The (only) three corporate messages that make sense right now

My inbox is full of irrelevant messaging. There are the messages from everyone from my eye doctor to the bike shop about COVID-19. And then there are marketing pitches that were clearly created months ago and are totally irrelevant now.

There’s only one thing on people’s minds: surviving the pandemic.

If that’s all people are thinking about, you’re not going to sell them on anything ordinary right now. These are the only three kinds of messages that make sense:

  1. Whether you’re open and what you’re doing to stay clean. If your business serves people in person (retail stores, airlines, massage therapists, doctors, and the like), I’m open to hearing specifics about your business. It was helpful to hear that my gym was closed and my physical therapist was still open but disinfecting every surface. And it’s nice to know that Stop & Shop will open at 6 a.m just for seniors.
  2. How you’re helping. Lots of companies are making things better. Zoom is offering free services to schools. Lush is paying its employees even though its stores are closed. Comcast is giving everyone unlimited data. Airbnb is waiving cancellation fees. If you’re helping, I’m happy to hear about it. Scott Monty has curated a list of companies doing good things in the pandemic here.
  3. What you’re offering that’s useful right now. This is not 9-11 or a bombing; people are cooped up, but they’re potentially interested in buying things that can help. Examples might include homeschooling sites, videoconferencing software, cloud collaboration tools, bandwidth extenders, home delivery services for food or other essentials, telehealth services, exercise-at-home video subscriptions, or mental health counseling. There are plenty of others. But if you sell ordinary products or services that don’t have anything to do with the current situation, you’d be better off waiting a week or two.

I’ll make one more exception: certain messages that just bring a smile to people’s faces. Like this one from the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl:

Hi, this is Dave.

Remember me? The guy who wouldn’t even postpone a show when my goddamn leg was falling off?

Well. . . playing a gig with a sock full of broken bones is one thing, but playing a show when YOUR health and safety is in jeopardy is another.

We fuckin’ love you guys. So let’s do this right and rain check shit. The album is done, and it’s fuckin’ killer. The lights and stage are in the trucks, ready to go. The SECOND we are gtiven the go ahead, we’ll come tear shit up like we always do. Promise.

Now go wash your hands.


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