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How Not to Market Your Business During COVID-19

on April 20, 2020, updated on May 20, 2020 3 min read

How Not to Market Your Business During COVID-19 man and woman in suites discussing bar graphs looking concerned

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, and our businesses. Marketing campaigns are no exception, and are in fact necessary to helping brands navigate new forms of communication and messaging. Now more than ever, context matters, and in order for brands to remain well-respected and valuable to their consumers, informed and sensitive communication is key. 

While this is not the time to push the hard sell to prospective leads, there’s no reason brands should halt sales and marketing efforts. Simply, strategies need to be re-evaluated and adjusted to fit buyers’ new needs in a rapidly changing time.

Here are some essential things to consider when establishing a marketing strategy during the COVID-19 crisis.

Following Guiding Principles

Let your brand’s core mission guide your crisis marketing strategy. What did you come here to do? Make sure your clients and audience knows that behind the clever marketing and excellent services, there are people who are working hard to make sure their needs are met.

Authentic Communication

By now we’ve all received the standard COVID-19 message from every brand we’ve ever provided with our email. While this is not a bad strategy and will not harm your company, there is room for more direct and authentic communication beyond a generic email. 

Especially in a time of social distancing, authentic communication goes a long way. Have your CEO write a sincere message or feature in a short video explaining how:

  • This situation might affect client services
  • Your company is taking care of its employees’ health and safety
  • You will be moving forward during the pandemic. 

Consider Brand Voice

Casual, light-hearted copy in marketing and communication materials might not be appropriate for discussing the gravity of this global health crisis . Being too casual could actually harm your brand image by making your company seem naive or insensitive. Instead, communicate all COVID-19 related information with a serious, straightforward tone to show that your company is taking this seriously. There will be time for fun and light content later.

Provide Genuine Support

With so many people out of a job and navigating healthcare costs, this is not the time to push a hard sell. Instead, consider what your company can do for your clients. A 10% sale or month-long discount won’t cut it as a genuine offer and will read as a thinly veiled marketing ploy. Instead, offer your most relevant services for a reduced cost if a contact needs,  or a free trial period.

We have seen incredible stories of humanity during these trying times, and brands that are stepping up to offer support and critical services, from Zoom to Gap Inc. Consider how your brand can contribute to local, state, and nationwide efforts, and how to share what support you give your community as a positive story during these times.

Adjusting Content Strategies 

The context of the business landscape has changed significantly in a short period of time, so marketing strategies must change too. Brands have had to pull back campaigns that were no longer appropriate and pivot upcoming content to reflect a new reality. Here are some things to consider when creating useful and relevant content.

Revise Language and Imagery

Content and language that was appropriate two months ago may no longer be fitting. References to going outside, gathering in large groups, touching hands or faces, and any other elements of daily life that have been put on hold during the crisis will feel out of step and disconnected. 

In copywriting, avoid implications of activities going against CDC guidelines, and pivot away from images of large groups or people in close contact. To avoid any missteps, re-evaluate:

  • Automated campaigns in this new context
  • High-traffic pages on your website
  • Any new content your company generates over the course of the pandemic.

Don’t be Alarmist

Headlines and copy that raise fear or anxiety about the crisis are inappropriate and alienating. This can include playing into people’s fears about unemployment or healthcare in an attempt to sell your products or services, or using catastrophic language such as “nightmare” rather than technical language such as “pandemic.”

Instead, provide support and reassurance, as well as an understanding that these are difficult and unprecedented times. Ensure that any information your company shares about COVID-19 comes from reliable sources such as the CDC, WHO, and state and federal governments to avoid the spread of misleading information.

Tell Human Stories

Now more than ever is the time to share stories of empathy and humanity. Show the core of your brand through authentic communication, such as:

  • Give insights into how your company is adjusting to remote work
  • Provide a window into the people behind the brand. Employee generated content (EGC) can give your company a relatable, friendly face. 
  • Share photos of your new pet coworkers, or your work-from-home set-up 
  • Show how your brand is staying connected internally to remind us all that we’re in this together.

Navigating Difficult Times

In the midst of challenging situations, it is important to remember that there will be a time after the crisis. While your brand navigates adjusted tone and content, make sure to look ahead. Don’t get rid of ideas that may not work right now, and instead save them for future opportunities. Messaging campaigns about hope and optimism are often born from difficult times, and remind us all that this will pass.

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