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How To Market In A Time Of Crisis


Edward Coram James, CEO and Co-Founder of Go Up Ltd

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to everybody’s lives, and though we are all trying to stay safe and flatten the curve, it’s still uncertain when things will return to something resembling normality.

Entrepreneurs have already had to make sweeping changes, whether that means arranging for staff to work from home, adapting their services, or even pausing altogether. At such an unpredictable time, business owners must fight to keep their brands alive, which is why communication is more important than ever. But in light of the current crisis, how can you continue to market your business in a sensitive but effective manner?

Take a step back.

Even though the world looks very different right now, it may be tempting to act like nothing has changed, so it doesn’t seem as though you’re struggling. However, continuing your regular marketing strategy could seem ignorant and tone-deaf in the current climate, with the potential to anger and alienate your customers. Therefore, it’s a good idea to take a step back and assess the situation before doing something you regret.

In this situation, the needs of your customers are far more important than any company goals and growth, so make them your priority. Even though you’re pausing to take stock of the situation, it’s important that you still make an effort to communicate with your customers during this time. Stay active on social media, responding to messages and issuing formal communications on your website, and make sure that every word should be clear, compassionate and relevant.

Rejig your existing campaigns.

Nobody wants to abandon the exciting marketing campaigns they’ve had planned months in advance, but unfortunately, they may simply no longer be appropriate. Bring your marketing team together via Zoom and examine all the content that’s currently running, or scheduled to launch soon. Many campaigns will probably have to be paused — either because they could be deemed distasteful, or because they simply won’t achieve the intended goals in these circumstances. However, you should keep this content on the back-burner as it may be appropriate once the pandemic has ended.

As for what to put out now, you might be able to produce a quick-turnaround campaign if you have an especially talented marketing team. Ford, McDonald’s and IKEA are just some of the brands to address coronavirus in impactful ads. Of course, doing this isn’t easy, so another good idea is to see whether anything in your upcoming marketing schedule can be repurposed to fit the current situation, particularly any campaigns focusing on the importance of your customers. In the meantime, think ahead to key developments, such as the easing of lockdown measures, and plan relevant content ahead of time.

Mind your language.

Emotions are understandably high at the moment, which means being extra careful about your marketing word choices. Figurative language is something to be particularly wary of, and phrases that are usually innocent could now be seen in a new light. For example, slogans like “get in touch”, “come together” or anything else referring to close interaction could come under scrutiny.

Though it’s important to be mindful and empathetic, you should also avoid being overly negative. Given that the media continues to be saturated with stories about coronavirus, you don’t want your business’s media channels to become another source of panic and anxiety. This doesn’t mean you should ignore the gravity of the situation, but you can still create a positive brand experience by using personable language, and encouraging hope and optimism. Finally, don’t be afraid to show your human side to remind customers that we’re all in this together.

Diversify geographically.

Coronavirus may be a global health crisis, but it’s important to bear in mind that not everywhere in the world is being impacted in the same way. New Zealand, for instance, has controlled the outbreak more successfully than the US and many countries in Western Europe. Therefore, if you’re a global business, you may want to reconsider your target markets at this time.

Researching how different nations are responding to the crisis might suggest that certain regions will be more receptive to your business. One way to expand your reach is by launching an international SEO strategy that can help you drive traffic to your website from around the world. You’ll also have to identify the most effective marketing channels. For instance, email marketing might be profitable in one territory, but useless in another.

Highlight your brand benefits.

If your brand can add value to your customers’ lives during this testing time, make sure they know this. However, this strategy will only resonate if your focus is on the people who use your products or services, and not simply a case of publicly self-congratulating your business.

Technology companies have made effective use of this marketing tactic, considering their services are enabling people to contact each other throughout lockdowns. For instance, Virgin Media recently released an emotive advert made up of home videos which show how its customers are staying connected and entertained while stuck indoors. Where your own brand has a USP that’s similarly beneficial, it should be emphasized in your marketing. If this isn’t the case, you can ensure your brand stays valuable by creating engaging content for people at home to enjoy. This could involve quizzes, polls or interactive challenges.


Edward Coram James is a UX design professional and the CEO and Co-Founder of Go Up Ltd, an international marketing and design agency dedicated to helping its clients navigate the complexities of the digital world and maximize their online potential.