Early lessons for marketers during the coronavirus pandemic

Linda J. Dodson

The spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the illness COVID-19, continues to disrupt how people live and work, and its impact on marketers and advertising agencies is no different. Researchers have slashed ad spending forecasts, CMOs are preparing for budget cuts and a majority of advertising professionals fear layoffs due to the pandemic’s effects on the economy.

But amid the turmoil, a picture of how marketers can adapt during this crisis is coming into focus. Consumer behaviors around shopping and searching online have already changed as municipalities order residents to stay at home. And consumers’ relationships to brands are changing — not ending — as they not only want to hear how brands are adjusting but believe brands can help lead the way on the response to coronavirus.

Key guidance from industry experts on how to move forward includes taking precautions to tread lightly, shifting strategies to meet new challenges, strengthening mission-based initiatives, building consumer trust and more. But the playbooks are still being written, especially as live sports are put on hold and a range of businesses — from retail to restaurants — are curtailed or closed altogether.

Still, some marketers on this rapidly changing landscape are already seeing successes with their coronavirus-related plans. Brands that have pivoted campaigns or tapped into changing consumer behaviors around activities — like working and exercising — that are now homebound have seen positive consumer sentiment and elevated engagement.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic are serious, widespread and increasingly long-lasting. Marketing Dive’s reporting over the past few weeks suggests there is also an opportunity for marketers to deliver on their brand promise when consumers need them most. Below are recent developments on changing consumer behaviors and attitudes; best practices for marketers; and a handful of successful coronavirus-related efforts.

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