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Your COVID-19 Marketing Response Checklist

Chelsea Iversen Apr. 2, 2020

Right now, brand trust is paramount. Maybe you are looking for a way to reposition your marketing to meet the new normal (or at least what that looks like now), and you think you have an idea but aren’t sure where to start. Or maybe you’ve already shifted your marketing message for the time being, but you don’t know if you’re going down the right path.

Your marketing can be making a real impact if you allow your approach and strategy to be guided by consumer expectations.

How about some data to back that up: Edelman conducted a special brand trust study on March 26, 2020 to measure how consumers see brand trust in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, and their opinions are strong.

On top of that, consumers are being more choosy. According to a March 22 McKinsey study on U.S. consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis, 60 percent of people say they need to be very careful about how they spend their money right now.

So much of the business response to this crisis falls under the purview of marketing, which is why we created this brief checklist so you can make sure you are on the right track.

COVID-19 marketing response checklist:


▢⃞ Care for your own

But caring for your employees and suppliers does not necessarily need to mean financial ruin. In fact, Harvard Business Review did a comparison: Honeywell laid off 20 percent of its workforce during the recession of the early 2000s, but during the 2008 financial crisis, opted for furloughs and partial-compensation. The result? Honeywell fared much better — with more sales, more cash flow, and more net income — after 2008, even though that particular recession was worse overall.

McKinsey has laid out a brilliantly simple three-tiered approach to taking care of employees during this time: First, make sure your employees are healthy and safe. Second, increase communication with your people so they feel heard and cared for. Finally, make remote work as seamless and effective as possible, whenever you can. It’s so simple, but it can be easy to veer off course as we get caught up in shifting marketing messaging.

As of April 6, 2020, Starbucks is offering its employees (and eligible family members) mental health benefits to the tune of 20 therapy or coaching sessions a year. This is part of a greater initiative before the coronavirus crisis was what it is today, but it couldn’t be launched at a better time.


REI, among a number of other retailers, has closed its doors during this time, but is still paying store employees. There are actually many companies doing this, making an employee-centric workplace a trend that may be more than appreciated. It may be expected.


▢⃞ Put people over profit

Consumers want brands to put people over profit. If not, it might affect their relationship with that brand in the long run: According to Edelman, “71 percent agree that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever.”

The global pandemic and social distancing have not been kind to the travel industry — that we know. Instead of letting their messaging fall by the wayside, however, brands like Hotels.com are staying out in front of consumers with TV ads like this one. It’s short, to the point, cute without being too funny, and it sends a message that comes across as honest and for the greater good of the community.


▢⃞ Step up and help out

If you’re concerned with consumer opinion, then at least part of your approach to marketing right now should probably include giving back or paying it forward. Eighty-nine percent of consumers want brands to “offer free or lower-priced products to health workers, people at high risk, and those whose jobs have been affected.”

And, a staggering 86 percent want you to take it even further and help out where governments cannot. It sounds like a tall order, but consumers want brands to think about how they can become a part of the social safety net during this crisis.

Many screencasting and video conferencing platforms are offering free access for students and teachers. Loom, for example, has opened up its software to teachers for no cost to help them make their online learning as seamless (and cost effective) as possible.

And here at The Ad Learning Exchange, students and university faculty can join a scholarship program for free to get access to ALEx courses and curriculum.

(Want to learn more about how to claim a scholarship for yourself or your students? Email our program coordinator Jared Strasser at jared@theadlearningexchange.com.)


▢⃞ Communicate with empathy

It may seem like common sense, but any changes you make to your marketing messaging should keep compassion for the consumer in mind. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they would like advertisements to focus on what brands are doing to help people deal with today’s unprecedented challenges.

There haven’t been too many marketing faux pas during this time, which means most brands are operating with at least awareness that this situation is impacting nearly everyone on the planet in one way or another. But brands shouldn’t just recognize that this is going on, consumers want them to talk about what they’re doing to help.

For example, brands like T-Mobile skipped the April Fool’s Day humor but still produced quality social content that addressed the situation compassionately and strengthened trust with followers on social media.




If you are a university faculty member or student, or if you know someone who may be interested in receiving a donated subscription to ALEx, please reach out to our program coordinator Jared Strasser at jared@theadlearningexchange.com.