To Market or Not to Market during a Global Pandemic?


By Shainaz Stewart - Founding 50 Member of the School of Marketing


A month into lockdown and it’s safe to say we’re all adjusting to life in the house. Businesses and consumers have had no choice but to increase their digital literacy. Over the past month, we have seen some companies switching on their digital marketing solutions for the very first time while others are putting a pause to their marketing spend all together. It is suggested that during times of uncertainty, companies who quickly adapt to change come out on top, so why have we seen marketing freezes from innovative brands like Coca-Cola.

At the start of the pandemic we saw a lot of business “panic pausing” with their marketing spend and rightly so. If your company relies heavily on traditional marketing methods such as billboard advertisements, it doesn’t make much sense to keep investing in billboard ads when the likelihood of it being seen by your target audience is at an all time low.  

A lot of brands realised they needed time to reassess their current marketing activity to connect with their audience in different ways and to avoid the tone deaf ‘business as usual’ approach. Taking a break has allowed these marketing teams to breakdown their existing marketing strategy to ultimately decide what they will continue to invest it and what they won’t, allowing them to adjust their content and language accordingly.


Slow down but don’t stop.

If your marketing team hasn’t taken the time to analyse your marketing strategy yet, then now is the time. Slowing down will be beneficial to you if you want to review and refresh existing activity and if you need to put a hold on any existing ads, email campaigns or scheduled social media messages, then do it.

Go digital, try new platforms – start a company TikTok –  and push out new messages, but don’t go radio silent. Last week Twitter published guidelines on brand communication during COVID-19, they used a panel of Twitter users to determine how they felt about advertising at this time and the results were outstanding.

  • 64% said brands should continue advertising products as normal

  • 77% agreed they feel more positively about brands making an effort to support society at the moment

  • Only 7% of respondents said brands should continue using their normal brand tone of voice.

There was also calls for brands to support frontline workers, employees and vulnerable people in the community. So, while your team is reviewing your marketing strategy why not promote the good stuff you are doing internally, for your local community or for the NHS on your socials?


Keep that train running.

On the other side of the coin, if your industry is booming, your team has adapted quickly and you have your methods and messaging ready – keep going. You may even want to increase marketing activity like P&G to reach new audiences.

Digital media is on the rise and people will be consuming it now more than ever, use this to your advantage. Don’t capalitise on the crisis, keep your tone of voice positive, keep stakeholders informed through your new messaging and new channels, show how you can help and regularly review your activity/impact.

Think about the long-term investment of each activity you do. Does it feel right to invest in billboard ads right now? Probably not, I’d rather give Twitter a go. If you’re feeling lost, look further into digital advertising, social media, webinars and virtual events. Your marketing team will be cautious during this period but as long as you adapt and adjust your strategy accordingly you will see brand growth.