It’s safe to say we’re all on the same page when it comes to the ethics of exploiting folks during this difficult time. Having said that, many businesses are halting their marketing activity out of the fear of looking insensitive or as a cost-cutting measure. The truth is, there is no better time to be a leader in your category, no matter how big or small you are.

Nevertheless, here’s what businesses should do with their marketing during these uncertain times:

  1. Don’t go dark
  2. Maintain presence
  3. Flex the brand narrative

Don’t Go Dark

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the 2008 recession, it’s that cutting marketing activity for prolonged periods comes with a serious consequence. Countless studies from the IPA and WARC have proven that when businesses go dark, awareness fizzles and key attributes that make a brand memorable gradually wither away. Especially when it comes to TV advertising. 

Obviously, the situation is different this time around.

Everything has halted, and it’s not even WWIII.

There are many businesses which can not even access their customers at the moment, while others run out of inventory without a single promotion.

This too shall pass, and when it does, no one wants their clients to play catch up.

Millward Brown 2008 Recession Case Study

Kantar Millward Brown 2018

Maintain Presence
One thing all businesses can do during this difficult time is build advocacy by showing how they care about their customers. This can be done by carefully scanning the gap in your category behaviour and listening to what your customers need while social distancing.

These brand actions can range from a hockey equipment manufacturer making protective headgear for nurses, to a beer company holding live music sessions that help folks pass the time.

But it’s a whole different story if you want to make a social commentary about COVID-19 itself. It’s dicey for brands who have an army of PR strategists, let alone small businesses who are trying to stay relevant.

Do us all a favour and don’t try to look opportunistic.

Flex The Brand Narrative
Context: some people are worried about a full-blown recession and god forbid, a depression.

The implication?

Consumers are putting a hold on high-ticket purchases ranging from cars to houses.

Perhaps this is the time to dial-down conversion tactics, and be more human. 

Right now, is the time to tell your brand narrative by entertaining or educating audiences who are spending an incredible amount of time on their smartphones and their TVs.

If the rule of thumb for balancing brand and sales activity in most categories is 60/40, then right now the brand ratio should be even higher.

Businesses just need to remember the old adage “Out of sight, out of mind.” So as long as they are not exploitative or are trying to be opportunistic, there’s merit in maintaining brand presence.