marketing during a pandemic

24 March 2020

“What Do We Do Now?!”​ Tips For Marketing During A Pandemic

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Former “Walking Dead” Fan; Poster by Mark Baker via Creative Commons…

It might feel like the eve of the zombie apocalypse. And while conditions are serious, at some point societies and markets will recover. In the meantime, here are some marketing tips for companies of all types…

1. Remember that consumers are home and stressed — and that includes journalists, influencers, teachers, and other social media-savvy professionals.

Consequently, any corporate missteps will be quickly highlighted and attacked online — more so than usual. Various missteps include not treating employees and customers with compassion, jacking up prices (even if supply and demand warrant it), demanding a government bailout if you’re a giant corporation, giving executives raises, or appearing to capitalize on a tragedy. (Now is not the time to advertise your hand sanitizer brand; better to show how your brand is contributing to charity.) So watch every step.

2. Conversely, charity will resonate in tough times, particularly if it involves corporate sacrifice.

The luxury brand LVMH converting perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitizer earned a lot of positive recognition. (After all, it would seem tone deaf to advertise luxury goods now.) Executives cutting their salaries to keep workers employed would also resonate well. And handing out restaurant gift cards to doctors, first responders, home-bound teachers, and others would help multiple parties.

3. Seek alternative distribution channels.

Even if you have a product in demand, consumers are having a hard time buying it, with supermarkets on limited hours, hoarders grabbing everything in sight, and ecommerce giants overwhelmed. Consider novel ways of distributing products — perhaps through independent retailers or restaurants that are struggling to survive. 

4. For most retailers, it’s all about ecommerce at this point, so time to launch your online store.

If you already have one, go through it thoroughly and test for errors, stock it with appropriate merchandise, and rewrite any copy that might sound out-of-date or insensitive (“get ready for cruise season!”). Be sure to extend delivery times, since the delivery services will likely be overwhelmed.

5. If you’re a service professional (chef, fitness trainer, interior designer, etc.), consider digital education.

Time to turn that iPhone into a movie studio and teach courses in what you know. Use a site like Patreon to encourage subscriptions.

6. Resist discounts.

Even though the pandemic and the economy have consumers shell-shocked, it’s better to offer cheaper alternatives than to undermine your brand by discounting it. For example, in the last recession, Starbucks offered Pikes Place Roast, a cheaper alternative to their usual coffee. Well-to-do customers still paid full price for their usual fix, but those on a budget had a lower-priced option. Another alternative to discounting is to include extras with a purchase, such as a restaurant gift card.

7. Think long term.

The pandemic won’t last forever. Consumers might be cutting back now, particularly for vacations and non-essential items, but when they can freely go shopping and traveling again, all that pent-up demand will result in a buying frenzy. That’s why it’s important to build your brand (image and reputation) now through good deeds, professional conduct, and an optimistic attitude. Consumers will remember.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

3 Responses

  1. Good info Freddie

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