By Matthew Schwartz
Snoop Dogg takes a dim view of DIY. In an ad for smart-home company Vivint, the rap artist shows how to get the brand’s Outdoor Camera Pro up and running. “First, grab you one of these right here,” he says, picking up a power drill and blazing two holes through the instruction book. “Next, have Vivint come and install your entire smart security system for you, so you can focus on more important things,” he adds, tossing the guide and grabbing a wheelbarrow filled with gardening tools, “like weeding.”
The lighthearted ad is part of a marketing campaign that Vivint rolled out late last year titled “Hassles Not Included,” reflecting the growing appeal among consumers for the “do-it-for-me” model for home installation.
It’s Vivint’s first brand marketing campaign since the company’s 1999 inception, fueled in part by the number of people sheltering in place and working from home due to the pandemic, says Doug Barnett, SVP of marketing at Vivint. “Starting in April and May, we saw that people were really caring about their home more than ever before,” he says. “If COVID-19 is going to change the way people work and live, now is the time to start telling our story.”
With demand for Vivint’s products growing at a rapid clip — a record 343,000 new subscribers climbed aboard in 2020, with total revenue up 9 percent — the technology company is eager to raise its visibility with homeowners whose priorities have changed in the past year.
“This industry lives on a spectrum, where on one end you have convenience and on the other end you have security and peace of mind,” Barnett says. “We definitely moved the pendulum further to the security and peace of mind side. This isn’t so much about, ‘I can turn my washer on from my phone.’”
The shift in Vivint’s messaging strategy comes amid a recent study showing that roughly 39 million Americans are moving or planning to relocate, up 10 percent from 2019, as people seek to pull up stakes amid the pandemic.
“The Human Condition 2020: Shock to the System,” a report prepared by marketing agency Known and released late last year, is based on study responses from 1,795 people nationwide, ages 13 to 71.
Known dispatched a team of Ph.D. data scientists and researchers to explore in real time how Americans’ experiences and perceptions began to change as the worst health crisis in a century gripped the country. The study was conducted in two waves in 2020; first in March and April, as the virus started to spread like wildfire, and second, right before the presidential election in November.
Widespread vaccinations in the U.S. have Americans hoping the end may be in sight, despite the ongoing threat of new variants and herd immunity being a long way off. But for the vast majority in the U.S., the pandemic already has changed their lives forever, with 87 percent of respondents saying COVID-19 will lead to permanent changes compared to what some call “the Before Times,” and 42 percent saying they have made positive life changes that they will maintain into the future.
In “No Time for That,” Vivint brand ambassador Snoop Dogg shows how easy it is to install the smart-home company’s Outdoor Camera Pro — by having Vivint do all the work. The ad is part of an integrated marketing campaign that reflects how homeowners’ priorities have changed dramatically during the pandemic. Vivint/YouTube
“Only 13 percent of Americans believe we’re going back to some sense of normal,” says Ross Martin, president of Known. “That’s a sobering statistic, and really forces us to think of what comes next.”
Many marketers may wrongly assume that consumers who are financially secure are well positioned for post-pandemic life. “Their relationship to people, place, and purpose are just as important as their financial health and well-being, if not more, and that is a critical finding of this research,” Martin says.
The Known study provides brand managers with a window into how the pandemic has altered consumer behavior as people take stock of their lives.
“From consumers to employees, we are all refactoring our relationship to everyone — and everything — around us,” Martin says. “That’s why in the study we see how much more important than ever before local businesses have become to communities, [and] that’s why we’re seeing people reestablishing a relationship to purpose and place.”
According to the study, 30 percent of Americans are planning to increase local spending at small businesses post-pandemic.
“Ease and efficiency are going to be key,” says Lisa Licht, a former CMO at Live Nation Concert Division who is now a marketing adviser for such companies as video-sharing website Cameo and game company Exploding Kittens. “Amazon isn’t going away, but when you look at what Whole Foods is doing, with its caring for local and global communities initiative, or Lowe’s Communities program, there are great ways for national brands to look for local touchpoints that are part of the fabric of the communities they’re doing business in.”
There’s also a relatively large swath of consumers who will be in transition, as they settle into new homes and make new purchases. Nearly one in five people plan to move in the wake of COVID-19. The Known study identified four reasons why people are eager to relocate: More physical space, closer proximity to folks they care about, simplifying their lives, and recalibrating their values.
“Each reason opens up enormous opportunity for brands to create real relationships with consumers,” Licht says. “Large brands are so used to effectively marketing through national campaigns. Now there is an opportunity to take a national campaign and customize it for markets like Austin, [Texas], Durham, [N.C.], or Portland, Ore.,” that are now seeing an influx of people.
Martin stresses that a growing number of communities are becoming increasingly homogenized, which will likely change the calculus for brands and organizations when it comes to messaging.
“Zip codes are turning more blue or more red,” Martin says, referring to political party affiliations. “Purple zip codes seem to be going away, and that means your brand, in many zip codes, can’t afford to stay neutral anymore. I’m a soap or deodorant and all of sudden I have to be red or blue? These are questions that marketers never had to struggle with before.”
The study also shows that the pandemic has changed the nature of work, with 47 percent of female professionals saying they had never worked remotely before the spread of COVID-19, compared with 38 percent of male workers, the survey says.
Some companies have said their employees can work from home forever while the prevailing winds seem to favor more of a hybrid approach, as Microsoft announced in late March.
A PwC survey of 133 executives and 1,200 office workers conducted in November and December 2020 found that 75 percent of executives anticipate having at least half of office employees back in the office by July. By contrast, only 61 percent of employees expect to spend half their time in the office by July.
Most executives (87 percent) expect to make changes to their real estate strategy in the next 12 months, such as consolidating office space in premier locations and/or opening more satellite locations, PwC says.
“There’s a really exciting opportunity for us to reimagine the workplace and make sure the experiences that we’re delivering to our customers are differentiating,” says Michaella Solar-March, managing director and CMO at real estate owner, operator, and developer Tishman Speyer, whose properties include Rockefeller Center in New York, 555 Mission Street in San Francisco, and Sony Center in Berlin. “I think there’s a renewed energy for the office environment.”
Back to the Future
Tishman Speyer this summer will roll out a series of ads on connected TV plugging Rockefeller Center and the complex’s Top of the Rock Observation Deck, one of New York City’s premier tourist destinations. “With less international traffic, we wanted to remind New Yorkers that Top of the Rock was the best place to immerse yourself in the city,” Solar-March says.
The upcoming ad campaign is an extension of a larger rebranding effort that launched last October and is designed to coincide with a multiyear redevelopment project to upgrade Rockefeller Center for office tenants and visitors. The ad creative, featuring new iconography and color palette, pays homage to the building’s art deco past while also showcasing the beauty and experience of its current incarnation.
Solar-March says Tishman also plans to bolster its Zo program, which launched in 2017 and provides tenants and employees with on-site health screenings, backup child care, and rideshares, among other services. “The fact that we have that sort of open communications already established is making the transition to a post-COVID-19 world more effective,” she says.
Tishman Speyer continues to provide a regular slew of “mixed-use placemaking,” or live and virtual programming for its office tenants, ranging from professional development to cooking classes to community activities.
Martin, from Known, says the groundswell for more empathetic marketing being bandied about more and more amid the pandemic is a nonstarter unless companies show they appreciate how profoundly things have changed in the past year.
“It’s wonderful to be empathetic,” he says. “But nothing will replace the time and investment marketers need to make in developing a greater, more sophisticated, more nuanced understanding of cohorts of Americans who are experiencing the pandemic, the economic crises, and the racial justice movement in vastly different ways.”