May and June of 2021 have been heavy for Canadians. As I’m writing this, we’re heading into Canada Day 2021. Many Canadian brands and individuals are trying to figure out their articulation and actions in light of the bloody past of a nation coming to light surrounding the residential schools in Canada. All while a day of celebration looms.
It’s beginning to be widely recognized that what we know so far is likely just the beginning. There’s a lot more coming.
In moments of reckoning surrounding a deep social injustice like that which Indigenous people in Canada have endured at the hands of settler colonialism, it’s hard to think about what to say, or how to make any sort of impact from a marketing and communication perspective.
Is silence the best option?
A good option is to amplify news and messaging from Indigeneous leaders.
But first take a collective pause.
There’s no reason to have specific words.
There’s no reason to know what to do; nobody has absolute answers.
Acknowledge your automatic privilege and think about how you might be able to translate that privilege into action.
As marketers, we recognize the impact of this on the collective psyche. The burnout is real. A global pandemic, a world-wide racial reckoning, and now, for Canada, a confrontation of a violent colonist past. It’s a lot for everyone to process.
Classic crisis communication wisdom (paraphrased by us) dictates: Stop. Drop. Roll.
As if you’re on fire 🔥
Where in this equation is there anything to do with entertainment?
As someone who’s nearly done writing a book on ‘brand entertainment quotient’ and how it’s very necessary for us all to find a way to make ourselves and our audiences smile, especially in moments of crisis, I HAVE STRUGGLED the past few weeks.
Is our theory moot?
Is it dead in the water or just in poor taste for the current timing of North American history in particular and world history at large
After a lot of consideration, and many conversations, I have decided not.
Why is entertainment/edutainment/a need to promote a collective calm still relevant?
And their brains.
And the importance of brain power in the knowledge economy.
If you, like us, believe that your teams, your partners, your collaborators, and your customers are your greatest assets, you really want to be thinking about what is challenging them on the daily and either:
- Fix their problems in your communication with them or
- Find a way to add to their days with levity and kindness
I truly do believe that when people are getting hammered by one heavy news cycle after the next, anything that lowers the collective cortisol in a respectful and tasteful way is highly encouraged.
But first! What is your basic housekeeping list as a marketer in times of crisis?
Step one: turn off unnecessary automation (whether emails, auto responders, scheduled social, BOTs or the like). Unless it serves a true customer service purpose (and even then ditch the boring defaults) take out automated marketing and communication messaging for now and the foreseeable future in 2021.
🔥 Check every funnel. Especially the paid funnels.
🔥 Reassess all your calls to action on any posts or emails you’re sending out. Look closely. The worst stuff hides in footers and defaults. Trust me, we’ve done it wrong often.
🔥 Consider un-gating key content that can help in the moment (ebooks, videos, free courses). For example for us, that would mean ungating anything we have that relates to crisis communication and the nuances of it. Most of our stuff is already ungated. One exception is the Patreon page where I post content on the Entertainment Quotient in detail. That is charged at $10 a month towards the goal of helping us self-publish a book in the fall of 2021. This topic would normally go there. But I’m ungating this one because I feel like all the brands and personal brands on our list can benefit from this post as we take a tone check on our marketing.
🔥 Audit your content. A few hours of updates and tweaks can render many of your finer pieces usable to your audience in times of great strife and social injustice. As brands we all have causes, rally cries, vision, values. Where there is a crossover, use the material you have instead of trying to re-articulate things. Caveat: don’t make it self-indulgent. Only use it publicly if you think it can help a lot of people. If not, send to smaller, more relevant lists.
How can you fit in a smile or a happy sigh when the landscape is grim and silence feels tempting?
Have you heard of ASMR?
“Coined in 2010, ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a relaxing, often sedative sensation that begins on the scalp and moves down the body. Also known as “brain massage,” it’s triggered by placid sights and sounds such as whispers, accents, and crackles.”
Basically think about your smart TV or cable subscription (who still has those? Hit reply if you do, we should talk) which comes built in with a 24 hour fireplace channel, or dropping water from a snowy roof.
That sort of thing.
Except as time has gone on it’s become a bit of a big deal with digital creators, especially in the video format. Here’s the Google trends for people looking up ASMR 👇
ASMR in a crisis
Despite the huge uptake in the concept, there is very little scientific evidence yet on the benefits of ASMR. One of very few studies was done by the “Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology investigated whether ASMR is a reliable and physiologically-rooted experience with the potential to benefit the physical and mental health of those who experience it.
The study found that those who experience ASMR showed significantly greater reductions in their heart rates when watching ASMR videos (an average decrease of 3.14 beats per minute) compared to those who do not. They also showed significant increases in positive emotions including relaxation and feelings of social connection.”
I stumbled into ASMR in the pandemic
Obviously, we’re not therapists or in possession of any solutions that we think can fix humankind’s anxiety problems. But here’s the idea.
Look for (and look to provide to your audiences with) small moments of joy.
I do believe that meditation helps me. I try to meditate a few times a week. Definitely when I’m anxious. What I’ve been finding quite meditative through the pandemic, is watching other people have good habits! I watch these YouTube videos with really calming voices of women as they fold their laundry and put away their things 😁
It’s my version of ASMR. It helps me in 2 ways.
- On one hand, my mind is getting calmed by just the voice and the action.
- And on the other hand, sometimes, not always, I go in and get started on folding my laundry, because I watch someone else do it. And I like a little peer pressure!
How can you consider working it into your content calendar in a respectful way?
1. Put a meditative lens on one of your processes. Maybe you have a software or internal process demo that you can repurpose? As an example in the podcasting world, I am thinking of asking our producer to create some shorter calming videos on how to cut audio and video files.
2. Think about your own ‘unboxing videos’. ASMR came into the brand ads world via an ad for candy. Dove chocolate goes down in history as the first ever ASMR ad.
3. Share other people’s content that feels relevant – there’s ASMR for all kinds of things. Here’s a selection of some great brand and activist ASMR campaigns that I believe are quite successful and not out of keeping with their personalities. Use these as a radar for other things you might need to look up and evaluate if you’re into the concept.a) Staying in the Candy realm, the leaders of the ASMR brand marketing, here is a superb example from Lindt. It incorporates many of their iconic brand imagery moments brought together into super-soothing ASMR that puts the spotlight on the chocolate.
b) Michelob Ultra beer – this is the mainstream king of the ring as far as ASMR ads go. It’s the first super bowl commercial that touched on the concept. Made extra big-league with a star attached to it. The ad features Zoe Kravitz.
c) Girls Who Code – thinking of using ASMR for non-profit goals? Look no further than Sisterhood – ASMR Activism.
d) If you have a specific audience segment with a clear and universal need, take a cue from Ikea. This product catalogue for students on how to keep a dorm room clean and organized with IKEA products is cleverly done.
5. Learn to work easy references to dealing with burnout with your stakeholders in all meetings whether internal or external. Here are some ways to do this.
a) Allow time to ‘shoot the shit’ and talk ‘feels’. Even in a 30 minute meeting, 5 minutes of calm or smiles (orchestrated by the leader of the meeting, regardless of seniority) is a really great idea.
b) Plan for specific ASMR breaks.i) It can be as simple as watching a video together before you start the agenda.
ii) If you want to put more time and resources into it, consider doodling. It’s one of my favourite things to do – structured and unstructured. This book, from one of our clients – Melissa Lloyd of Doodle Breaks is a great resource for beginners. For Canada Day, she will be donating proceeds from the Doodled In Canada Book to Indigenous rights organizations.
We often say that entertainment doesn’t always have to be funny-ha-ha. It’s a moment of levity and decompression. I believe we should all be striving towards that as we decide what’s next in our communication calendars.
Ps: This is an unlocked issue of the weekly column “The Other EQ”. If you like what you read here and want more, consider supporting our goal of self publishing the book of the same name in the fall of 2021. It’s just $10 a month and you can cancel when you want. If you’re game, you’re in the right place.