COVID-19 and marketing: How to survive and thrive

COVID19 & Marketing

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is having an impact across almost every industry, and with people cutting back marketing budgets it’s hard to know whether you should be doing the same or pushing forward and making the most of the situation.

As we most likely head for a recession the “what shall we do with our marketing budgets?” question won’t be going away and rightfully so. How you react to a crisis is part of the marketing role and it’s your responsibility to make the right decision.

Reducing consumer confidence

GfK’s monthly consumer confidence barometer shows a decrease of 2 points in consumer confidence to -9 in March in the face of the likely recession in the UK economy because of the pandemic. The data was collated before UK lockdown and social distancing measures came into force so the real figure is probably a lot lower.

People are rightfully concerned about their own finances and consumers are already looking at non essential costs they can cut to reduce their outgoings over the next 12 months. 

Whilst a reduction in consumer confidence can be a big worry for marketers, with uncertainty usually comes creativity. Marketers need to hone their creative thinking skills to look at new opportunities. 

  • Could it be time to add in new revenue streams with new markets? 
  • Could it be time to start moving your event strategy online?
  • Could you be developing ways to help your audience connect with one another better?

Use this time to build better relationships

I’ve written before about the need for a more long term strategic approach by marketers and now is the time to start putting long term marketing plans into place. Brands who take the time to really understand the feelings of their audience in times of crisis can build stronger relationships and brand equity by being more closely aligned.

Relationships are often tested in times of crisis and business to consumer and business to business relationships are no different. Use this time to understand your customers and find ways to build and strengthen relationships with them.

Adjusting your marketing to COVID-19 

Brands need to throw away the playbook they created for 2020. It no longer applies. 

Instead, brands need to be adjusting their communications to fit the world we’re now living in. It’s hard to remember a time when business and consumer behaviour changed so rapidly and so drastically. The disruption caused by globalisation and technology has happened over a decade, the disruption caused by COVID-19 has happened within weeks and months. It’s unprecedented and it’s caught a lot of organisations off guard. Simply keeping calm and carrying on just won’t work. So in order to survive and thrive during and after this crisis, marketers need to think carefully about how they market their brands. 

Using research and social listening, you can get an idea of the mood of your audience. This will guide your new marketing planning, helping you adjust your communications strategy to fit the times we’re living in.

Behaving ethically is vital

Ethics should be a given in business but Coronavirus is exposing brands who have a culture of profit and business before all else. 

The number of brands being called out for unethical behavior in recent weeks is astonishing. Travelodge and Wetherspoons give us just two examples of how not to behave when sh*t hits the fan. Throwing out people in emergency accommodation and not paying your staff or suppliers is one way to lose brand equity and favour with the general public. The way you behave now will be remembered long after the crisis with people already promising to boycott brands who have been called out for mistreatment of staff. 

The Sunday Times reported that some supermarkets were bumping up their prices during the crisis. Normally this might make sense, with supply and demand causing price increases but these aren’t normal times and people are sensitive to brands “cashing in” on the crisis.

Brands who survive and thrive will be those who do the right thing and live and breath their brand values.

Don’t give up, people are still in the market

As a marketer or business owner it can be easy to get downhearted about the situation. We’re all stuck inside and might be struggling because of the crisis but there is hope.

Channel 4 have produced a new insight study, looking at the impacts of the Coronavirus outbreak on their audiences, and exploring what consumers want to see from brands in this time of crisis.

Key takeaways:

1. Keep marketing.

2. Adjust your messaging to be empathetic to the crisis.

3. Try to help your audience as much as possible, people are feeling anxious so do anything you can as a brand to support them.

Whilst others look to cut costs and marketing spend, it may just be the perfect opportunity to build stronger brand foundations and increased brand awareness. 

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