Navigating COVID-19 As Advertisers

With travel restricted, shopping limited, and events being cancelled, it goes without saying that COVID-19 is restricting many key services for brands and advertisers. While some industries, like gaming and e-commerce, are starting to thrive, many businesses are panicking and pulling back on their media spend as they wait to see what happens.

But what brands and businesses really need to be doing is planning to get ahead of all the disruptions that COVID-19 is causing. As industry leaders, we wanted to offer a few tips to help your campaigns continue to thrive in wake of the quarantine.

Change Your Outlook On Objectives

For many consumer brands, right now may not be the best time to be pushing conversion ads, but there’s no need to panic and pull all of your media dollars out of your campaigns.

When it comes to advertising during the COVID-19 crisis, first, take a step back from your campaign objective and think about another approach. We suggest even simply looking a little higher up on the conversion funnel.

While promoting the purchase of products may not be the best move for your brand right now, keep your brand top of mind and continue to prospect new customers with different objectives like brand awareness, video view, lead generation or messaging campaigns.

By increasing your focus on brand awareness right now, you’re actually building a strong retargeting audience for future conversion campaigns.

Let the People Know!

Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! You’ve likely noticed by now that everyone is taking to their social media accounts to announce how their individual brands and business are handling COVID-19.

This is a great tactic for maintaining customer loyalty, as most consumers are more likely to continue doing business with your brand when they know what’s happening with it.

The feelings of community and unity are everything right now, so when your audience knows that your brand is doing its part to keep the community safe during this time, it goes a long way in instilling confidence and loyalty.

Updating Your Brand Messaging

At this time, your audience is probably hyper-aware and very sensitive of brands that might try to use this pandemic to their advantage. You never want your audience to feel like you’re taking advantage of their fears. We recommend that your messaging steer away from pushy ad copy and focus on making your consumer feel more comfortable and secure during this uncertain time.

For most consumers, brand loyalty means a lot when making purchasing decisions. With stores closed and options limited, a dedicated customer may feel even more out-of-sorts when not being able to buy the products and brands they’re used to.

To help your brand come out on top, provide a solution to their consumer needs. For example, if you’re selling a consumer product, let your audience know about online purchasing and delivery options.

Of course, it’s more important now than ever for cleaning products and hygiene brands to be encouraging people to buy, but advertisers also have a responsibility to ensure they are meeting the consumer’s best interests. Though we don’t recommend steering completely away from COVID-19-related messaging, approach the subject strategically and in a positive way.

Take Cellements, for instance. They use carefully-crafted messaging that alludes to helping fight the spread of the virus without ever actually mentioning Coronavirus or COVID-19 outright.

As we said, it’s important to capitalize on the sales of hygienic products but you also have to find the right balance so that your brand doesn’t leave a bad taste in the consumer’s mouth.

Re-evaluate Your Tone

In light of current events, a number of advertisers find themselves forced to pull campaigns featuring people shaking hands, touching their face, or gathering in groups. Re-evaluating the tone of your communications to reflect what consumers are feeling and experiencing in these extraordinary times can make your brand come across as more human.

For example, take a look at Ford’s “Built to Lend A Hand” campaign that started March 16th.

Expanding on their iconic “Ford Built Tough” tagline, Ford shifted from their usually more rugged advertising to a softer, more approachable tone without even saying a word. This, in turn, helps create a feeling of unity and understanding that is necessary for the financial support program they are promoting.

Reassess Your Audiences

For the most part, many people are working from home or are quarantined to their house, so try to be cognizant of where exactly your audience may be when viewing your ads.

Considering most people are probably confined to their homes, build an alternate strategy that focuses on your online presence and/or e-commerce experiences. Highlight products and services that are best suited for the household, like subscription packages and delivery.

Curious as to who is offering free delivery? Check out this list!

Remember that location targeting is an essential tool when reaching the right audience at this time. With certain locations (cities, buildings, provinces/states) under stricter protocols, make sure you utilize geo-targeting and geo-exclusions in your campaigns. This is also a great time to double-check your Lookalike Audiences. With such a drastic change in audience behaviour, make sure you audit your audiences to ensure you’re still reaching the right people.

Even consider launching entirely new audiences, with a short and specific lookback window, some as soon as the last 5 days.

Consider Online Shopping Options

Just because your customer can’t make it into your store right now that doesn’t mean you have to completely close up shop. It’s never been easier for retailers to offer an online shopping option, so why not switch from brick-and-mortar to digital for the time being?

Perhaps you could offer free shipping or waive shipping and handling fees to help encourage consumers to shop from the comfort of their homes.

Don’t Focus on the Short-Term

Some brands are focusing too heavily on the short-term, taking aggressive measures and reallocating all of Q1 ad dollars to later in the year. This can have a negative impact on momentum and audience retention.

Social media usage is peaking right now as people seek news updates and want to stay connected with loved ones. Brands that maintain a healthy online presence and use tasteful messaging (that doesn’t try to capitalize on COVID-19) will stay top of mind with consumers.

Give Back

While undoubtedly this is an incredibly difficult time for all, there are a number of companies that are doing amazing things to give back to their community!

Spirit of York
There has been a shortage of many disinfectant products like soap and hand sanitizer in the weeks following the outbreak of COVID-19. In response to this shortage, Spirit of York is helping combat the spread of the virus by volunteering their facility to make hand sanitizer for their community.

The members of the Canadian Agency Network have come together to offer their expertise to businesses large and small who have been negatively impacted by the crisis.

During these uncertain times, tCAN agencies are committed to helping businesses and not-for-profits navigate unprecedented threats and build resiliency.

Senior Hours
Costco, Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys have all introduced new “senior hours” to help the elderly and those with disabilities to shop peacefully. Times and days of these special hours vary from location to location, so make sure you check out your local listings!

To see how more companies are giving back, check out this regularly updated list!

To Recap

    • Show Them You Care: Update your audience with what your brand is doing to help combat COVID-19 in your community.
    • Stay Calm and Reevaluate: Though you may see a drop in performance at this time, take a step back and think about how your objective is affecting your performance during the COVID-19 outbreak.
    • Reassess Your Targeted Audience: Audit old “look-a-like” and custom audiences and create new ones to ensure your campaign is still reaching the right people.
    • Update Your Branding Message: There are positive ways to utilize messaging revolving around COVID-19 and hygiene, but make sure it is in good taste. Ensure your brand messaging is a balance between awareness and empathy.
    • Consider e-Commerce Options: Ensure your online store is optimized and ready to go so your customers can continue to use your services or buy your products online.
    • Focus on the Future: Once again, don’t panic and try not to focus on the short term. Pulling all of your media dollars from your campaigns may not be the right decision. Do what you can to maintain right now and start building new strategies for future campaigns.
    • Give Back: If your organization has the resources, help give back to your community in need. Remember, we’re all in this together.

The start to 2020 has certainly brought challenges. As a global community, we must come together to support each other and push through. The world needs understanding and compassion right now, whether that be through daily actions or adjusted brand communication strategies. Everyone must do their part.