Brands, Marketing & Coronavirus: Achieve Marketing Success In The Midst of a Crisis

First published online at The Paper 


Things may not be the same at the moment, nor indeed in the foreseeable future, as the coronavirus pandemic changes the world as we know it.

Right now, this brings a huge challenge for businesses and, indeed, many marketers.

How will the current events change the way we should market our business? Where do we even begin?

Considering the magnitude of the health and financial crisis we are facing because of the Covid-19, would people really care about your marketing strategies? Would they pay attention to a computer company talking about the do’s and don’ts of surviving a virus?

Possibly yes, if it is done in the right way.

Your brand and marketing efforts will determine if the business will get through this crisis.

How the Coronavirus is affecting brands and marketing

How is the coronavirus pandemic really affecting brands and marketing? The key to understanding this is in consumer behavior. After all, brands and marketing strategies are highly influenced by how consumers react to current events and trends.Consumer behaviour’ refers to the patterns or behaviours that people follow prior to making a purchase.

If you understand consumer behaviour, you can market any business in such a way that it will capture audience attention. It allows you to put yourself in their shoes to recognise the factors that will make them want to use your brand or business.

Given that concept, what is the current crisis telling us about consumer behavior?

People are picky with their spending

Consumers, or their personal financial situations, are in hibernation mode. Many people are trying to preserve what they have and hold on to it. They understand that this crisis has pushed us into a financial crisis of sorts. With people losing their jobs that makes them unwilling to spend what they currently have.

They are connected online

The time spent indoors and the lack of physical gatherings has also pushed people to socialise more online. Data shows a sharp increase with people spending more time on social media and browsing online for information. It is highly possible that the increase in online presence will continue even after the crisis is over.

These are only a few of the changes that we see in consumer behavior. Of course, we can assume that these will still change over time. In fact, as people are starting to emerge from the lockdowns and quarantines, you will see more changes happening. People are still protective however and their focus continues to be on their inner circles.

But the fact that there is movement means consumers are ready to pay attention to brand and marketing campaigns.

How should marketers react to the crisis

The reaction of brand and marketing will be reliant on the changes in consumer behavior. A CNBC article revealed that brands are shifting towards screens after the pandemic. It’s not just phones. It also involves TVs. With more people spending time indoors, TV viewership is higher, how have you utilized this development in your marketing strategies?

In another article published by the Harvard Business Review, data shows how new channels like e-commerce have stepped up. People may be forced to stay indoors but they still need physical goods. So businesses have amped their door-to-door services to provide their goods and services. How will people know of this change in business dynamics? Through marketing efforts.

You need to focus on what has changed in terms of their preferences. With people acting scared because of the economic repercussions brought about by the pandemic a question that requires an answer is this:

What is the most important thing to consumers right now?

If they are scared or picky about their spending, how should marketers overcome these behaviors to benefit the business?

Here are some tips on the direction of your marketing efforts.

Keep it local

The coronavirus pandemic is a global problem. But consumers do not care about that. Remember, they care about their inner circle. So keep things local. Deliver your marketing campaigns or messages with a local perspective. Ask yourself this: how will the campaign be perceived by the consumers in light of the current local situation?

Using this strategy will allow consumers to relate to the campaign on a personal level. Because of that, it brings a certain level of comfort that will make them trust the brand more.

Keep it appropriate

More than keeping things local, you have to keep the campaign relevant and appropriate to what is going on. A funny campaign may be deemed insensitive right now. A photo of people hugging or partying is also not appropriate. Even the use of the word “virus” comes into a new light.

Take the #ShareASquare campaign of Cottonelle as an example. When the pandemic started to make people panic, what happened? People (especially in Melbourne) stocked up on toilet paper. As a response, the company created this campaign to discourage people from panic buying. They also urged people to be more generous.

Make sure that everything about your campaign, from the copy to the video and images should be appropriate given the situation right now. Scrutinize everything. People are feeling heightened emotions at the moment so a wrong move can easily be blown out of proportion.

Keep it flexible

The coronavirus pandemic brings new challenges as time goes on which means consumers have to adjust and reassess their lifestyles in reaction to these changes.

In response to this, Walgreen, a large US chain of pharmacies made changes to their business to cater to the needs of their clients. They launched the Ask a Pharmacist series to provide information about the virus. They launched another video ad to tell their clients about how to avail of their services. The company also showed its commitment to helping the community through a drive-thru testing initiative for first responders.

The different actions provided by the company makes you think that they are doing their best to keep up with the challenge that this pandemic brings.

This is why you need to make your brand and marketing campaign flexible. You need to constantly reassess it to ensure that the campaign is still relevant. What you think was appropriate a week before may now be viewed as callous or insensitive now. Or vice versa.

Keep it helpful

This is a great angle for your marketing campaign. People need to see the good in your brand. This is a welcome change from all the negativity that they see in recent events.

As an example, let’s look at what Tikkun Olam Makers, TOM: Melbourne did. When the health care system showed signs of breaking down, they stepped up. They announced that they would design and fund a rapid response to creating and delivering reusable face shields for homeless organisations in Melbourne and Gippsland.

This is considered a heroic response that will resonate among their target market. While other manufacturers are silent, they stepped up to help.

What about you? How can you, as a brand, help people survive the crisis? Remember, we are not just dealing with a health crisis. We are also facing a financial crisis.

Unless your product or service is considered an essential, don’t angle your marketing campaign to get people to spend. Make your market feel like you are a brand that they can trust to be sympathetic to their needs during these difficult times. Be mindful of the message that you send out.

How will it help ease the burden of the consumers?

Don’t stop your brand and marketing efforts

Roland Vaile, one of the authors of Marketing in the American Economy, studied the fortune of 250 firms in the early 1900s. According to an article published on MarketingWeek, he tracked the advertising investments and annual revenues of these companies during a recession. He noticed that the companies that increased their ad investments despite the financial crisis were able to grow their sales faster than those who did not.


This is proof that you should not hesitate to market despite the recession. In fact, you should increase it. That’s why marketers should start thinking about new ways we can market our business. And we need to do it in such a way that will not appear insensitive to what’s happening around us.