Marketers Respond to 911

Marketers often have to deal with events that have a significant impact on the economy as well as the psyche of the consumer. However,the tragedy created by the horrific events of September 11, 2001, caused an environment unlike anything most businesspeople have ever experienced. The aftershocks of the terrorist attacks rippled through nearly every sector of the U.S. economy, with certain industries, such as travel, tourism, media, and entertainment, being particularly hard hit.

After the attacks, the major television networks, including CBS, NBC, ABC,and Fox, went commercial-free for several days, an approach costing them a combined $35 to $40 million a day in lost revenue. Adding in cable news networks and local stations, the television industry's cost for covering the attacks and their immediate aftermath was more than $700 million in canceled advertising. The major broadcast and cable news operations face growing expenses to cover the war on terrorism, including the costs of creating new bureaus abroad, improving technology, and widening coverage.

The terrorist attacks also have had a significant impact on the advertising industry and created major problems for ad agencies as well as media companies, both of which were already reeling from the soft economy and dot-com bust that resulted in lower advertising spending. Advertising agencies and their clients have had to determine how to appeal to consumers facing economic uncertainty, rethinking their priorities, and feeling anxious about their safety. Marketing after a tragedy is always a tricky business and was even more so because of the scale of the September 11 events. Marketers who alluded to the tragedy risked alienating consumers who might think they were trying to capitalize on it, while those who ignored it ran the risk of seeming insensitive and out of touch.

Consumers emitted mixed signals regarding their feelings about the terrorist attacks. Researchers found a resurgence of patriotism, a renewed desire to connect with family and friends, and a strengthened belief in old-fashioned values such as community service and charity. In a survey conducted six months after the attacks, 80 percent of the consumer respondents indicated that 9/11 was still affecting their professional and personal lives. Though their lives were returning to normal and few people radically modified their day-to-day activities, changes included keeping cell phones handy, installing more locks, watching more 24-hour news channels, and looking more for products that were made in the United States.

Some marketers decided that the best way to respond to the new times was with messages offering



appeals to patriotism, the promise of escape, or tribute to those who died or were involved with the tragedy. One of the most popular commercials during the 2002 Super Bowl was an Anheuser Busch spot featuring stately Clydesdales trotting across serene snowy landscapes and over the Brooklyn Bridge to pause before the Manhattan skyline and bow in tribute to New York City. Not surprisingly, New York City firefighters and police officers became popular advertising spokespersons.

The U.S. government used the public's outrage over the terrorist attacks as part of its efforts to fight drug abuse. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy developed an advertising campaign suggesting that illegal drug sales have become a major means of raising money for terrorism. The idea behind the campaign is that people will be less likely to use drugs if they understand that by using them they may be supporting terrorism.

Marketers have now had time to reflect on how they responded to the nation's worst terrorist tragedy and how their marketing communications during the chaotic months after the attacks were received by consumers. Appeals to patriotism were unwelcome if they were seen as attempts to cash in on the tragedy. However, companies whose advertising programs were already identified with patriotism, the flag, and other U.S. symbols and those whose marketing efforts were tied to charitable donations destined to help the recovery effort were perceived favorably.

Sources: Steve Jarvis,"Red, White and the Blues," Marketing News, May 27,2002, pp. 1,9; Hillary Chura,"The New Normal," Advertising Age, Mar. 11,2002, pp. 1, 4; Gwendolyn Bounds,"Marketers Tread Precarious Terrain," The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 5, 2002, pp. Bl, 4; Jon E. Hilsenrath, "Terror's Toll on the Economy," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 9,2002,pp. Bl,4.

An important part of this stage of the promotional planning process is establishing communication goals and objectives. In this text, we stress the importance of distinguishing between communication and marketing objectives. Marketing objectives refer to what is to be accomplished by the overall marketing program. They are often stated in terms of sales, market share, or profitability.

Communication objectives refer to what the firm seeks to accomplish with its promotional program. They are often stated in terms of the nature of the message to be communicated or what specific communication effects are to be achieved. Communication objectives may include creating awareness or knowledge about a product and its attributes or benefits; creating an image; or developing favorable attitudes, preferences, or purchase intentions. Communication objectives should be the guiding force for development of the overall marketing communications strategy and of objectives for each promotional-mix area.

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  • sinikka
    How did marketers respond to tragedy of 911?
    8 years ago

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