How To: Adapt Your Advertising and Marketing for COVID and Other Times of Crisis

MediaGo Staff | 03/03/2021

There’s no question that COVID-19 has affected all of us in wide-ranging ways. For businesses and individuals alike, the pandemic has shifted our mindsets, reset expectations, and created new and unexpected challenges.

Advertisers and marketers are now tasked with reaching out to consumers who have completely reevaluated their way of thinking about purchases. The standard channels of consumer engagement haven’t changed, but the way of thinking has. It’s up to companies to adjust their customer approach in order to maximize sales – while at the same time ensuring that they strike the right tone.

Here are our guidelines to help advertisers and marketers navigate this delicate time and succeed in your sales goals. Although this post specifically focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons here can be applied to other crises as well.

Step 1: Take inventory

The first step to any successful campaign is to understand your audience. So before you do anything else, evaluate your customer base to understand how their buying habits and their communication channels may have shifted during the crisis. This will inform your specific approach to advertising channels and ad copy/creatives moving forward.

In addition to conducting a review of your customers, you should also evaluate how your business scope and capabilities have been affected. Every adjustment you’ve made has the potential to impact sales. For example, if your marketing funnel used to rely on attending large trade shows, you might find that COVID-era marketing techniques have profoundly changed how you interact with your audience. This could in turn affect your sales – positively or negatively.

Also remember to make an honest audit of how your internal operations have changed, and communicate all the relevant changes to your customers (as appropriate). For example, if your team is working remotely over different time zones, remember to clearly communicate your updated business hours to your customers.

Step 2: Define your tone

It’s a given that people’s viewpoints have changed during the COVID pandemic. If you’re in a marketing or advertising role, it’s your job to understand how to address your customers’ shifting viewpoints in your advertisements.

If your products are targeted at consumers (as opposed to businesses), it’s essential to be cognizant of the financial challenges they might be facing. Even if your target demographic is in a higher income bracket, it’s still possible that they are facing unforeseen monetary pressures. Remember that coupons, discounts and loyalty programs are always popular – no matter how wealthy the consumer. The last thing you want to do is appear tone deaf in your messaging. An ad that celebrates opulence could very well strike the wrong chord and turn off potential buyers.

Likewise, if you’re targeting a business audience (SaaS products for example), keep in mind that budgets have been cut within companies. Even if your audience isn’t concerned about their own personal expenses, they might still need to strictly manage their budget in line with their company’s expectations. 

It’s also important to think about the new challenges that businesses are facing due to the pandemic, and tailor your messaging to highlight the aspects of your product/service that can help.

Step 3: Rise to the occasion

Crises like COVID-19 are challenging for everyone. Your advertising should tastefully acknowledge the difficulties people are facing, but at the same time not evoke pity. In other words, be insightful, thoughtful and caring.

If your company is carrying out CSR efforts, try to tie them back to your brand as much as possible. When you make people feel like they’re having a positive impact by purchasing your product, then you’ve won over the hearts of your audience. In many ways, this is one of the most powerful tools available to you.

Likewise, this could be a good opportunity to showcase your brand’s core values. Given that peoples’ lifestyles have changed quite a bit during the pandemic, it could be beneficial to re-engage with your customer base and show them the positive steps your company is taking to achieve its vision. This can be done through brand or performance ads, and your messaging can be as subtle or direct as you want. Empathy is all too often overlooked when it comes to advertising, but it’s essential to forging long-term relationships with customers.

As the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, keep these guidelines in mind for the future. They are applicable to a wide variety of challenges that your business might face, including times of economic downturn and PR crises.