Marketing During a Pandemic

Jon Simmonds

Published: 21/04/2020

Is there a place for marketing during a pandemic?

It’s a question that’s being widely discussed right now. We believe the answer is emphatically yes – although sensitivity is key.

People’s lives have been turned upside-down. Everything has changed practically overnight and that makes people feel insecure. In times of great change you need to change your marketing strategies to keep them relevant and appropriate.

Don’t Just Maintain, Grow.

It may seem counter-intuitive to talk about growing your business at a time like this. But once the pandemic ends and the lockdown is lifted, a new normal will take their place. And you want your business to still be there at the end of it.

If you just sit out the storm and do nothing, there’s every chance your business won’t survive the downturn. It’s almost a tradition that the first thing to be cut during tough times is marketing. But if you shut down and stop talking to customers they’ll forget about you.

What if your competitors are still talking to them instead?

You have a chance to use this time to review your marketing strategy, distinguish yourself from the competition and show potential customers that you understand what they need and can adapt to their changing needs.

Does The Content Feel Appropriate?

Think about your audience and their immediate concerns. No matter what your business, your audience will almost certainly have more pressing considerations right now. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. Think about what you’re offering and how you can frame the message.

With staff on furlough, projects on hold and the economy in decline, it’s not the time for a heavy sales pitch. You’re looking to win hearts and minds, not share-of-wallet. Keep customers and prospects informed, give them valuable information, even look to entertain them if appropriate.

Can you re-purpose planned campaigns to make them more relevant to the mood and needs of the times? With a little creativity and adaptability, you have a chance to be the brand people remember, for all the right reasons, after coronavirus.

At some point this will be over and now is the ideal time to keep building relationships that will stand you in good stead when it is.

Be Authentic, Be Genuine

Social distance doesn’t mean emotional distance. In fact, customers are more in need of contact now than ever before.

But they don’t want bullshit. They don’t want marketing-speak. They don’t want sales spiel. They want authentic, genuine interaction with brands and businesses they feel have their best interests at heart. Brands which are human.

As someone said to me recently: “selling isn’t a crime if you have something people want.”

During the current crisis, take time to understand what your customers want. Work on your customer profiles to establish whether their needs and frustrations have changed. They almost certainly will have done.

You can – and we believe you should – continue marketing during a pandemic, but you need to acknowledge that the world has changed overnight.


In times of great upheaval many people feel the need to talk. They need to connect with others (even remotely) and discuss what’s going on. They need to find ways of getting through the situation and that’s easier when you talk to other people.

Use social media to listen to your customers and prospects. What are they talking about (apart from the virus)? What are their concerns? What are they trying to achieve? What are they having difficulty with? What information are they looking for?

That’s your new marketing opportunity. Be the source of the information they’re looking for – solve their problems.

Social media gives you an unprecedented opportunity to tap into the important conversations and join in when the time is right. Delivering the right information to the right people at the right time is what marketing is all about, and always has been. Businesses who understand this and are ready to act on it are the ones that thrive in even the most difficult of circumstances.

Adapt, Flex, “Pivot”

You’ve probably heard a lot of people talking about “pivoting” your business recently. What does that actually mean? Well, it doesn’t have to be a complete change in what you make or offer – unless you have a factory you can convert to make PPE or ventilators, of course.

The perfect example is pubs and restaurants who have, en masse, adapted their models to takeaway and home delivery. Not to mention the independent fruit and veg suppliers who are finding a whole new audience who are discovering the difference between supermarket quality and farm-fresh for the same price.

We predict that when the world returns to “normal” it’s these local suppliers who will have won business from the big supermarket chains.

That’s pivoting and that’s the overwhelming benefit of keeping on with your marketing during a pandemic and the uncertain and challenging times it brings.

Helping Each Other Out

Revenue is no longer the number one driver for your marketing campaigns.

Of course all businesses still need to make money to stay open, but there’s less of t about right now and customers are being extremely cautious of where they spend it, if at all.

So think about what you can give back. What can you add to the customer relationship that isn’t going to cost them a penny? Krispy Kreme gave away free doughnuts to NHS staff. Ugg gave away 500 pairs of slippers a week to coronavirus carers and keyworkers. And there are many more examples of brands taking a sensitive, considered approach to the changing times.

Of course they’re generating brand awareness through the campaigns as well. No-one would doubt that. The key is that they’ve switched from overtly courting profit to a more altruistic and authentic tone.

Be careful not to appear opportunistic though. If you’re just doing it to hook customers then squeeze some money out of them once live returns to something approaching normal, your message will backfire and that’ll hurt your brand longer-term.

Not to blow our own trumpet, but our own small effort is to create the Digital Business Toolkit. We know many businesses are having to adapt to a completely new way of working. Taking your business online and embarking on digital marketing campaigns can be very daunting for a lot of them. So we made some of our most valuable and accessible resources available for free, to help them out. The only potential payoff for us is that the more businesses grow throughout this pandemic, the stronger the economy will be afterwards, and that has to be good for everyone.