As marketers consider how they may need to rethink their communications during the current coronavirus crisis, one suggestion from behavioural economics is that the framing can be more important than the messaging.

Writing exclusively for WARC, Ashok Sethi, general manager of marketing and strategy consulting group Illuminera Institute and based in Shanghai, highlights what marketers can draw from behavioural science theories and how these can be applied to marketing strategies as new behaviours unlock new triggers.

A key issue facing all marketers, he says, is whether they should continue their usual marketing activities in wilful neglect of the situation.

The usual upbeat approach may be jarring; even though consumers are longing for normality, the depiction of an aspirational and joyous lifestyle may be overshadowed by anxiety - and this could lead to consumers seeing brands as callous and insensitive.

The alternative is for ads to reflect a bit of sombreness and seriousness to match consumer moods, as marketers acknowledge the stress and uncertainty that consumers are facing.

There is a common argument for brands to moderate their communications in this period, temporarily park or reduce the frequency of their mainstream advertising and sales promotions, Sethi notes.

But behavioural economics offers another way, he argues. “It is not so much that marketers need to abandon their usual message; what is required is to put a new frame around it. Those new frames should be support, information, and consolation,” he states.

“Consumers should be hearing ‘we understand your anxiety, we don’t want to push our brands at this time, we are with you to work towards eliminating the menace and return to normalcy, but our products are still available for you to enjoy’ as a key sentiment underpinning the messaging.”

Read more of Ashok Sethi’s advice in his article: Applying behavioural science to the coronavirus outbreak: Four key implications for brands. This forms part of a WARC Snapshot series featuring insights from a range of industry experts around this topic.

Sourced from WARC