Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

Brands should be cautious, not quiet


Tealfeed Guest Blog

3 years ago | 4 min read

Coronavirus has effectively taken over our lives. It’s anything that anyone is talking about.

The media is obsessed.

The public is stressed and confused.

Security officers in Australia are monitoring shoppers’ toilet paper purchases.

And many are wondering, ‘What the heck is going on?’

As consumers navigate the Apple News updates that ping their Apple Watches multiple times a day, Brand Managers are certainly wondering, ‘How do I navigate the current climate with my advertising and communications?’

Below are some things to consider carefully, as well as some advice, that will help guide your marketing decisions in the time of Coronavirus or during any other crisis of a similar magnitude:

Re-evaluate what you currently have in market

If you have not already, do a review of the communications plan you have in market. Is it relevant to consumers’ mindsets? Is it appropriate? Is it sensitive? If not, re-work it. And quickly.

Be sensitive

People are nervous and scared. Rightfully so. Be sensitive to their current state of mind and be extra cautious with the words you use and the tone and manner of your communication. I recently received an e-mail from a brand with an update on their services that could have been construed as insensitive to the current situation. A few hours later, another e-mail popped into my inbox with an an apology. Their communication absolutely offended many, so much so that they needed to respond quickly. Good on them for acknowledging their mistake and apologizing.

Be clear

Ensure your proposition is clear to consumers. What are you offering to them in this time of need and desperation? Now is not a time for vagueness or ambiguity.

Be timely

The Coronavirus pandemic changes hourly around the globe. Now more than ever, time is of the essence. Communicate swiftly, yet carefully. For instance, I have received several e-mails from the CEO of a national grocery chain reassuring shoppers that food and supplies will not run out, therefore they should not panic. He also went into detail about what their business is doing to adapt to the incredible demand the market is putting on the food and drug industries right now. This has been incredibly reassuring for the customers of that company. I also continue to receive multiple daily e-mails from one of the world’s largest clothing retailers with the latest Spring trends. Now would be a good time to pull back on the frequency of that type of communication.

Have positive intent

Your brand’s intention should be to help inform the public and care for their health and safety. And then communicate how your product can help them. For instance, if you are the Brand Manager for a food brand, give your consumers ideas on how they can cook delicious meals at home, affordably. Searching for and cooking different recipes can help a family bond over mealtime and also act as a distraction from very stressful times. Your intent should be positive and should not be to capitalize on the situation just to sell your product or consumers will see right through it and it could severely damage your brand equity.

Keep health & safety paramount

Nothing else is more important than the public’s health and safety at this time. If your brand has a health angle to it, promote how your product can help consumers’ health and safety. It’s safe to assume that Brand Managers working on hand sanitizer, disinfectants and toilet paper will not need to focus too much on marketing efforts, and are surely focused on tripling production as quickly as possible.


At a time like this, consumers do not want to be sold to, they want to be reassured. I have received several emails from brands that I subscribe to receive news and information from, with the subject line ‘We’re here to help.’ Not only are they staying top-of-mind with their customers (which is smart), they are providing some comfort — even if it’s small, it’s meaningful.

There is no need to mention Coronavirus by name

The mention of the disease specifically will simply cause more stress. And consumers are hearing about it enough on the news and online. Rely on what is called ‘implied association.’ For example, in the time of Coronavirus, if a consumer sees a commercial for anti-viral facial tissues, because Coronavirus is so top-of-mind, they will mentally make the connection and put anti-viral tissues in their shopping basket.

If you work on a brand that has e-commerce and delivery…

At the time of publication, most food delivery is still allowed in North America. If you work on a brand that delivers food, ramp up your efforts and get out there and get delivering. People need to eat and local restaurants needs your support to stay in business through this difficult time. And if your brand has e-commerce and delivers to people’s homes, you are well positioned. Consider waiving delivery fees entirely which will show consumers you are trying to help them, not to mention this will help you through the sales slump your business is possibly experiencing.

If you work on a health & wellness brand…

Lean in. The public needs you more than ever. Educate people on how to stay healthy and safe, reassure people, comfort them, and let them know you are there when they need you. The health and wellness of the world’s population is of paramount importance at this challenging time.

And if you work on a toilet paper brand…

Stop advertising. Seriously. There’s no need. Save your TV GRP’s for later this year. You’re probably rolling in it by now!

This article was originally published by Josh MacKinnon on medium.


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