Marketing in a crisis: slow it down, or ramp it up?

  • Author: Alistair O'Sullivan

Marketing in a crisis

In recent times, the situation and the unexpected disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has caught all of us off guard. Nobody knows bad things will get from here. We’re witnessing a horrific event not just across the UK but the entire world. How we respond to COVID-19 is paramount and there is a tonne of good advice floating around the Internet. The World Health Organization’s website is an excellent resource to learn about preventive measures. As a digital marketing agency in Hull, we thought we’d put together a few of our insights and knowledge based on the current climate. 

New rules, new plan

Marketing plans or campaigns that would have made sense two weeks ago might come off as discontent as well as insincere today. Don’t completely set aside past plans or campaigns. Instead adapt and pivot them to current scenarios and behaviours to keep momentum given the situation. Those who put a halt on all of their marketing, will be the ones coming out losing opportunities post COVID-19. 

The Airline company Spirit Airlines learned this the hard way; when they sent promotional email messages just before lockdown with the cheery subject line “Never A Better Time To Fly” which was ironically the day after President Trump announced that the United States was going to institute a 30 day ban on travel from Europe. “The perfect time to treat yourself? Right this minute,” the email stated.

According to Spirit Airlines this email was created months before the outbreak of COVID-19. However, this could have been easily avoided if they paid more attention to their plans ahead and pulled all their advertising during the quarantine restrictions.

Paid search

With an increase in working from home and a reduction in online shopping for anything other than essentials. This is a time to keep the at the uttermost attention and diligence with your company’s budgets, ad copy and scheduling. Keeping on top of these will ensure you’re adapting your campaigns to meet your audience’s changing behaviour.

  • Ensuring budget is being utilised on campaigns and keywords where you can meet demand
  • Use scheduling to ensure ads are shown at the right times and use the correct call to action
  • Review device preferences, mobiles are the preferred  device for commuters, but if those individuals are in quarantine and isolation, they will no be longer commuting. Is it worth re-evaluating  your chosen devices to showcase your content?
  • Keep an eye on what your location data is telling you where people coming towards your website for your shrives, with less users travelling or working from an office this data may shift
  • Check your ad copy to ensure your tone and message sits right with the current global situation as well as update your site links to promote important pages such as delivery information or general company information.

SEO and content

Being an SEO agency in Hull, it’s interesting to see what actually affects SEO negatively and positively, COVID-19 being a prime fluctuating example. Prioritise sharing any essential information your customers may need to see. Making sure the public can access this information as easy as possible. By providing access via mobile, publicly on your website, or updated onto your social platforms where necessary. Finally pick up on any SEO tasks that may have previously slipped down your priority list.

SEO / Digital Marketing Analysis


Initial steps to achieve this include:

  • Update your opening times on the website. As well as updated response times (in the footer, contact form, wherever  it’s mentioned). Then repeat this on your Google My Business profile, Bing Maps and all your social media platforms
  • Publish any change in operating procedures  as a blog or landing page; with FAQs listed and updated according  to any new customer queries (create a blog category on this if you have more than 5 pages on COVID-19)
  • Link to your key information from prominent  links on your website homepage
  • Review any recurring content, sponsorship, any paid advertising or partnerships, expensive tools that you may likely not use for the next month and try to reduce invoicing for unused resources (tool suppliers, for example, may offer to pause invoicing.

The Coronavirus is impacting consumer mobility, shifts in media consumption habits. As well as supply chains, such as shortages of and concerns over goods manufactured in many countries and economic volatility. Here are some examples of the types of shifts we’re seeing and expect to see in marketing approaches and investments.

Marketing approaches and where to put your time & budget:

  • Over anything, spend the time you have wisely to refine, plan and improve your current marketing activities for when buying habits do slowly start to go back to normality, having a fully fledged plan in place for phasing out of a crisis will put you right in front of your competitors that are being less proactive.
  • Directing investments toward marketing tactics that drive online sales.
  • Reducing marketing investments on campaigns to drive short-term sales or business outcomes, while keeping brand-building campaigns live
  • Shift budgets to promoting at-home, virtual and delivery-based options where possible. 
  • Fine-tuning media allocations by tactic as we experience demand-driven price fluctuations in various media channels. Changes in media supply and demand will impact costs. So we anticipate marketers will need to closely manage certain spending areas, such as digital, with refreshed ROIs on new cost levels.
  • Using trends social sentiment and google query volume on relevant key words as indicators to inform marketing actions.
  • Building in quick response learnings to optimize marketing budgets and transfer learnings across markets.
  • Measurement of custom creative addressing the COVID-19 situation with updated developments and advice.

The experienced marketer will not overreact to these developments. Instead will recognise the need to make adjustments to respond to shifts in consumer behaviour driven by the COVID-19 outbreak… What questions should this marketer be asking and what data should be considered?



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