Effectively communicating when you’re not sure whether your audience needs to laugh or cry.

Choosing the right tone in your communications can be tricky, especially with the changes we’ve seen this year.

November 18, 2020
President of Client Engagement and Marketing

Whew. As Americans, it feels like we have been through the ringer. What with the worry of a pandemic and the divisiveness of this election cycle, many people are wondering whether they should laugh or cry. Companies are also questioning how they should communicate to audiences right now. They are wondering how to take the temperature of the markets where they message – and what is the appropriate tone to take.

On one hand, we are entering sappy season. And by that, I mean it’s the time of year when commercials really like to punch you in the emotional gut. You know the ones, where you watch and wonder how in the world the company made you feel all the feels in less than thirty seconds. On the other hand, the coronavirus has been here for over six months and so many brands have been banging the emotional drum for quite some time.

As we are working with clients, there are a few things we consider when choosing the heart versus humor direction.

  1. Understand where your audience is emotionally. Understanding the audiences you’re communicating with is really important. What’s right for the Southeast might not be right for the Pacific Northwest. But also, what’s right for Charlotte may not be appropriate for Orlando. So consider where you will be running media and take the time to research where your audience is right now. At Chernoff Newman, we’ve been conducting consumer research across the Carolinas over the past few months. Want to see what folks are thinking there? Visit insights.chernoffnewman.com.
  2. Consider your competition. Knowing where you sit in the competitive space is important. If every one of your competitors is messaging with a warm, congenial, emotive spot, it may be time to break through the clutter with a different approach. The last thing you’d want to do is spend money to push out a message that may get confused within the market space. This may require taking chances, but in the long run, you want your message to be memorable.
  3. Test your creative. If you have time during the development of your campaign, testing your creative ideas with a segment of your stakeholder group is a great way to get feedback on tone and direction. We’ve been able to host a number of online focus groups over the past six months. It is different than a normal focus group (namely, you have to provide your own snacks, which can be a bummer), but it still works in honing the idea that resonates most with your audience.
  4. Go with your gut. Sometimes, you have to trust your own instincts. If you think it’s time for your brand to go in a different direction, there’s a reason you’re being led to make that decision. Gut instinct is real – and especially important when considering the tone of a campaign.

As we head into my so-called sappy season (which, minus the cold air is one of my favorite times of year), be on the lookout for some really great new content from our clients. Some will lead with heart. Some will lead with humor. But all will grab your attention. Have you seen our work? It’s worth a look.

Chernoff Newman has deep category experience in agriculture, food and beverage, education and workforce development, energy, economic development, financial/insurance, healthcare and infrastructure. We design integrated marketing and strategic communications that are impactful, thought-provoking and influential. We marry ingenuity with business know-how to influence beliefs and behaviors for brands, companies and their many stakeholders. We influence attitude and inclination. We influence opinion and outcomes. And when needed, we also influence to quell contention.