Has This Pandemic Taught Every Marketer To Include “Crisis Marketing” In Their Marketing Playbooks?

In times of crisis, marketers need to prioritize consumers' needs and show understanding to foster brand loyalty. It is crucial to avoid appearing opportunistic or solely focused on sales. Instead, brands should communicate actions taken to make things easier for customers. Examples include campaigns promoting kindness and support, redefining service delivery, and humanizing the brand through relatable ads. Analyzing data and developing short-term and long-term strategies based on real data and numbers are essential. By adapting and connecting with customers during a crisis, businesses can survive and even grow.


According to employment statistics in Canada, the employment rate in March 2020 fell by -5.3%, which is the lowest recorded since April 1997.  The situation is similar across the globe. Thousands of consumers have lost their jobs.
This is not the time for brands to push their product. It’s not the time to increase the prices for on-demand products either. The world is watching your next move, and we will judge you harshly.
This is one of the tough lessons that marketers around the globe have had to learn – crisis marketing. While some have got it right, others have tried and fallen flat, while the rest are yet to pull their act together.
Crisis marketing involves putting consumers’ needs first. Your marketing campaigns should match with what they are feeling in real-time, and showing this kind of understanding will foster brand loyalty.
During a crisis, the last thing you want is to come out as opportunistic and solely focused on gaining through people’s pain. Keep in mind that your prospects are also watching to see how you handle the crisis, and how you deal with customers who have been loyal to you through the good times.
The marketing strategies that have proven to work over the years cannot work during a crisis. But this does not mean you should give up or hold off on advertising either. It would be best if you only changed your tactics. When you continue your advertising during a crisis, you are likely to bounce back when things get back to normal.
Find opportunities in the crises that can help your brand grow in certain aspects. For instance, the physical distancing and the need for people to stay at home due to the COVID-19 have created an excellent opportunity for businesses to grow their online presence.

1) Silence is Golden

While sending a ‘hope you and your family are doing well’ email and following this message with a ‘we are still open for business’ statement may seem a harmless way to inform your leads that you are open for business. It may pass the wrong message and come out as pretentious.
You are sure to come out as a selfish marketer, and your email is likely to be met with scorn. Informing your mailing list of the tactics your business is using to cope with the pandemic is not an option either.
Reach out to your mailing list for critical communications only. As for everything else, use actions to show that you care more than achieving your monthly sales targets.
As a brand, you need to assess the impact the pandemic has had on your customers’ lives, and come up with a strategy that can make things easier for them. And you can now confidently communicate these actions through email.
There are a few companies that have adopted this approach.
Cottonelle, for instance, recognized that there was a problem in the looming shortage of tissue paper in the market due to the pandemic. And instead of using this as an opportunity to make more sales, they spread a message of kindness by urging people to share toilet paper through #ShareASquare. They promised to donate $1 for every social post that featured #ShareASquare.
Such a campaign shows that the brand is focusing less on the number of sales they can make regardless of the harsh economic times, and instead sowing a seed of kindness in people. And they are showing it through actions.
It encourages those who are not largely affected by the loss of jobs to share what they can (not just tissue paper) with those who have been affected.

2) Go Back to the Drawing Book

During a time when many states have ordered the closure of stores offering non-essential businesses, brands have had to come up with a way to draw customers to their online shops. And this has to be achieved without sounding pushy or oblivious to the pandemic.
Just Salad, for instance, encourages people to purchase from their online shop and, in the process, give back to the community through the Buy One Give One Program. For every meal purchased, the company, in turn, gives a meal to a student and their family during this time of need.
Instead of shutting down entirely and losing their customers, restaurants and other non-essential businesses have been forced to redefine their service delivery. They have developed curbside pickup and delivery models.
Tim Hortons took their campaign a step further and redefined their advertising campaigns to fit the need for physical distance while showing the brand’s support for those in the frontline in fighting the pandemic.
They created an ad that guides customers on how to buy doughnuts without getting inside a restaurant, and another ad that shows Tim Hortons’ efforts to deliver free coffee and doughnuts to essential workers.

3) Show Your Human Side

A significant aspect of crisis marketing is humanizing your brand. With the lockdown limiting human interaction, the need for adding a human element in your ads is high.
There are some marketers who have got it right. The Carter’s Inc has developed a family-centered ad that features their employees and their children and is made in an in-house setting. It shows kids who are happy to have more time to play and make new memories. The ad brings out the positive side of being indoors and emphasizes the importance of family time.
In addition, Carter’s Inc is using its social media pages to show its customers fun activities that they can do at home. The company has also donated $10 million worth of products to families largely affected by COVID-19.
You need to show that you can connect with your customers at a human level. This is achievable through understanding their customers’ needs and going out of their way to provide a solution and show your commitment to the community.
Ford, for instance, had to forego their marketing campaigns for the launch of the Escape and Explorer models and instead decided to create an ad that shows they understand what the financial crisis their customers are going through. They launched an ad with the taglines “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now,” which showed their intention to ease things up by providing flexible terms for their credit customers.

4) Analyze, Measure, and Remain Authentic in Your Strategies

Any time there is a crisis, you need to act fast and make smart decisions as well as develop short-term and long-term marketing strategies based on real data and numbers.
The short term strategy will apply to the first three months when the crisis has the most impact.  In this case, you can focus on what is easily changeable, such as social media advertisements and video ads. Review your scheduled posts and emails, and consider if they are relevant to your customers’ current sentiments.
In case you are shifting your business online, as has been the effect of the COVID-19 crisis, you need to strategize on how to advertise to your online customers. The first step is to carry out data analysis and learn the pages that your consumers mostly visit. Analyzing the searches they perform will ensure that your marketing strategies are relevant.
Find ways to turn your offline customers into online consumers using offers, tokens of gratitude, and messages that provide personal relevance while driving the most engagement.
Pay attention to the product lines that remain in demand even during the crisis. Focus more on increasing the volume of sales and less on the return on investment. With the right strategies and proper planning, you could end up gaining a market share during the crisis.
Avoid making knee-jerk reactions in a bid to remain relevant in the market. It could backfire. For instance, a yoga studio in Delta that wrongly claimed that their hot yoga sessions have healing effects on the COVID-19 virus was shut down by authorities.
This is a perfect example of panic and unplanned advertising during a crisis. It seems clear that they tried to keep the attendance of their classes high by sharing misleading information.

Wrap Up

The COVID-19 is not the first global crisis we have faced, and it is not about to be the last either. Businesses tend to be the most affected, with some coming out of it unharmed, while others come to their death.
How you adjust your business to cope with the crisis will determine if your business will survive the crisis or not. It all boils down to how you relate with your customers at such a time, the steps you take to make their lives easier and the adjustments you make to maintain your operations.
The right tactics will keep your business afloat during the difficult times, and if you play your cards right, you could achieve growth during the crisis.
Avoid making a reaction to the crisis, but instead, go back to the drawing book and develop workable short-term and long-term marketing strategies. You should have the consumers’ interests at heart. Use this time to show than you are more than a business, that there are human beings behind the brand name who care more than making the next sale.
Apply these tips, and you are sure to get through the crisis.
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Gaurav Roy

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