A Marketer's Lens By Danette Amstein
Danette Amstein is a managing principal for Midan Marketing - a full-service agency that solely focuses on supporting the meat industry.

COVID-19 roadmap: How to communicate to stakeholders now

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

It is 4:30 a.m. I can’t sleep. I am sitting in my makeshift home office, reflecting on this past month.

My career has been devoted to the meat industry. My focus has been on serving as a conduit between the industry and consumers, using my experience and the talents of our team to help each group better communicate with the other.

Never has there been a time when that is more important. Unfortunately, there is no roadmap for this crisis. The only solution I know to apply is the tried and true method of asking and answering three critical questions:

  1. What do we know?
  2. How do we act upon this information?
  3. What should we not do?

Here is what we know:

  • U.S. consumers filled their carts with meat when COVID-19 forced the current stay-at-home orders most of us are living under right now.
  • Sales of standalone freezer units skyrocketed, according to media reports like this one. Why? Because a natural knee-jerk reaction when you are scared is to do something. For many consumers that something was to buy a freezer so they could freeze food for the foreseeable future. The fact that Google searches including “freeze meat” peaked by 400% above their normal levels on March 21, 2020, confirms this.
  • Empty meat cases introduced many millennials to a concept they never had to think about before and struggled to put into words: food insecurity. And with that came other intertwined food safety thoughts: Who has touched this meat? What are meat companies and retailers doing to keep their team members healthy and safe?1 
    (Check out the infographic on millennials' meat purchasing reactions to the pandemic here.)
  • The importance of the foodservice channel to the stability of the supply chain became glaringly evident. 

So how do we act upon this information? Communicate, over-communicate and then do it some more.

  • Panicked consumers grabbed packages of meat they had never bought before. Now they need to know how to cook them. Good news: We can help with that! Share your knowledge far and wide … on social media, your website, in blogs. Share videos, reshare other’s great recipes, help consumers have a great eating experience so you set yourself up to sell them that “new” cut again.
  • The odds are many packages of meat went into the freezer “as is.” Now is the time to show consumers how to properly prepare meat packages for the freezer, to help them protect their investments from freezer burn. This is also the time to share safe thawing instructions to preserve meat quality.
  • Address food insecurity by communicating what you are doing to help get your products to the store. Consumers value transparency; providing a glimpse of what’s happening with the supply chain can help alleviate fear and garner trust. It’s also important to outline the measures you are taking to keep your products and your team members safe.
  • Share what you are doing to help your local communities. This is a human crisis first and foremost, and consumers (many of whom have been laid off from the foodservice sector) are much more likely to connect with companies and brands that put people above profits.

What not to do: 

  • Don’t go dark. We know from previous recessions that pulling your marketing budgets now can hinder your return to pre-recession profitability. You are in effect tossing the keys to your meat kingdom to your competition and saying, “Go ahead, take my loyal consumers.” Learn more here.
  • Don’t be tone-deaf. Rework your messaging to ensure you are relevant and relatable.
  • Don’t focus on sales. Instead work on building relationships with your consumers and your customers. We find ourselves living in the gap between the old “normal” and the interim one we know is temporary. We will continue to keep a pulse on micro and macro meat consumer trends, as we try to anticipate what the “new” normal will be.

What are you doing to help your business stay relevant during this pandemic?

1 Midan Marketing, COVID-19 Meat Consumer Research 03.31.2020


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