The outbreak of Coronavirus has brought many social and economic disruptions with it. With nowhere to go outside due to lockdown restrictions, people are switching to digital space. As a result, the old ways of marketing are becoming ineffective in the new normal. Today, brand marketing is increasingly shifting to social media to connect with the audience. Brands are rethinking their marketing strategies to build wholesome relationships with their customers.

Numbers’ Game

With the beginning of the pandemic in March, brands began reforecasting their budgets as preparatory measures. Reports suggested that 69% of brands decreased their ad spend. Many paused their advertising and reduced social media postings. Cost per click (CPC) and Cost per impression (CPM) lowered to 30.8% and 37.2% respectively. A lot of businesses headed into a quiet period.

However, these numbers started to rebound in the later phase of April. Lift in industries such as gaming, video communications technology offset the decline in others like travel and airlines. The regional ad spends increased to 47.3% for some brands. The CPC and CPM numbers also began tracking up till the end of May. The recovery in these figures revamped brands’ social media marketing and strengthened their online presence.  

Top Brand Campaigns During Pandemic

Marketing during a crisis requires a sensitive approach. A single incautious message by a brand can turn out to be critical while excessive sympathy can appear opportunistic. A balanced approach that is both empathic and authentic can only help build genuine brand-audience connections.

Here are some brands that aced their marketing campaigns with the right approach.

Nike’s ‘Play Inside, Play for the World’ campaign prompted people to show true sportsmanship spirit by staying indoors. Nike offered limited-time free club training subscriptions to help people achieve their fitness goals at home. They also committed $25 million for the fight against COVID-19.

IKEA’s #YoMeQuedoEnCasa (#I’mStayingHome) campaign shifted people’s perspective of the pandemic by highlighting the emotional bond that people share with their home & furniture. It invited people to live in their secure world called home while the outside world around them shifts.

Nissan’s ‘Ode to Empty Roads’ campaign advocated the stay home, stay safe message. It featured some of Dubai’s busiest roads with no vehicle in sight now. Nissan encouraged people not to drive during this time and remain hopeful for the future with their ‘till we meet again’ message.

Cottonelle, a US-based toilet paper brand, addressed consumers’ concerns and discouraged panic buying through their #ShareASquare campaign. Cottonelle donated $1 for each post on social media featuring this hashtag. They also pledge to donate $1 million along with 1 million toilet paper rolls to charity.

COVID Impact on Influencer Marketing

The pandemic hit many non-essential niches such as travel, fashion, and lifestyle badly. Brand collaborations halted for many beauty and fashion influencers. Travel influencers’ paid trips got canceled. Upcoming events for many entertainment and luxury lifestyle influencers were postponed indefinitely. While these influencers suffered, many others thrived. Food, Fitness, DIY, and Tech were some niches whose sponsorship deals hiked during the pandemic. Many of them also managed to multiply their income through subscription models as their niche content was in demand.

COVID Impact on Influencer Marketing

The non-essential niches influencers switched their revenue streams to teaching, consulting, and coaching. Reports suggest that 64% of these influencers also became open to new genres to stay relevant. Influencers also shifted gears for their content creation strategy by extracting content from the stay at home situations.

With the surge in online viewership, nearly 80% of influencers reported higher engagements. Influencer marketing efficiency increased manifold. Bio Mundo- Produtos Naturais, a Brazil-based natural products brand, received 99.98% interactions with just 3.39% of its influencer’s posts. With improvements in budgets, brands are now increasing investments in micro-influencers. The influencer marketing trend, once again, appears on the rise and is expected to accelerate in the post-COVID era.

Brands’ Comeback Strategy

During the initial phase of the pandemic in March, brands in the non-essential categories suffered huge drops in sales and revenue. These brands started to fade in the background as consumer’s preferences and budgets changed. However, they began bouncing back in late April and early May. Thanks to the effective changes in marketing strategies. These brands shifted their focus on strengthening their audience connections rather than product promotions.

They broadened their visions to incorporate larger brand purpose and values. Brands elevated their social impact by donating to charity, distributing free products, and paying salaries to employees when companies were shut. They addressed consumer’s concerns by responding with meaningful messages that resonated with the audience and established trust. These actions helped them build better consumer loyalty and fare timely from the pandemic setback.

Conclusion

COVID -19 turned out as a true test for brands to assess their foundational principles. Purpose-driven brands stood strong and emerged out even stronger from the pandemic by shifting their marketing strategies. The new normal and it’s digital implications are going to have lasting impacts. And the brands that will keep on reinventing will become the leaders of tomorrow.