3 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Marketing

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

The Covid-19 pandemic has reached into every aspect of our lives — how we work, how we learn, how we interact with our families and friends — and its impact will continue to be felt during the coming months.

In this time of uncertainty, frustration, anxiety, and grief, businesses have had to tread carefully in the way they communicate with, and market to, customers. Many businesses have also had to adapt in other ways to an ever-evolving situation, changing their messaging, the ways they reach their customers, and how they perform their work.

1. Tailoring the Message

Virtually every business has tailored its messaging over the past year, in one or more of the following ways, to respond to this unprecedented time:

Address concerns and assure customers of safe practices. It makes sense that any business would want to assure customers that they have adopted safe practices, seeking to keep both employees and members of the public safe. Messaging in the past year, therefore, has abounded with details about social distancing, hand-washing, and mask-wearing. Businesses have also sought to assure customers that, although shipping delays and other logistical hiccups are inevitable, it’s otherwise business as usual.

Offer support and hope. An event like the Covid-19 pandemic — especially the fact that the nation is completely polarized in response to it — presents a huge challenge to companies: how to strike a tone that will acknowledge what people are going through without alienating their audience. While some businesses chose to ignore the pandemic altogether, or to merely nod at it in their messaging, others faced it head-on and offered messages of hope and encouragement. They offered support for essential workers, compassion for those who were suffering from illness and loss, and empathy for people feeling isolated, lonely, or anxious. While humor certainly has played its part, many businesses opted for more earnest messaging, understanding that it’s too easy to cross the line from funny to inappropriate. According to an Impact article, “40% of consumers say humorous communication is the wrong approach from brands” during the pandemic.

Share their contributions. A number of companies have taken action to help others, donating products or services to those in need, instituting policies that support their employees, or even pivoting to making products — like PPE, or the ventilators and respirators made by Ford — that directly help those who are ill or who are on the front lines. Savvy marketers let their customers know of their good works. According to Think with Google, “89% of Gen Z and Millennials expect brands to take action to help with COVID-19. On that note, younger generations don’t just appreciate it when brands provide them information; they actively expect them to help with the pandemic.”

2. Shifting the Mode of Communication

Marketers and advertisers have not just altered the content of their messaging; they have shifted the ways they communicate with customers. According to Impact, “39% of social media users polled said they were spending more time on social media” during the pandemic (a number that logic dictates is probably much higher). While marketing on social media is not new, many businesses noted the increased role played by social networks during lockdowns and placed even more emphasis on that aspect of marketing campaigns. Going hand-in-hand with increased attention on social media marketing is an upswing in the kind of content that resonates in that medium: authentic, organic content, including blogs, videos, and podcasts. In addition to increased attention to social media, small and medium businesses have sought to improve digital marketing skills more broadly, with 76% saying (as reported by Impact) they have also sharpened their skills in terms of SEO and data analytics.

3. Changing the Way They Work

Like the rest of the world, marketers, and advertisers have had to adapt abruptly to working from home and collaborating with teammates virtually. While this transition was undoubtedly difficult for many, it does have advantages, and regardless, it may be a trend that persists beyond the course of the pandemic. Whether temporary or long-term, virtual work must be supported by the right tools, and business owners would be wise to ensure their teams have what they need to succeed.