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Coronavirus Marketing: How To Advertise During the Pandemic (COVID-19)

It’s an extraordinary time to be alive, and it’s not business as usual. Although it might feel like catastrophic times…now, more than ever, people need to feel connected, they need to feel human. Your advertising needs to change, and I’m about to show you how.
By Dara Denney
marketing during a pandemic


First things first: how are you doing?

You may be locked inside but you certainly aren’t alone when it comes to getting through these tough times. Remember, we’re all in this together.

If your business is struggling with marketing during a pandemic (COVID-19) outbreak, I would like to be a resource for you.

So please, don’t hesitate to contact me. Great advice is always free.

We’re giving free office hours to businesses that want to be sure they’re taking the right approach to advertising during a pandemic, in order to fulfill the needs of their customers and actually thrive amidst deteriorating economic conditions.

No pitch. No skeezy sales funnel. Just actionable, honest advice. That’s our promise.

Fetch & Funnel has always been a fully remote company, and so our day-to-day during this coronavirus pandemic has been… oddly… business as usual.

But that has not been the same for many of our partners, who own and operate different businesses. Especially those who advertise on Facebook.

Depending on the industry and product, we’re currently seeing it all. Many of our clients are now generating exceptional returns. Whereas others are seeing rising CPAs, lower click-through rates, and ultimately reducing spend.

The only certainty we have is that coronavirus marketing requires a fundamental shift in the way your business communicates.

The key is to assess and adapt, right away.

According to the International Journal of Business & Social Science:

Businesses that cut marketing during downturns saw an average profit drop of -0.8% during the recovery, whereas those who increased activity saw a +4.3% increase.

It’s also easier to grow market share during a downturn if you outperform your competitors, especially if they are reducing investment.

According to Facebook:

    • Online shopping activity has increased by +32% across all markets
    • Facebook browsing has increased by +53%
    • Instagram browsing has increased by +32%
    • Home streaming activity has increased by +42%

Bottom line, if you take anything away from this article, it should be this:

If your business is currently advertising on Facebook (or any digital channel) during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you cannot approach your advertising as if everything is normal.

This is an unprecedented modern crisis. And although it might feel like catastrophic times…now, more than ever, people need to feel connected, and they need to feel human.

So, if your business plans to try and “maintain normalcy” then you’re making a mistake.

Take it from these top brands highlighted below.

About the Author:

    • Why I Wrote this Guide: I’m a human who is not having the greatest time during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m a digital nomad who is currently in my childhood home trying to co-work with my mom. 🙂
    • I’ve scaled businesses on Shopify from $0 in revenue to $100K in just one month. I’m a Digital Ads Manager at Fetch & Funnel that’s been building businesses on Facebook for over 5 years.

How To Take The Right Approach To Marketing During The Coronavirus Pandemic

These brands are doing it right: Bath & Body Works, Homesick, Beardbrand

Hint: the brands that are taking the correct approach have changed their messaging to fit this situation.

This does not mean writing about coronavirus in your messaging, or ad copy. (Don’t do this, by the way. Read the end of my article to find out why.)

Instead, you should speak to your customers in a way that makes them feel like you are situationally aware.

Acknowledging people are likely at home, maybe in need in some self-care, and very likely experiencing stress and uncertainty. People miss their daily routine, and they certainly miss friends and family.

Coronavirus Marketing

Bath & Body Works clearly had a meeting about this: for products that would normally incite copy about a seaside getaway instead hones in on “self-care”, “staycations”, and “getaway at home”.

Bonus points for the mini pep-talk in the head line. And the virtual hug in the description.

Homesick hones in on social distancing at its finest: by inciting others to let their family and friends know that they are still cared about during this time.

This is one of my favorite ads to come out of this crisis. Beardbrand does so much right here: first, it’s a bundle pack…which speaks to current buying habits.

And second: this speaks to the fact that everyone is washing their hands WAY MORE than usual… but it does it in a way that feels truly on-brand, authentic, and not like they’re trying to take advantage of the situation. A total win.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Speak to your customer’s current situation. They have their health top-of-mind, are in need of some self-care, and are missing their friends and family.
  2. Call out directly how your product can be used for self-care and at-home.
  3. You don’t need to include COVID-19 or coronavirus in your copy. You can still be completely on-brand, while highlighting your brand’s at-home uses.

How To Pair Your Messaging With Your Products (The Right Place At The Right Time)

These brands have their messaging on point… and their product has something to do with it: Tushy, Blue Apron, Peloton.

Let’s face it: while some brands are taking a hit during this time, others are thriving.

And while that has a lot to do with the products they sell… they also have the right messaging to illicit a direct response.

Coronavirus Marketing

Oh, TUSHY. If an alien civilization came to our planet and wanted to know the effects that coronavirus had on the world, I would include this particular ad in a PowerPoint presentation.

Facing a global toilet paper shortage, TUSHY’s marketing has seamlessly adapted to the age of coronavirus.

It has social commentary (hello toilet paper hoarders!), a very legitimate solution, and it uses the word “butt” in the copy. So it’s a winner to me.

Plus… TUSHY is on backorder for the next six weeks. So we can tell they did something right.

Okay… I know I said you didn’t have to call out coronavirus in your messaging. But if you feel good about doing something like what Blue Apron did THEN DON’T HOLD BACK. Frankly, we need more messages like this one.

This letter is simply pasted into the ad copy… and it works. It works because of what’s inside. A letter from the CEO calling out directly the concerns that people have about the food cleanliness and sanitation.

If I was trying to decide which food delivery brand to go with… I’d go with this one. They’ve addressed my concerns. They’ve talked to me where I’m at. And, perhaps most importantly, it feels like it’s coming from a human rather than a brand.

If you’re in a position to provide something meaningful to your community, then this is the perfect opportunity. Peloton has aced this.

First: are we overwhelmed? Insert obvious answer here. Second: the need for community and movement is crucial right now. And Peloton is offering free use of their app for 90 days, which if you were following the Covid19 spread in China, seems like an excellent time to sign up.

Key Takeaways:

  1. If your brand is well slated to seriously help people during this time CALL IT OUT.
  2. A letter or note from the founder about this crisis can go a long way. If you have already done this on email and posted a notice on your website, this is the next step.
  3. Can you offer the public free use of your app, service, or product? Figure out the way that makes the most sense for your business and consider it altruistic lead generation.

Coronavirus Marketing Failures (Hint: These Brands Need To Be More Human)

These brands missed out on a chance to be more human: Everlane, Glossier. Heck, they neglected to assess their marketing messaging in its entirety, during a pivotal time in history.

Sure, we all love discounts. As a consumer I love them. And as a marketer I love them even more because they work to convert people that are right on the edge.

But throwing out a new discount into the world to try to offset your increasing CPA without trying to connect with your customers during this time is a bit…weird? Lazy? Missing the mark?

Case in point: Everlane. The first example could have been at any time, anywhere. And the second example is just… really? Are $50 jeans really the kind of good news we could use right now?

I’d be willing to bet that the internal meeting went something like: “Let’s be a haven of normal!” and also “What could we possibly discount the shit out of to get people to buy while they are at their computers all day?”

But… they were selling JEANS. JEANS at a time when people are working in their sweatpants, if they were wearing pants at all.

Emoji verdict: ?

And then there are brands like Glossier… who have not changed their creative in 10 days. Which, during the Covid 19 pandemic… is a long ass time.

What is particularly annoying about these ads is that they could so easily be so much better.

Glossier’s whole brand is centered around simple products that punch the wearer above that no-makeup-makeup look. Which is perfect for our new life of Zoom calls and social distancing.

As a woman, I’ll tell you: I never wear make-up when I work from home. And I work from home everyday.

But if it were as easy as a simple swipe… like Glossier products… I might consider it.

Ultimately, Glossier is business as usual. And it misses the mark.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Feel free to offer a discount. But also offer some humanity with it.
  2. If you’re only discounting a certain item… does it fit into our current state of affairs? How?
  3. If you’ve decided not to change your copy… maybe rethink this notion. Take a close look and see if there’s a way you can speak to your customer’s current journey. I’m willing to bet there’s a better way. Again, coronavirus marketing is not business as usual.

These Brands Kind of F*cked Up

These brand have missed the mark: TULA Skincare, DAVIDsTEA, doTERRA Essential Oils.

Some brands are just skirting by without a copy refresh. (Looking at you, Glossier.)

But others seem to be making a detrimental mistake.

Oh, Tula. What makes this one so cringe-worthy is that you had every opportunity to land on the right foot since the copy was changed well into America’s new work-from-home lifestyle.

And yet your copy touts “travel-friendly”. (Which no one is doing…) And also “post-gym”. (Where no one in their right minds are going…)

So this copy fails on several fronts, when it so easily could have contained messaging about minimalism, skin care, and self-care routines.

Daily life is no longer the same. Covid19 has shifted our behavior, and Tula’s marketing has failed to adapt.

Time to change your copy, doTERRA. No one is traveling right now.

Many millennial brands hinged on the image that they were travel friendly. But that’s not our reality anymore. In fact, many people are now afraid to travel. You don’t want your customers to associate your products with something they fear.

However, despite having created smaller products for travel…they still serve a purpose while we practice social distancing, primarily indoors. doTERRA needs to recognize this, and adapt their marketing to the realities we now face as a result of the coronavirus.

Finding a new self-care routine? Or maybe messaging about ways to use essential oils for self-care? Maybe try demonstrating how to feel more grounded during this time?

Key Takeaways:

  1. Review all of your copy. There’s simply no excuse not to go through this process, immediately.
  2. Change any messaging about being “travel-friendly”, an “on-the-go lifestyle”, or talk about being at the gym.
  3. Help your customers create new rituals, help them find new ways to improve their daily lives (while at home).

How Businesses & Entrepreneurs Can Learn From These Brands

The number one thing you can do for your customers right now is to speak with them, and to speak to where they are at. So forget about travel, the gym, and hectic lifestyles that bounce from place to place.

Bose did a great job of adapting their messaging to fit their customer’s current needs. For a brand that usually writes copy about traveling and being on-the-go, they adapted quickly for personable, at-home use cases without appearing off brand or like they are taking advantage of the situation.

Plus they used user-generated content, making the content feel way more personable and intimate.

Zappos also adapted quickly and honed in on two ways their products help serve their customers in this time: by cozying up or by getting outside.

Ultimately, these ads speak to the time we’re living in. While also speaking to several different kinds of people: the ones that are ready to chill out with some self-care, and those who need to get their heart beating to get through this thing.

Conclusion: Advertising Lessons Learned From Top Brands During A Crisis

Consider your customer avatars. Ask yourself these questions in order to develop new messaging for your ads.

      • Where are they right now and who are they with?
      • What are they worried about?
      • What makes them feel good?
      • How are they coping?

TEST, TEST, TEST. If your customer avatars are coping in different ways, speak to that and see which your audience responds to.

It’s not the time to be the “cool” girl or guy in the room. What gets noticed right now is real, genuine authenticity. A little empathy can go a long way, and seriously…get with the times. This is serious, in more ways than one.

Change your messaging, this is non-negotiable. But also consider the following:

    • Write a short email to your list. All major brands are doing it, so no need to overdo it. A plain-text email will do.
        • Shipping or order processing updates
        • Employee health and well-being
        • Precautionary or safety measures taken
        • What’s the best way for your customers to reach you?
        • Something positive your brand will bring to this situation.
        • BE REAL. Demonstrate that you actually care.
        • Are you offering any discounts, or unique offers?
        • Are you making donations or contributing to the cause?
        • Include a good CTA (call-to-action), but don’t push for the sale.

Post a banner on your website with a link to a hidden page with how your brand is approaching the pandemic. You can reuse your email for this.

Provide daily updates on Instagram Stories. This is the time to over communicate with your customers. Keep it light, but informative. It’s ok to sprinkle normal content in here as well. Consider an Instagram highlights reel on Covid19.

Good luck out there, and please be safe.

If your business is feeling the impact of coronavirus and needs help with marketing, we’re offering free office hours to help you navigate these uncertain times.

Please contact us today, we’ll do everything we can to help.

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