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AdAge Offers Tips for Brands Reopening During COVID-19

Businesses across the country are starting to reopen to consumers, but extra precautions are required.

Brick-and-mortar stores that have been closed for the past two-plus months are finally gearing up to reopen in states across the country, but the landscape that greets them will be a far cry from the one they knew before closing. For one thing, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, in case anyone forgot, which means states are requiring a host of new health and safety precautions that will dramatically alter the ways in which most stores operate. And even if and when COVID-19 is contained, many consumers will have a new set of expectations regarding how they engage with businesses.

To help businesses find their footing in this hazardous new environment, on Tuesday AdAge published a five tips to help guide the reopening process for brands across sectors.

First, AdAge says every business needs to “read the room.”

Speak in ways that aren’t tone-deaf. What worked before may not feel appropriate in the current climate. “Address the idea that customers and employees are still in this state of fear and anxiety,” says Denise Lee Yohn, a brand leadership consultant. And ensure employees are on board with the message. “The last thing you want is to have a message out there on media that isn’t delivered on,” she says. 

Next, Hannah Taylor, a partner in the advertising group at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz, says business should clarify to customers exactly what health and safety measures they are taking, without guaranteeing anything they back up.

Businesses should be careful to call out what they are doing rather than make major proclamations. Don’t suggest unqualified safety because it’s too hard to prove, she says. Spell out steps such as spacing out tables for social distancing and wiping surfaces more frequently. “You can tell the story without overpromising,” says Taylor. Social media posts can be less heavy. “Leave your website or even press releases to explain more of the safety protocols,” advises Yohn.

Likewise, brands should do a little research into false-advertising laws and make sure not to make any offers “in a way that they can’t substantiate,” said Taylor.

Crucially, AdAge recommends every brand start to engage customers right away, even if they aren’t prepared to open just yet.

Main Event, whose entertainment centers feature high-touch activities including bowling, laser tag, and arcade games, asked mothers what types of measures they wanted to see before returning. “The most scrutinizing, most concerned and conservative mom, if she felt good, then we knew we were far and away overdelivering,” says Chief Brand Officer Sarah Beddoe. A video message from its CEO outlines new processes including a “bowling valet” to help keep balls clean.

Finally, AdAge asks brands to consider starting partnerships with other brands to leverage marketing opportunities.

United Airlines teamed up with Clorox to communicate new cleaning protocols. Hilton is rolling out CleanStay, a partnership with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, and the Infection Prevention and Control team at Mayo Clinic. Amy Martin-Ziegenfuss, VP-global brand marketing at Hilton, says the program will deliver on the “new standard of cleanliness that will help guests feel comfortable traveling again.” Hilton will promote CleanStay online, to members and through signage at properties, seals on guest room doors and mirror clings.?

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