Coronavirus: There’s a crisis in marketing, but be cautious, not afraid

Amid the coronavirus-led recession, the best way to use your marketing budget would be to focus on brand-building campaigns that impact sales in the long term.

If your business was started after 2008, this is probably the first time you are facing such a situation. The last time businesses faced something similar was during the global recession of 2008. Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has an impact that goes beyond public health and finances. Developed nations like Japan, the US, and the UK have started seeing a dip in consumer confidence as well, which is likely to extend the recovery period.

All businesses are already in a state of scenario planning, stress-testing their P&L, and stabilising their operations. However, marketing as a function is still trying to find its ground in this situation. The biggest marketing challenges being faced by marketers across the globe are:

  1. How to best utilise the slashed marketing budget?
  2. What to communicate to our consumers in this time of crisis?
  3. With more bandwidth available with internal marketing teams and agencies, how to best use their efforts?

The first and foremost action that a business takes in the time of crisis is to conserve cash and slash all unnecessary or non-critical business expenses. Marketing, more often than not, is one of those functions that faces a budget cut. Now with the reduced budget, the temptation will be to focus on sales and conversion-led campaigns that can contribute to the business growth in the time of crisis.

If you are planning to do so (or have done so), take a pause and think about yourself. Sitting at the comfort of your home, working or non-working, buying anything non-essential is at the bottom of your priority list. You won’t even think about it. ‘Conserve cash during times of crisis’ holds true for end consumers as well. Validate this with a quick Google trend report on organic search for your brand in the last two weeks.

So, if not conversion/sales-focused campaigns, where should you deploy your budget and how should you change your media mix? 

The best way to use the budget and redo your media mix is by focusing on brand-building campaigns that will not yield results today, but will definitely impact your sales once we are through this crisis.

Again, don’t be tempted to further slash down the spending on brand-building campaigns and save it for future conversion campaigns. This is the time for you to double down. Don’t be fearful when others are also afraid. Do what Warren Buffett does… be greedy when other people are fearful. Be cautious with your spending and invest in doing a theme-based campaign for long-term brand benefit. As we recover from this situation, you’ll see your revenue rise and the #ROI from your marketing spends go through the roof.

Once you have redone your media mix, the next crucial question is what to communicate? 

The first and foremost thing you should do is figure out if your business can genuinely help contain the spread of coronavirus in any way.

Take the example of LVMH, which has already turned around its manufacturing lines at brands like Guerlain, Parfums Christian Dior, and Givenchy, to mass manufacture hand sanitisers for French hospitals. Come what may, consumers won’t forget this initiative by the brand. The brand will have earned hundreds and thousands of customers for a lifetime.

Beyond such an initiative, you need to really understand your consumer’s behaviour at this time. The same set of consumers might behave differently during a time of crisis. Figure out what best you can do for them, as a brand.

  • Can your brand be a source of genuine information related to something relevant at this time?
  • Can your brand help tackle any issues that your consumers are facing while stuck at home?
  • Can your brand help remove boredom and bring a smile on their face?

Whatever, you do, there should be a genuine purpose behind it. There will never be a better time for a brand to turn itself into a “brand with a purpose”.

Here is what Coca-Cola is doing during the coronavirus crisis:

Finally, your internal marketing team, as well as your agency, will have some extra bandwidth, with a lot of product launches, events, and sales-focused campaigns being postponed for an indefinite time. Here is your chance to prepare yourself for the future. 

First thing first, relook at your entire digital and marketing stack to find out how you can optimise it.

Ask these simple questions:

  • Is my website optimised for SEO and Voice Search?
  • Is my digital funnel optimised for conversions? Can I further optimise it?
  • Is my website optimised to drive conversions?
  • Is my social presence good enough or do I need to refresh it with a better content strategy for each channel?
  • Is my social media performing better vis-a-vis my competition?
  • Is my brand speaking the same language across channels? Do I need a brand guideline document to bring this sanity across channels?
  • Is my sales team decked up with enough resources like product demo video, sales pitch deck, etc. to close sales?

If you don’t get a positive answer to any of the above, you know what to do. Pick the problem - rather the opportunity - and get your internal marketing team or an external agency to help you out. Remember, every buck is important, so carefully pick the right agency that can help you during this time of crisis in a cost-effective way. 

Take care of yourself and your brand. Be cautious but don’t be afraid!

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)