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7 Universal Truths about COVID-19 Marketing

Published: April 30, 2020

Author: Hillary Read

Like most organizations, we’ve spent the better part of two months getting our bearings as the COVID-19 pandemic unfurls.
As an industry, we’ve gotten to the point of saturation, memes, and cliches: in these uncertain times; now, more than ever; we’re all in it together. And in a very real way, we’re facing the same marketing dilemma as every other brand right now: we can’t be flip because people are losing their lives and livelihoods, but we also can’t blend into the crowd if we’re going to provide any value to our clients and the digital marketing community.
In all of our numbers-crunching and discussions of empathy, we’ve uncovered truths that span verticals and industries, whether you’re trending up, down, or flat. They’re buried in one guide or another, spread out in different blog posts. But they’re all true for all of us. 
You may be following all of these truths already – hopefully you are. Yet from what we’ve seen from the marketing landscape, just about everyone needs a sanity check. Let’s dive in.

Truth #1: Big Retargeting Windows Are Useless

If you’re using 90-day or even 45-day retargeting windows anywhere in your campaigns, stop. The odds are pretty long that your users’ needs, challenges, and budgets are the same now as they were in even early March, let alone the end of January. 

Truth #2: Long-Term Creative Testing Has No Legs

It’s true that nobody knows how long the age of social distancing will last, and it’s just as true that people are experiencing very different highs, lows, and challenges on a daily basis even though their scenery hasn’t changed. As restrictions ease, new fears and joys will inevitably develop. 
In other words, whatever successes or lessons you’re taking from your current creative had better be put to use now and not filed away as evergreen (we cover that here along with a ton of other smart creative/messaging takeaways). There’s no sense developing best practices with the world changing so dramatically.

Truth #3: CRM Data Rules All

Sales cycles, latency, LTV, freemium vs. paid – those back-end metrics certainly don’t look the same as they did a few months ago, and they have a huge impact on your ultimate ROI. Yes, metrics like CPC, CTR, CVR, and ROAS are important, but you need to incorporate the full picture to understand how your users are truly behaving.
Study your CRM data to see shifts in user behavior – what they’re purchasing, average price points, how often they’re purchasing, etc. Those shifts should be reflected in your budget and projections.

Truth #4: You Need a Copywriter

Try to write a piece of marketing advice related to COVID-19. Now try to write it without the words “uncertain,” “chaos,” “together,” or “more than ever.” If that stops you in your tracks, a) you’re not alone at all; b) it’s time to call in a copywriter. A fresh perspective, a thesaurus, and experience writing copy that pops is always extremely valuable – especially so when online content consumption is breaking new records.

Truth #5: Reverse Image Search Is a Very Good Friend

Want to wince? Here you go:

Can you still use stock photos? Yes, but DO A REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH and check your competitors’ ads to make sure you’re not heading for a facepalm moment.

Truth #6: Creative Production Takes…Creativity

Access to studios and fancy equipment is a thing of the past and future, but that shouldn’t stop you from producing new creative. You can add voiceover and text overlay to existing B-roll, use influencers as talent, even ask your team to get feisty with their phone cameras. Nobody’s expecting professional-quality production right now, so have a little fun with the current reality.

Truth #7: The Little Things Matter

A surprise 2% discount, a bonus donation in a user’s name to an organization in need, a throw-in of brightly colored shoelaces with a new pair of shoes – any genuine gesture of sunshine right now, whether online or offline, will have extra resonance as people are cherishing different kinds of connection. (I got a $2 discount from a Mastercard Monday dinner delivery last night and had to tell a friend about it.) Think of fun ways to go just a little above and beyond to bring your users a smile, and you have a good chance to gain some extra brand ambassadors.
Bonus truth: End your content with a plea for your users to stay safe and healthy, and mean it. That’s the best possible outcome for all of us. 

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