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Forget The Hard Sell, Brands Need To Use Social Media To Give Consumers A Hug

  • June 1, 2020 at 8:22 AM EDT
  • By Ashley Cooksley, The Social Element
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Remember the old Peanuts bit? When Lucy sets up shop as a psychologist and charges 5 cents to dispense such pearls of wisdom as “Snap out of it,” when Charlie Brown asks for help? While minus the less-than-helpful response, CPG brands during the Covid-19 crisis, in general, are becoming something akin to psychologists to their consumers, especially on social media.

Almost overnight, CPG brands that saw their social media channels as a sales tool have had to work from a place they’re perhaps not as accustomed to — empathy. Now, people don’t want to be sold; they want accurate information, positive news and maybe a little reassurance. They want a hug from the brands they love and need most.

For brands, the most effective way to do that is on social media, which has become a go-to for COVID-19 updates. The smartest brands have already pivoted their messaging, but when you’re used to seeing your social media as an effective sales tool rather than a way to have genuine conversations, the way forward messaging-wise can seem unclear. Here are a few ideas.

1. Ease up on the hard sell: Create content that uplifts, inspires and brings people together. For example, with kids homeschooling while parents try to get their work done, Amazon-owned audiobooks service Audible is offering free streams on children’s stories across six languages for as long as schools are closed. Hard to imagine parents won’t remember this when the crisis is over, and the time is right to launch that new product.

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2. Put your ear to the community street: Want to know what people are saying, feeling and discussing? Ask them. User-generated photos/videos/tips/stories help brands to create a positive experience on social media through the voice of their consumers. Home security firm ADT recently launched a TV/social media “Safe at Home” campaign using user-generated footage of people during the lockdown.

3. Harness the desire for nostalgia and passive experiences: There’s a lot of news, and unfortunately, very little of it is good. Perhaps a dash of nostalgia for good times gone by can be a source of positivity and hope. ESPN’s showing old games, CBS old movies every Sunday night — maybe it’s time to dust off that old logo or campaign just for old-time’s sake.

4. Go long with your content: We’re so used to messaging being distilled down to 30, 16 or even six seconds, but many of us have nothing but time, so use the opportunity to engage with deeper dives. Live streams could be one way to get people engaged in what your brand is doing to help. That’s what Johnson & Johnson is doing with their video series, “The Road to a Vaccine,” showcasing how the organization is working on developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

5. Give your video editor a day off: Amateur-looking videos show the brand’s human side and allow consumers an insider’s look at the real people who make this thing they love. Social media users don’t expect highly-polished, slick, produced content. Grab your iPhone and get candid.

Changing the tone of your social media voice during this crisis will be remembered by your consumer when this pandemic is over and we all settle into the “new normal” — and it will likely result in more than the mere 5 cents Lucy charged.


With over 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Ashley Cooksley runs the North American arm of The Social Element. Formerly in charge of global sales and marketing teams, she has been at the agency since 2008. A former e-Commerce manager, Cooksley created online customer care approaches for large U.S. retailers and publishers and helped develop the online community strategy for the Kids and Teens areas of AOL. A mother of two, she is a passionate music lover, a mean beachcomber and a reluctant workout enthusiast.”

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