative of your brand identity? Customers must feel that your positive marketing campaign is tied to your brand’s mission. If not, it can seem like you are jumping on the latest bandwagon and it will feel faked and insincere. Remember Pepsi’s disastrous campaign that invoked a Black Lives Matter protest? The campaign crashed and burned because it obviously co-opted a movement with deep social and emotional underpinnings that had nothing to do with the comparative banality of a can of soda.  The campaign came off as belittling beliefs and perceived social injustices of a large group of people.

A good positive marketing campaign needs to also be inclusive and have a strong connection with the audience, especially . To form an emotional connection, a consumer needs to feel that the messaging is speaking to them. It needs to be experiential in that the brand is relatable and they can see how it fits into their lives. As social creatures, we seek out and derive comfort from familiar and trusted entities. And in times of crisis, like a global pandemic, brands can serve humanity by providing reassurance and comfort to those who know, respect and care about those brands. That means that your brand has to put its money where its mouth is. More than just an ad campaign, your brand needs to live and breathe that positive messaging. Don’t underestimate the positive halo-effect of your brand. That may mean contributing to the community or social causes. Pepsi redeemed itself by partnering with SGN to announce their commitment to raise $3 million to provide financial support for restaurant workers affected by COVID-19. This act shows that Pepsi cares about the public and their generosity is quite genuine. When your brand goes beyond the ad campaign and puts messaging into action, consumers feel good about your brand and have a way to connect with your company.

In order to be successful, positive marketing needs to be relevant. Make sure you are striking the right tone for the times. With the coronavirus spreading, many marketers had to readjust their campaigns. Running normally planned ads may well be perceived as insensitive with so many businesses closed. If you are still running messages like “in these unprecedented times” or “we are here for you during this time of crisis”, now is the time to pivot to positive messaging.

One brand that is embodying all these key factors of positive marketing is Dove. Everyone is familiar with Dove’s inspirational “Real Beauty” campaign. It hits all aspects of positive marketing by being accessible and relatable. The messaging is empowering and uplifting. And it feels authentic as the campaign aligns with its mission statement; “beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety”.

Dove has perfectly pivoted in this crisis with their new “Courage is Beautiful” campaign. We’ve all seen a lot of advertising about the pandemic. But Dove takes it a step further, going right for our heart with a message of gratitude for our healthcare workers. Their ads are simple but impactful. Close up shots of healthcare workers, faces scarred from their PPE masks with a simple message; “Courage is Beautiful”. It feels authentic and honest as it tugs on our heartstrings. It is a beautiful “thank you” to our healthcare workers that feels quite genuine. But Dove is not stopping there. Along with the ad campaign, Dove has donated $2.5 million worth of products to Feeding America to support those in need. And that is the key. Backing up your marketing campaign with positive action.

Watching the news can cause a lot of fear and anxiety for many of us. That is exactly why Some Good News is so brilliant. At the end of every episode, John Krasinski says; “No matter how hard things get, there is always good in the world.” As marketers, we need to take inspiration from this and spread our own positivity in the marketplace.

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Melissa Hayden
Melissa has more than a decade of marketing and account management experience, including strategy development, brand development, integrated marketing communications, program management and account service. She has a diverse personal roster of client experience with both B2B and B2C for industries such as grocery, retail, consumer package goods, hospitality and medical device. Melissa holds a bachelor’s degree in law and sociology from American University in Washington, D.C.

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