Marketing during a pandemic – how to stay relevant

By Al Davies / April 24th 2020

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Marketing Week recently reported that just 8% of consumers worldwide thought brands and businesses should cease their advertising efforts. In a time of crisis – and in a time of technology that connects us – it can be comforting to see brands we know, love, and trust continuing to communicate and offering their support. We all need an element of reassurance right now.

For some, that comes in the form of a weekly email from their favourite fashion brand, with a discount code for loungewear, or for others, a post from Innocent Smoothies providing a daily roundup of useless information (their words, not ours).

Although it’s clear that consumers are still engaging, if not more than ever before, with social media posts, some brands have pulled their marketing budgets. It’s tricky to know what marketing efforts you should be maintaining and which ones completely miss the mark. However, stopping completely can be detrimental to any brand for the future.

Brands need to be working smarter and adapting to the current situation. Stopping marketing now may save a certain amount of money in the short-term – but communicating effectively with your current consumer base, reassuring and providing advice and guidance where you can, is a sure-fire way to stay relevant and not lose your marketing momentum.

Changing your current messaging

 Is there anything in your current brand messaging that could be perceived as insensitive? It’s sometimes not as obvious as it seems. Taking a look over the language you use on social media posts and your website is a great way to make sure you don’t make a faux pas.

With this is mind, could you change your messaging to help support the situation? Many brands have updated their logos to reflect the blue and white colours of the NHS brand or added in a rainbow.

Remember not to take advantage of the situation

There’s nothing worse than a brand jumping on a crisis situation or sensitive topic and completely misjudging it. Take Crocs Shoes for instance. When David Bowie sadly passed away, the brand created this graphic to post about it:

david bowie crocs

I think we can all agree that Bowie would never have worn a pair of Crocs anyway, but that’s beside the point. Bowie fans and Twitter users jumped on the brand almost instantly, accusing the company of trying to sell their shoes through his death. Plenty of brands tweeted and posted about Bowie’s passing, but simply to pay respects.

Don’t fall foul to looking as if you care, when really you’re still trying to promote your brand’s services or products. Many brands are thanking NHS and healthcare workers, without making it about themselves. It’s important for businesses to show their support, without being disrespectful.

Focus on what you can achieve, not what you can’t

For many businesses, now isn’t the time to start thinking about a new lead generation strategy. Think about what’s possible to achieve during this period of uncertainly – not about overhauling your entire business strategy.

Here’s a list of a few marketing tasks you could start looking at:

  • Revisit your current website content

When was the last time you updated the copy or images on your website? Now is a great time to address anything that’s out of date or simply just old and over-used. Check your contact forms and details too. Often, businesses miss out on a lot of good leads, simply because links are broken.

  • Update your social media headers

Freshen up your social media accounts with a new profile picture and header image. This doesn’t have to be directly related to the current pandemic, but if you wanted to add a message on to your banner, make sure it’s relevant, like Santander’s below.

santander bank twitter header
  • Revise your SEO strategy

Now is the ideal time to update your SEO strategy. Many brands have seen a decline in their website traffic, both from an organic perspective to referral, direct, and more. Focusing on your SEO efforts is more important than ever. Take a look at what can be updated and worked on during this period, whether that’s reviewing your backlink profile or simply amending out of data meta data.

  • Update your Google My Business listing

Or even just claim it. Information on your Google My Business listing should match up with what’s included on your website. Consistency is key and is essential for people discovering your brand online. The more places you can be found, with the right information, the better.

  • Revise your PPC ads and keywords

PPC is still a great tactic to be utilising right now. You budget is only spent once someone clicks – and currently, cost-per-clicks have decreased across numerous verticals. Instead of turning off your campaigns, simply revise your wording to make sure you’re being as sensitive as possible to the current climate.

  • Ask for reviews

But do this sensitively. If you’re a small business, this is a great way to ask for support from your customer base – if they can’t currently buy from you, they can still support you in other ways that aren’t financial. Remember, don’t bombard customers or clients. An email or social media post will suffice.

Look after your current customers and clients

Your current and previous customers or clients needed you at some point before – and need you now. Your focus shouldn’t be on building your customer base, but nurturing and maintaining those who already know and trust you.

We like to see our favourite brands thrive when it comes to handling a tricky situation – take complaints on social media for example. Many brands have followed suit in using humour to respond to social media moaners:

argos badman tweet

 Humour makes brands appear more human – and so does having unique and thoughtful responses. If humour doesn’t work for your industry, you can still show humility by genuinely responding to questions, comments, and complaints. Brands that are communicating with their customers on a regular basis, updating them on orders, providing advice and guidance, will find this will only aid business recovery, when lockdown is over.

Imagine in a different situation, where there’s no lockdown or pandemic – if your customers or clients didn’t hear from you for months on end, it can be easy to forget about a business and start listening to those who are making noise. Use your resources, such as email data. Sending a personalised email to past and current customers or clients not only makes them aware you’re still here, but provides reassurance, making them aware you’re thinking about them. Don’t push your products or services; it’s not what they want to know about right now.

We’re not saying the above tweet example will suit your brand – but what Argos has shown here is that it’s okay to take risks, as long as they’re thought-through, and that communicating in a human way is key. 

Try new things

If your marketing team or agency have time on their hands, try the things you’ve always wanted to, but just not had the resources to do so. Create that infographic, produce a great guide, or start populating your blog with relevant content.

Creating content will help with looking after your existing customer base too. Whatever advice you can offer, offer it. Because this situation is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly basis, your client base will have a lot of questions and, depending on your industry, you can help provide answers. This might not be answers to ‘when will lockdown end’, but you may be able to offer:

  • Business support
  • Home improvement tips
  • Remote learning ideas
  • Marketing advice
  • Financial information

Marketing is always about trial and error. If something isn’t working, don’t just continue in the hopes that it will; adapt and amend. During this pandemic period, you can experiment and try new things, but ensure they’re well planned out, easy to implement, and quick. A lengthy, expensive experiment might not bring you the results you’d hoped for.