"Big COVID-19 Sale!" and other things you shouldn't say when marketing during a pandemic

Over the last few weeks in this blog, we’ve taken a look at the reasons and benefits to continue marketing during the pandemic. If you decide to move forward with that idea, then the question will quickly become whether or how you should change your marketing message. In today’s newsletter, we’ll examine the content of messaging during a crisis.

How to be empathetic in your marketing during a crisis
The overarching rule of marketing during a crisis is to be empathetic. Context matters, so it’s important to acknowledge that your audience likely has a lot on their minds right now other than your products and services, and their priorities have likely shifted quite significantly over the last month. Still, if you’re able to meet your audience where they are and acknowledge their current reality, you will go a long way towards making a connection.

1. Audit and adjust existing campaigns.
If you have any campaigns already running or scheduled to run (especially if they will deploy automatically) it is important to be up to speed on your existing paid media. It’s likely you’ll want to push timelines for some of these campaigns that might be irrelevant right now. Although you could cancel them completely, we recommend simply pushing them out because many campaigns will be just fine once the outbreak subsides, even if your message feels inappropriate in this moment.

2. Evaluate your imagery and language
When building or revising your creative, keep in mind that it shouldn’t encourage crowds or close contact. You may need to utilize a different visual feel that you might in more normal times. Also avoid phrases like "work hand in hand" or "get in touch" because those phrases imply working physically close together, which might not be ideal for this point in time.

3. Don’t capitalize on the crisis.
It’s a great idea to convey your company’s response to the crisis and communicate openly and transparently. Details like changing hours or procedures should definitely be publicized, but avoid being alarmist or dramatic, avoid bragging, and skip tactless messaging such as "Big COVID-19 sales!" Your goal is to market to your customers with a message that’s relevant during the pandemic, not one that’s relevant because of the pandemic.

4. Be positive, but not ignorant.
At the same time that we are encouraging you to consider the context of the pandemic, it’s equally important to not be overly grim. We encourage you to do your best to remain positive. Use your brand ethos to guide your copy and remain personal and approachable to your customers. It’s ok to show your human side and talk about the silver linings of the current situation while acknowledging the bad.

5. Highlight how your brand can help.
Add value right now for your customers to the best of your ability. Communicate the benefits and reasons that people should buy from you during this period. You can also share helpful and useful content, which can be a really great way to stay relevant and add value during the quarantine. Educate, entertain, and inspire.

A great example of a company putting these ideas into action is Delta Air Lines, which for the last several weeks has been sending a regular weekly newsletter to its customers penned in the name of CEO Ed Bastian. They seem to have paused other company newsletters, and this one instead talks about what Delta is doing differently than normal during the crisis, even if that means bluntly saying that something is changing negatively temporarily to reduce costs in this trying time. (As one recent example, Delta explained that they were closing most of their airport lounges.) But the newsletter also talks about what the airline is implementing to help affected customers, such as additional change flexibility or extending elite status perks. Even the bad news feels more acceptable and sincere when it’s delivered this way. The airline rightfully doesn’t include any links to book flights and they aren’t offering any coupons. Instead, they’re using their larger brand, built around the ethos that Delta cares and is more focused on customer service than their rivals, to deliver a message to their customers that says, "We recognize you don’t need our services right now" but still recognizes customers as key stakeholders and encourages them to keep Delta top-of-mind when the pandemic passes and people’s need and desire to travel returns. In this way, Delta’s marketing team continues to nurture customers even if sales isn’t currently the #1 objective.

You can apply these same ideas to your own marketing in order to build a successful digital campaign during COVID. If your business is better positioned to make sales during this time than an airline, then that gives you an advantage that Delta doesn’t have. With our guidelines and techniques in this newsletter, you can easily tweak your existing campaigns and landing pages to find marketing success as your customers spend their days scrolling through Facebook on their couch
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If this all sounds a little overwhelming, well, that’s why we’re here to help. Just hit that reply arrow and send a message back to us.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

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