Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

As cases of COVID-19 increase, so has its impact to our economy. None of us know when this will end, and none of us know how deep the impact will be, but here’s what we do know…

Some brands and retailers brace for a traffic slowdown.

While many shelves of Purell are emptying, non-essential retail may see a slowdown. According to CoreSight Research: “27.5 percent of U.S. respondents state they’re avoiding public areas, at least to some extent, and 58 percent plan to if the outbreak worsens here.” Of those who have altered their routines, more than 40 percent say they are “avoiding or limiting visits to shopping centers/malls” and more than 30 percent are avoiding stores in general, according to the report.

Brands should be boosting their online content.

As more consumers are likely to spend added time on their shopping journey at home, brands and retailers can counter this with more ecommerce/ship-to-home options, online product tours, and shopping events. Automotive and dealer-based businesses have already jumped on this opportunity. As noted in Digiday, Mercedes-Benz is running a campaign on the WeChat app that lets people see a 360-degree interior view of its GLB SUV.

eCommerce gets hit. And eCommerce punches.

Amazon saw a 6 percent decrease in ad spend in the past two weeks as retailers and suppliers are experiencing product shortages, especially from China. Conversely, some sellers are using the coronavirus to pillage. Third-party online sellers are being criticized for examples of extreme price-gouging, such as charging $100 bottles for hand sanitizer or face masks being marked up 500 percent. At press time, both retailers and regulators are scrambling to manage this.

Brand safety at front and center.

As the media focuses on Coronavirus, brands should be making sure that advertising doesn’t show up in sensitive news’ context. For example, an airline promotional ad might be insensitive in an online article about an illness from a flight. There’s human pain and illness behind the headlines, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Make sure your campaigns have the right contextual targeting and the right parameters.

Preparing crisis management communications and PR plans – evaluating brand voice.

All brands and businesses should be preparing communications if an employee, or a family member of an employee, is affected by the virus. Leading with transparency, empathy is critical right now. This is also a time for brands to speak beyond their products to show the human and heart behind the brand voice.

The power of technology.

While some brands are bracing, others are booming. Zoom Video Communications Inc. shares spiked 37 percent in February as videoconferencing and work from home increased.

Technology can help all of us, should we experience the type of shutdowns and closures already experienced in Hong Kong.

This too, shall pass.

At EGC we saw clients through the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, among other significant events. As a member of Tribe Global, we’re also in touch with agencies and marketers that have experienced or are experiencing this in worse severity than the U.S. is now.

The keys to getting through this are:

  • Have a plan.
  • Communicate more than ever before.
  • Stay as steady and consistent to keep our businesses going.
  • Maintain hope, optimism and empathy. People depend on us, and you, to keep an economy going despite the virus. And this too shall pass.