What’s Your Coronavirus Message?

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

A recent article in Marketing Week magazine entitled, “All the generic coronavirus ads are a waste of time and budget sums up the problem with most coronavirus ads in one sentence:

There’s probably no reason to ditch your old creative because of coronavirus, but if you do, your new ad needs to be distinctive and avoid the bland clichés brands are currently churning out.

By now you have heard pandemic-themed ads which are usually delivered in a warm and sensitive style with soft music in the background: “During these difficult times, we must work together to keep our communities strong, do all that we can to protect those in need and support the men and women working to keep our families safe.” Regardless of whether the sponsor of the ad is a bank, a restaurant chain, an auto dealer or an airline, the message is always the same.

Why is this generic marketing message not working? The Marketing Week article suggests that widespread repetition of a generic message causes the consumer to simply stop listening. Its impact is minimal and decreases with each repetition. The problem is not in the message itself.  The weakness derives from the fact that everyone is saying the same thing and trying to link the message to a wide variety of unrelated products and brands.

The lesson for radio is simple. Generic messages have never worked for us. We have all come across slogans such as “Chicago’s Music Station” or “XXX-The Station for You”. These slogans beg the question, “Is there only one music station in Chicago?” or “Can XXX be the station for me and for everyone else who sees this billboard?”

If you choose to use a slogan that speaks to these extraordinary times, be sure that the message is unique to your radio station’s brand. Promote specific programs on air that address the current needs and concerns of the listener. Use your marketing tools to explain what your station is doing to help its listeners whether they are first responders or persons in elder care facilities. Promote charitable food services for persons who can no longer afford to feed their families. In brief, talk about the things that your station is doing to help. As always, actions do speak louder than words.

And finally, continue to also use the marketing message that you were using prior to the pandemic. Your brand slogan is still valid and continues to be the primary reason that people are listening to your station. If you were Manchester’s Classic Rock Station prior to the crisis, you are still Manchester’s Classic Rock Station today.


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