Marketing Post-Pandemic: What’s Next?

In a post-pandemic society, consumers are ready to re-engage with one another and brands, too. As marketing efforts pivot yet again to accommodate change, how will brand messaging evolve?

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As the end of the pandemic is in sight and the CDC’s updated their mask guidelines for fully vaccinated people, we’re being asked, “When is the right time to adjust the tone of our marketing communication?” Let’s start with a scene from the movies.

In the 2000 film “Miss Congeniality,” the pageant host asks a contestant, “Miss Rhode Island, describe your perfect date.” To which she responds: “That’s a tough one. I’d have to say April 25th, because it’s not too hot, not too cold; all you need is a light jacket.” 

When to begin? Maybe there is something to the April 25th date because the answer, as you will read, seems to be that we should already have begun. The real clue, however, is in the tone. We’re noticing that brands, like the rest of us, are ready to have some fun.

Some start by bringing others along.

The pandemic showed us that drinking an adult beverage alone at home was not as boring as it once was.  It certainly wasn’t the experience alcoholic beverage brands worked hard to create. That’s where they and their consumer found themselves for over a year.

Brands like Bud Light have always seen their role as bringing people together and being part of the fun. Where they’d once worked to create a shared experience, getting back to normal became the new goal. What does that look like to a community with mixed feelings about re-entry? Any brands messaging should be true to its spirit in order to be authentic. Perhaps now that also includes a sense of cautious optimism and shared responsibility. As for Bud Light, the message “drink responsibly” may be parlayed into an expanded definition of responsibility and social engagement. 

Andy Goeler, VP of Marketing for Budweiser, said, “It’s been a challenge, obviously, through this whole COVID period. So much of our brand is about bringing fun, getting people together, and sociability. So, now that we’re starting to come out of it, we decided that … it’s kind of our responsibility to bring the fun back.” 

In that vein, Bud Light created a parody of the U.S. government’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package. Their materials were designed in the same look and feel of actual legislative documents, but the messaging was different. It includes jokes, diagrams, and information about items the brand is giving away. This included 100,000 passes to sporting events, tickets to concerts, and the first round of Bud Light at the bars.

Some are focused on keeping new momentum going. 

For decades, consumers knew the Oscar Mayer brand from television commercials or out-of-home marketing. Then, younger generations of consumers met the brand online during the pandemic. A brand that was made for 30-second spots on the family TV created sing-able jingles on the car radio and crafted clever billboard headlines is now interacting with consumers in a space consisting of memes on mobile devices.

Like them, the spirit of our brand may be the same as it ever was, but how we connect has been revolutionized. We can step into that and continue making forward progress.

During the pandemic, Oscar Mayer’s consumers were reminded of the convenience offered by the brand’s family of products. The long-established trust enabled a quick reconnection. They also established new connections as the change in market circumstances meant finding new ways to communicate with new audiences.

“Kraft Heinz [the parent company of Oscar Mayer] is trying to revitalize its legacy offerings and extend a sales boost driven by the pandemic, which led many consumers — including elusive young cohorts — to buy more packaged foods brands they’d previously shunned. As economic recovery and reopening start to take shape, more innovative branding could help keep labels like Oscar Mayer top of mind.”

Here’s what their innovation looks like:

  • An extensive brand overhaul that emphasizes unity and light-hearted, abstract fun;
  • Reworking of Oscar Mayer’s logo and a campaign called “Keep it Oscar” promote the changes through ads that try to capture a pop-art vibe;
  • Extending the experimental mindset to its media strategy with GIFs and its first five-second TV ads. 

This approach will allow Oscar Mayer to continue modernizing their image and stay top-of-mind among that new generation of consumers met during the pandemic. Make it fun, bring others along and keep the momentum going. Good steps, especially if you have a good sense of why your brand is here. 

Some are revisiting their reason for being. 

Every day when we walk out the door or turn on Zoom, we revisit why we do what we do. Pondering that doesn’t need to be lengthy or even change anything. Rather, it gives us an opportunity to affirm ourselves and continue moving forward. We can recalibrate yesterday’s actions and plan today’s with renewed purpose. That’s where the team at 7-Eleven started when they revisited the brand’s experience.

After a yearlong study of their customers, the 7-Eleven team determined, “[We are a] trusty companion that [consumers] can count on to take on the unpredictability of life.”

The company’s CMO, Melissa Jarrat, said, “We thought, how are people going to be feeling as they return to work, as they look for jobs, as they put their kids back in school? They’re going to be so focused on getting their lives back together and back in order that they may not have a ton of time to actually celebrate the things in life that make it worth living. So, our goal is to help do that for our customers: to give them the things that they need that are essential, but also the things that can help them take a moment and just enjoy life.” 

Maybe we do know the answer to when the right time is to adjust our marketing. But it would seem to be that a perfect date notwithstanding, the time is now. We’re here to help.