COVID-19 and Marketing

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COVID-19 and Marketing: Channels

COVID-19 has had an impact on the way individuals interact with businesses. As a result, the marketing practices that are used to reach consumers have had to adapt to meet the needs of a more isolated market. Online video marketing on social media sites that are seeing an increase in traffic, prioritizing online sales, and making use of a growing live streaming audience are all important practices to consider for companies looking to adjust to the current global situation and continue to reach consumers.

Online Video

  • A consumer is far more likely to retain information presented to them in video format, in fact, viewers tend to retain 95% of the content expressed in video format, compared to 10% when reading text.
  • Video is an extremely popular medium online because it holds the attention of the viewer, which translates into better ratings on search engines and an increased likelihood of further exposure.
  • Tik-Tok, for example, is a social media application that allows users to post 15-second videos, gain followers and likes, and comment on the content posted by other users in much the same way as on other social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.
  • Isolation has caused those at home to search for information and entertainment on the platforms they spend the most time with. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Tik-Tok has seen its usage nearly double.
  • Activewear brand, Nike has increased its presence on the platform, with posts specifically targeted at a home audience. As a result their followers have increased by 346,000 and gained 2 million likes.

Social Media/Online Pop-Up Stores

  • Pop-Up stores create a sense of urgency around the act of purchasing.
  • Traditionally, pop-up stores have been small, temporary, retail stores for companies to sell their merchandise. These smaller venues are more cost effective for retailers than a permanent store-front that require expensive rent. Online pop-up stores increase the cost-effective nature for a retailer, who is able to generate the same excitement from consumers, and therefore similar profits, to a traditional pop-up at a fraction of the cost.
  • Louis Vuitton had closed its physical stores in China prior to Valentine's Day 2020 as a result COVID-19. The brand instead chose to create a pop-up store on WeChat and made use of the platform's live chat in order to provide customers with pre-sale information and to send promotions. The brand's tactics resulted in a 100% increase from online sales of Valentine's Day 2019.
  • WeChat is a multi-purpose social media application that, along with instant messaging, video and voice calling, and gaming, offers users access to brand channels and mobile commerce.
  • Since its release in 2011, the WeChat application has been downloaded 600 million times and currently has 300 million active daily members.


  • Live Streaming is the process of broadcasting a live video to an audience using the internet.
  • Live streaming numbers have increased since the outbreak, with platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming growing their streaming numbers by 10% and 15% respectively during the weekend of the 14th of March alone.
  • According to Doron Nir, CEO at StreamElements, the increased number of self isolation mandates across the world, coupled with the entertainment industries' increasing interest in moving toward streaming platforms, means that the popularity of live streaming programming will continue to increase.
  • Live streaming provides companies with a cost effective way to expose their products or content to niche markets, essentially marketing directly to your target audience.
  • Live streaming offers direct and real-time user engagement
  • Dior is one such company that has experimented with live streaming as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. On the 25th of February 2020 the brand streamed its women's autumn/winter catwalk live from Paris on the Chinese micro blogging site Weibo.

Research Strategy

Determining the 'best' marketing channels for companies looking to navigate the market during the COVID-19 outbreak is challenging because the specific needs of a business play a crucial role in determining which channels will be the most effective. Therefore, the research aimed to provide three channels that have had success since the outbreak and provide examples of their implementation.

Some triangulation was needed to discuss the cost-effective nature of online pop-up stores because they have only become popular in the recent past. The cost of facilitating an online pop-up store should be similar to that of a standard online retailer, however, in order for your customers to be properly informed about when, where, and how to access a company's online pop-up, the brand may require more marketing on social media and online ads. This may warrant paid advertisements and promotion that can add to the cost of the event.
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COVID-19 and Marketing: Messaging

As the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, or COVID-19, continues to expand, it’s becoming more crucial for businesses to maintain appropriate messaging in their marketing strategy. Messaging should be tailored to the customer’s needs and handled with empathy and sensitivity. The effects of this virus should not be taken lightly as content messaging will have a lasting impact on whether a marketing strategy will succeed or fail during this trying time.

Focus on the needs of the customer

  • According to Harvard Business Review, one major messaging approach, in regards to communicating regularly with the customer, is to focus on what the customer needs. This includes listening to the customer to find out what’s most important to them.
  • Messaging may reflect increased cleaning measures and hygiene requirements among staff members. Businesses like Starbucks have mentioned the reorganization of employee roles to support certain areas of the business such as more drive-thru, pickup, or delivery team members.
  • Walmart, among other businesses, has communicated with their customers that they are implementing more cleaning on store surfaces such as registers and shopping carts. They also informed their customers that they are working on keeping high-demand products like paper products in stock and available at fair prices.

Provide reassurance and empathy to the customer

  • Anxiety and mental health issues are only some of the challenges that customers will face throughout the chaos of current events. According to The Business Journal, ads and social media posts should be carefully written to include an empathetic and respectful tone that is considerate of the customers hardships and challenges.
  • Marketers should never implement messaging that may downplay the situation at hand. Many companies are addressing ad campaigns that may be considered inappropriate, especially if their message borders on humor and insensitivity. One example is Axe’s “Don’t Overthink It” campaign which was put on hiatus.
  • JetBlue was one of the first airline companies to waive change and cancel fees amid concerns over the coronavirus. This not only provided reassurance for existing customers who needed to cancel upcoming trips, but it also encouraged new customers to book flights without any fee-related worries.

Research Strategy

In order to gather information for messaging best practices, we evaluated business marketing papers, journals, and articles for up-to-date information. We retrieved articles and posts on the best messaging tips that are being applied across numerous business campaigns. In order to very and validate these messaging practices, we searched for evidence directly from company websites and press releases. Most, if not all, companies that were searched provided the sought-after information on their home page or blog section.