Getting COVID-19 right (as a marketer)

Covid-19 has monumentally changed our world, across numerous dimensions.

Looked at one way, we’ve been driven indoors for the most part — a phenomenon that’s literally quieting the world down. Our face-to-face interactions with one another have drastically dropped, which is causing many to feel frightened and isolated.

But looked at another way, we can see the seismic cultural shift that’s happening. People are slowing down … spending more time with their families … taking stock, and giving thanks, for what they have.

Thoughtful businesses know this is a time to listen, reflect and connect with audiences — in genuine, thoughtful ways. Brands that get it right can strengthen both their awareness and image. The ones that get it wrong risk looking tone-deaf at best, and exploitative at worst.

Here are some tips to get your brand on the right side of history:

1. Actively engage with your audiences on social media

We are all human beings dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak. This is a time to show your empathy and connect more deeply with your customers and employees —on a human level. Some ideas:

  • Share photos and videos of staff in their WFH settings, practicing social distancing. (And don’t be afraid to have fun with it!)
  • Create industry-specific webinars to keep your customers informed and engaged. Try to anticipate questions they may be asking, and provide thoughtful answers.
  • Respond to followers’ questions and concerns as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. This is a time when your brand’s humanity, and ingenuity, can shine through.
NOTE: The New York Times reports that, in their home settings, consumers have been moving away from their tiny phone screens and back to larger computers. These days, people are hungry for ways to engage and communicate beyond mere texting. Keep this in mind as you’re considering different types of content for your audience’s consideration.

2. Consider ramping up your digital advertising budgets

Since we’re all spending more time at home, web traffic has skyrocketed of late. At the same time, many affected businesses have been decreasing their marketing spend. Less competition for ads and an increase in web traffic means online ads are cheaper — and earning more bang for the buck. So if you’re still earning the revenue to justify it, consider ramping up your digital ad spend.

If you move outside of Google and social, and toward direct media buys, just be mindful of where you choose to advertise. World priorities have shifted, and that is reflected in where people are spending their time online. One such example is the jump in traffic to established news sites (while partisan news sources — on both sides of the political spectrum — have seen stagnating numbers).

3. Re-tool your digital marketing strategy (… and, your business strategy, too)

In this economic turndown, many day-to-day business operations have slowed. The one thing many of us have gotten back is the most valuable thing of all: time. Why not use some of it to revisit critical business and marketing strategies that have been relegated to the back burner?

With revenue streams drying up, forward-thinking marketers are focusing on (1) how to rebound strong once the quarantine is lifted, and (2) what new pipelines can be built NOW that will provide new sources of revenue later. With industry events and in-person sales suspended, digital marketing is the way to support both efforts.

So use some of that precious new-found time to bring those back-burner initiatives to the front, and start building for the future. Some good examples:

  • Develop a new product line (to attract new customers or up/cross-sell existing customers)
  • Launch a digital brand activation
  • Create a new social media campaign
  • Analyze your market positioning & brand
  • Update your brand website(s) & assets

As we all navigate through this new reality, it’s best to remember that our customers and clients are human beings. Like the rest of us, they are home-bound — venturing often into the digital world in search of inspiration, sincerity, humor … and connection.

You can help give them what they’re searching for. These days more than ever, successful marketers are the ones who can provide authentic, thoughtful, engaging content. The basics of good marketing remain the same: before you say anything, understand the audience — and then build a brand experience around their wants and needs.

Or, as we call it, Actionable Empathy.


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