State of Consumers

In the last few days, I received an email from a company that recently laid off thousands of employees. While I recognize that it was a challenging and hard decision, the upbeat tone of the email did not sit right with me — the painful truth is, so many folks were suddenly out of work. I started thinking about how companies are speaking to their customers, as well as their workforce, and the best ways to honestly and directly address the times in which we're living.

Even if you attempt to block out the ever-present panic messaging, one cannot ignore that consumers are in a fragile state. Right now, and for the foreseeable future, they are primarily focused on the first tiers of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs—safety and basic physiological health—for themselves and their loved ones. In turn, the companies that are resonating with consumers most have, first and foremost, publicly declared their support for their workforce. Feeling supported by employers goes a long way in alleviating fear and building trust and loyalty. When customers see a company that is socially and ethically responsible, takes care of its employees and then utilizes that same approach in their messaging, that same trust and loyalty are returned.

How We Are Partnering with Clients

Within a couple of weeks of local and state social distancing orders going into effect, Instrument moved to close its physical office spaces and have employees work from home. We are continuing to pay our support staff, have rolled out numerous remote support options for families, and are continually evaluating how we can do more for our people in these uncertain times. After working to take care of our people, our next priority was to assess how we could better support our clients, thereby helping them support their customers. 

We started with the basics: what it means to collaborate and implement techniques to advance work both synchronously and asynchronously. We offered up flexibility in the staffing of projects, rescoping and shifting timelines, and leaped into the process of evaluating entire content ecosystems. We've helped clients prioritize messaging around how they are supporting their people and then how they are assisting customers, how they can keep safe in retail spaces, offer flexible financial payment options, and show support for the pandemic's front-line warriors through donations and other contributions.

As priorities continue to shift and projects have risen and fallen (and risen again), we've moved into a deeper collaboration with our clients. We're pulling from our intimate knowledge of their business and offering insight into the feelings and opinions of consumers in the marketplace. In many cases, this means going beyond helping clients tweak their marketing and promotional messages. Frankly, many of us have seen advertisements, messages, and emails like the one I described above that entirely miss the mark. Once compelling promotions for products and services now seem frivolous and ridiculous at best. Worse, many companies will do significant damage to their brand and consumer loyalty by creating great offense if they can't navigate the nuances.

Just as we're all forced to evolve how we work, we are also pivoting in the ways we collaborate with and support our clients. In the near term, the demand for digital channel communications has heightened, not lessened, and there's even more need for ongoing and sustained engagement. This engagement has to be genuinely thoughtful, of the moment, not reminiscent of days that might never return. For the not-so-distant future, this means leaning in with top business executives on innovation and new strategies for products and services, even reevaluating and possibly upending entire product and innovation roadmaps planned for the next five to ten years. 

Our relationships with our clients are more than a transaction. It is a partnership where our success and survival are intertwined. To ensure this, we are partnering with clients in real-time by:

  • Proactively facilitating internal brainstorms and working sessions to generate ideas and develop concepts for an enhanced and more nuanced response to the crisis with customers
  • Taking on additional support and workload, so that the client can focus on internal business responses to the crisis while our teams push critical initiatives that are imperative to future growth
  • Supporting a pro-bono effort for content creation and messaging across multiple social media platforms for a global non-profit