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5 best practices for improving marketing campaigns during COVID-19

Steven Carr  |  May 15, 2020

Let’s be honest, building marketing campaigns that resonate with your target audience isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be a marketer, and everything you say or show would stick and convert. But that’s obviously not the case.

What’s especially challenging now is the added layer that COVID-19 brings to your campaigns and messaging. Am I being sensitive to all the different situations my target audience might be facing? Have I considered how this messaging will make people feel? Is this even the right time for this campaign? These are just some of the questions you might be thinking about when building your campaign in the wake of COVID-19. 

In our recent webinar, 5 best practices for improving marketing campaigns during COVID-19, we tackled how you can ensure that your marketing campaigns are relevant to and considerate of your target audience. 

In this article, we highlight the five best practices that we believe will make your marketing more effective.

1. Use empathy and transparency

There’s no mistaking it, the pandemic has affected everyone in some way—often very differently from person to person. That can make building campaigns that resonate with a wide audience a challenge.

This is your chance to lean into the situation by approaching your messaging and campaigns with empathy and transparency. One of the ads we tested with consumers that received an overall positive sentiment was AT&T’s most recent commercial.

The ad was so compelling to consumers because they could relate to the people in the ads. Leveraging empathy, it portrayed their commitment to everyday people. In the same breath, it acknowledges that business as usual really isn’t something you can relate to anymore. Everyone is adjusting, and by being transparent about what’s going on in the world, it taps into the emotions that people can relate to during this time. 

Many consumers said that it built both trust in the brand and joy that there is hope.

2. Stay true to your brand

Another thing we discovered through our research is that it’s important not to depart from your brand and depict your company as something it’s not. One ad that did this especially well, according to consumers, is Guinness.

The commercial not only leveraged our first best practice, by being transparent about the situation and recognizing that St. Patrick’s day is, for all intents and purposes, canceled, but it also remained totally on-brand. 

Harping (no pun intended for you Guinness drinkers) on its values of togetherness, it was able to drive home the fact that people aren’t alone even though they may feel like it at times. By eliciting these strong emotions, Guinness was able to stay on brand and convey that whether you’re drinking a Guinness now or in the future, there are brighter days to come.

3. Be agile

This best practice has a little less to do with messaging and positioning as the previous two, but it’s equally important. One ad that represented being agile as a business extremely well is this one from Geico.

Again, the commercial begins with transparency, depicting the new normal, and how people are adjusting to life at home. Through people staying home, Geico was able to pivot as a business to give back portions of insurance premiums to people because there are fewer drivers on the road—thus fewer accidents. 

Not only is this an excellent portrayal of what Geico was able to do for its customers by pivoting quickly, but it also reinforces the notion of shelter in place. In some ways, it’s like Geico is rewarding people for contributing to the greater good during the pandemic. 

Which brings you to the next best practice...

4. Communicate how you’re contributing to the greater good

Major brands are pivoting quickly to communicate how they’re contributing to the greater good during the pandemic. One example is how AAA is offering free roadside assistance to frontline workers. And another is how Pfizer is investing in getting us back to normal by investing in the scientists that are working tirelessly to end the crisis. 

What’s important here is to make sure that you’re not profiteering in any way. If you’re going to give back and contribute to the greater good, make sure your messaging is conveying that, without any underlying motive.

5. Position yourself for the future

The final best practice is about looking to the future and positioning yourself for it. And this is particularly important for industries or companies that have seen a drastic change in how consumers engage with them. One particularly well-done example is from Uber.

What’s both shocking (but smart) is that they’re encouraging people not to ride Uber right now. Their statement from the commercial is: “Thank you for not riding with Uber.” In the short term, as you well know, this probably isn’t great for them in terms of business and driving revenue, however, it instills confidence that they’re aware of what’s happening now and keeping an eye on the future.

So you can imagine, if and when things get back to normal, and people feel comfortable riding in an Uber again, they will actually be a company that’s top of mind. In the long run, this builds a lot of brand equity with people who may be unfamiliar with Uber (or ridesharing) and when they’re in a position to try it out, Uber might be their first choice.

Test your messaging and campaigns against these practices

In order to ensure you’re meeting these best practices and building campaigns that resonate with consumers during COVID-19, it’s important to collect customer and user feedback. Here are some helpful resources for doing just that—now, and in the future.

Finally, we’re offering a 30-day free trial for Marketing Insight—a quick, efficient, and template-driven way for marketers to collect customer feedback. If you’re interested in giving it a try, follow this link.

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About the author:

Steven is a Content Marketing Manager at UserTesting. When he’s not inserting oxford commas where they belong, you can find him shooting pool at a local dive or laughing at his own jokes.