Opinion

Coronavirus: How To Market During A Pandemic

The whole world is swimming in unchartered waters right now, this pandemic is unlike anything any of us have ever really seen before.

Following a nationwide broadcast from Boris Johnson last night, the country is officially in lockdown, meaning many businesses have been forced to shut up shop indefinitely.

Amidst a plethora of smaller businesses, giant corporations have also recently closed their doors, including (but not limited to):

  • McDonalds
  • KFC
  • Subway
  • TK Maxx
  • John Lewis
  • Primark
  • IKEA
  • Selfridges
  • Lush
  • Bodyshop
  • Arcadia Group
  • New Look
  • River Island
  • HMV
  • Debenhams

They join an abundance of other stores and organisations that have been gradually closing over the past few weeks as the pandemic has been unfolding.

As PRs and marketers, this leaves many of us in a rather compromised position. It’s far from ethical to try and market off the back of Coronavirus (and something I recently advised that I’d steer well clear off), and it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to use comms to drive sales, when for the most part – businesses aren’t even trading at the moment.

So where does that leave us?

Well, in my opinion, (and not that I’m biased), a strong PR strategy will prevail in uncertain times like these.

Not from a sales and marketing led perspective, but rather from a reputation building and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) angle.

How To Market Your Business Amid A Pandemic

Nobody knows how long this will last, it’s truly impossible to say.

But to pull the marketing of your brand altogether, is that a smart move? If you stop working on your marketing, your PR, your SEO and so on, then what position does that leave your business when all this comes to pass?

But by the same token, with a reduced income, it’s only natural for businesses to want to cost cut where they can.

So, how do you market your business during a pandemic?

And moreover, how important is it to do so?

Already established, it’s not wise to try and profit directly from Coronavirus. It’s distasteful, and following tighter government restrictions, virtually impossible anyway.

Furthermore, any kind of sales-led marketing at the moment feels wrong. Your stakeholders are concerned for their futures, and unless you’re operating a business that’s currently classed as ‘essential’ (and in which case marketing won’t be your concern at the moment anyway), then chances are people aren’t going to spend their money with you right now.

With any kind of marketing motivated by sales out of the window, what are we left with?

There’s actually two things that brands, in my opinion, should be focusing on right now (apart from any crisis communications handling of course):

  1. Maintaining and strengthening your presence, mainly online
  2. Executing a good Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, if you are able to

1. Maintaining Your Corporate Appearance

The absolute worst thing to do in this situation would be to disappear completely. Even if you are no longer trading, don’t let your potential consumers forget who you are. You shouldn’t ignore the situation. Address it, respect it, but don’t fear it. People are craving escapism right now, give that to them. Most brands can offer some form of reverie to people; so get to posting inspirational pieces on social media, put out positive press stories – most importantly, keep your brand alive. 

2. Strengthening Your Reputation

The other opportunity to seize, if you can, is the chance to strengthen your reputation. Show the world why they should care about your brand; why they should buy from you, engage with you, work with you and so on. More times than I can count this week, I’ve seen calls to boycott brands due to their irresponsible handling of this situation; there’ve been multiple posts on social media that exclaim we must not forget the brands who helped during this crisis, much less the ones who didn’t. I’ll touch on this some more below.

When You Can’t Sell, Strategise

When direct marketing is out of action, PR and a prolific comms strategy are what you need to keep your business ticking over.

When you can’t sell, you need to ensure that your brand doesn’t lose visibility. When all this comes to pass, you’re going to want people to remember you (for the right reasons).

So, if you can help in any way right now in a professional capacity, you should.

Multiple brands have already displayed an impressive act of CSR, but there is room for so much more to be done. Why? Because while people aren’t thinking about buying right now, they’re certainly turning their attention to the positive news, the acts of kindness, the extraordinary displays of national community spirit…

Brands such as B&M, Home Bargains, Costa Coffee, KFC, Brewdog, Microsoft, Tesco, Apple, Pret, Aston Villa Football Club and so many more will all be remembered for their positive showing amid all this. From handing out flowers and freebies to NHS workers, to granting indefinite full paid leave to staff members.

These are the brands that will emerge from the pandemic favorably.

On the other hand, companies such as Topshop, Sports Direct and Wetherspoons have all been faced with calls to boycott, for reasons including unfair dismissal of staff members, to refusals to honor government advice.

These are the brands that won’t.

We’re a passionate generation and being a responsible brand is everything, it doesn’t matter how good your products or prices are, if you’ve got an abhorrent reputation – it’s going to harm your profits.

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I don’t agree with him often, but I agree with him today

So, businesses, while you might not be able to get out there and sell right now, learn from other’s mistakes and make sure that amid all this negativity, your brand isn’t adding to it.

Stay safe everybody 💕.

3 thoughts on “Coronavirus: How To Market During A Pandemic”

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