• Anastasia Shcherbakova

How to Adjust Your Marketing During a Crisis

If I had a penny for every email with “during these uncertain times” in the subject line, I’d probably retire by the end of the year and never think of marketing communication again.

Even though it is true and life now is nothing like we used to know it, the amount of brands reminding us of it is overwhelming. A lot of people choose to stay away from social media and the Internet because of the intense non-stop stream of information.


People were fed up with the same messaging for weeks already but very few brands seem to adjust their marketing communications to fit the situation. The same words and phrases appear over and over while losing the little meaning that they had.


So, how can brands (both companies and people) find a balance between informing their readers without overwhelming them?


There is a thin line separating inconsiderate from thoughtful. People are tired of hearing about COVID from everywhere. But here is a dilemma: if you don’t mention it you may be seen as insensitive, if you mention it you may burden your audience.


Let’s be honest — balance is tricky. And the fact that people are watching closely how brands behave during sudden changes puts an extra layer of pressure on marketers.


The setting is changing quickly and lack of certainty creates a kind of bubble where life stands still in anticipation of clarity. It’s a weird feeling, have you noticed it lately? Time goes fast, yet it stretches thin. Life changes, yet it doesn’t move forward.


There is no use in sticking to the old ways. In these conditions the best brands can do for their marketing communications is get off the pedestal and become more human. Not better, not worse, but equal to the people they aim to serve.


It’s a difficult time for all of us, so don’t stress too much about the need to learn and adapt. We all have to do it. Here are 7 simple yet effective ways that your brand can use to maintain the connection with your audience without sounding like an insensitive jerk.


Stay away from negativity

This is easier said than done. There is literally no hiding from updates (mostly sad) about virus outbreak. But there is enough of it in the news. The last thing people want to hear you complaining about how hard it is for you and your company.


The other extreme end is toxic positivity when it seems like your brand is in denial and forces inspiration and motivation on you. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away, so a better way is to find balance in an honest and humane approach.


Focus on progress and what’s coming next. Life doesn’t end — it shifts, adapts, and continues and so should your marketing efforts.


Avoid being generic

A well-crafted neutral message may seem like a good option but you risk sounding impersonal. Imagine every single other company doing it and saying the same — your voice just doesn’t matter anymore. No one wants to hear or read another indifferent message from a CEO.


Being careful with words is important but don’t sacrifice your brand's personality for the sake of unified formal communication. There is a difference between saying the right thing and using the right words.


This brilliant tweet summarizes the whole experience with online communication lately.


Be honest

It’s okay not to know things. It’s okay not to be sure. You don’t have to. Being open about the position your business is in doesn’t make you any worse or less reliable. On the contrary, it creates some clarity foundation that you can build upon.


So, instead of guessing and trying to grasp illusory possibilities, you take responsibility. We don’t know but we are going to figure this out. And we will let you know as soon as we know anything.


Ask your customers how you can help

Instead of assuming what your next step should be, talk to them directly. Use social listening and reach out to your audience. Even if there is nothing really you can do for them, you can get a better idea of what your customers are going through and how you can incorporate it into your business in the future.


This will save you time on testing and experimenting. Besides that, it will help to strengthen the relationships with your target audience. Let’s be honest — people love to be heard and for their opinion to matter.


Make it relevant

For me, the biggest turn-off is the irrelevant messages I keep receiving (what, 2 months into the quarantine?) even now. I can’t help but wonder if it is that difficult to turn off irrelevant Facebook ads or at least twitch them a bit to fit the current condition.


The most brilliant examples of brands navigating the new environment are based on how they adjust their messaging to the current conditions. Why tell a story about the old world when we are already living in a new one?


This is a way for brands to show that they understand their customers and what they are going through. Have a look at this ad made by Skyscanner. They could have just waited out until the crisis is over and people travel again. Instead, they took a different approach.



Build relationships

Now more than ever relationships and trust can make or break one's business. Many of the local businesses survive thanks to the loyal fans in the neighborhood who choose to support them no matter what.


Investing in nurturing relationships now will pay off in the future. Even if you don’t have an active customer base or a larger following, there are always people that you can support.


Start by reaching out. Show genuine interest in how people are doing. Don’t try to sell to them. When this is over people will remember who was there for them and lend a helping hand.


Support community

People are uniting in the face of crisis, looking for support, and to help others. The challenging times are the ultimate call for compassion. Together we can achieve more. And this doesn’t apply to your customers only — businesses can survive by uniting too.


Is this going to be the time when collaboration finally takes over the competition? Probably not, but it will certainly highlight its benefits.


Consider all stakeholders, from rivals to suppliers. Ask yourself where you can take care of others and contribute to the global cause. A good example is education services offering free classes for people to learn new skills and distract themselves. But it doesn’t have to be directly related to your business operation to make an impact.



I didn’t put COVID-19 or coronavirus in the title on purpose. This isn’t the first crisis in the history of humanity and unfortunately, it’s not likely to be the last one.


In fact, each of these recommendations can and should be used during the “normal” time (if there ever will be one). What unites smart and responsible brands is their ability to provide value to people without capitalizing on their problems. In other words — they care.


But let’s remain optimistic. The sad reality will eventually stabilize and the new normal will finally take over. Meanwhile, marketers will do their best to help brands adapt to changes, become more flexible, and plan for a better future.

Originally published at https://medium.com/ on May 7, 2020.

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