Marketing in coronavirus times: How to navigate your brand through the storm
Marketing in coronavirus times:
Business Unit Director, adjust.
Coronavirus is 2020’s most
What makes a brand great? Is it its market
share? Is it its advertising power? Is it a well-
designed logo? Most branding specialists
out there will tell you that in order to be
successful, a brand needs to have a clear
purpose/something meaningful to add to
consumers’ lives, while offering a distinctive
and enjoyable experience. Tapping into
these elements, great brands build
successful communications, leading to
growing perceptions in consumers’ minds.
In other words, they grow their top of mind
awareness, or the space they occupy in
consumers’ minds, or saliency.
Coronavirus has no purpose while it makes
for a distinctive but horrendous experience.
But never in recent history have we seen
something or someone with such strong
saliency. Coronavirus has no logo, no clear
brand identity (is it coronavirus, covid-19 or
both?) and no media budget for its
advertisement. But it is everywhere in the
media, in people’s minds, and it is
dramatically changing our everyday lives.
While we are aware that coronavirus is
a serious health matter, we would like
to face it as another challenge in our
industryand we encourage our clients
to face it like one too.
In this report, we will see the impact
coronavirus has on our lives and on the
business industries. We will investigate
the similarities between the coronavirus
challenges, the Great Recession period
and disruptive brands’ influence in
categories. We will delve into the best
practices of prosperous brands and
give you recommendations on how to
successfully navigate your brand
through the storm of coronavirus.
Because at the end of the day, whether
it is a virus, or a disruptive brand, or a
recession, successful brands need to
fight back, stay relevant and top of
mind to the consumers.
Source: Similar w eb, 2020
The story of a virus gone
Interest over time, global.
March 2019 August 2019 December 2019
Source: Google Int ernal dat a, 2020
Top rising searches.
People’s interest in coronavirus has radically notched up right after
the outburst in China.
People search for it online while also searching for any categories
related to or affected by it – the news, grocery (online and shop
growing) as well ways to entertain themselves at home (sports, tech,
A disruptive brand to all industries
An opportunity not to be missed.
Increased fear and uncertainty have led
consumers to overbuying when it comes to
consumer goods. At the same time and for the
same reasons, people are more concerned
about health issues, leading them to search for
tips online. Both Google and Facebook have
launched dedicated pages on their websites
delivering on demand. It is therefore a great
time for businesses like supermarkets and
pharmaceutical companies to be more
tactical and grow their businesses.
It’s time to make a difference.
Things change for other industries too. Sectors like
retail, media or banking have adapted to the
new norm changing the way they operate. Media
has gained a lot of attention due to the news, but
TV had to postpone some of the most successful
shows or change them (we see shows being
delivered from the hosts’ houses). At the same
time retail and banking count on their online
services for their revenue. Businesses that will rise to
the occasion and better serve puzzled consumers
now will win their hearts in the long term.
Investing in the longer term.
Industries like automotive, outdoor activities,
travel and hospitalityhave taken the hardest
hit. While there is no way to change this right
now, brands that fall into these industries still
have the longer term to look at and build in.
When coronavirus is over, these categories
shouldn’t start from point zero.
Source: K ant ar, 2020
Paid online entertainment
Live broadcast on mobile
Buy indoor fitness
impact. This brand is changing
Online, tele and ‘e-’ are the new most used
terms in our everyday lives.We order groceries
online, we teleconference with our colleagues,
our kids e-learn their school subjects. Consumers
turn to technology and the internet to do what
used to happen offline in the pre-coronavirus
era. It is thereforeapparent,that apart from
washing our handsone time too many and
avoiding handshakes,we build new habits.
Familiarizing with an online system of servicesis
new to many. However,theconvenienceof it
might lead even therookies to continue using it
after the spread of coronavirusstops.
The extent of the disruption that coronavirus
brings in the different industries cannot be
calculated. Our new habits may stay for good.
Thus, it is critical for brandsnot to underestimate
this new reality.
Consumers tried new things in China.
Grocery delivery has increased in most countries affected by
coronavirus. Supermarket brands need to dial up their services in
order to keep up.
People try new ways to
Web conference is a new way to deal with everyday ‘work from
home’ challenges. Internet providers and online conference
platforms work hard to respond to the increased demand.
Source: Similar w eb, 2020
Source: Similar w eb, 2020
Grocery Delivery:Cumulative change (sequential) in YoY Growth since 20+ Cases
Total Traffic (unbounced) Jan-Mar 2020
Web conference platforms: Cumulative Seq change in YOY Traffic growth since 20+ cases
Total Sequential YoY traffic (unbounced, mobile + desktop) impact,Jan – Mar 2020
Facebook Instagram Twitter Pinterest TikTok
Source: Similar w eb, 2020, Nielsen via The Economist ; LATimes
Estimated growth in content
streaming in Greece
Increase in weekly gaming
downloads in China
Total Social Media In the pre-coronavirus era, people had
7.6 social media accounts on average,
10 new social media users where added
per second and the average time
youngsters spent on social media was 3
hours. One can only imagine how much
these figures will have increased now.
Never in recent history have consumers
had so much time to spend on social
media. Staying home has led people to
higher online consumption as well as
new online activities. We see many
videos from non-public figures posted on
their social media accounts featuring
themselves singing, dancing or
participating into challenges.
Social media and online advertisement is
the way for brandsto move forward with
their communicationsas this is where
most eyes will be laid on their products.
Source: Digit al InformationWorld, 2019
Dec 19, 2019 Jan 15, 2020 Feb 11, 2020 Mar 9, 2020
Source: Similar w eb, 2020
Things are no different in
Interest over time, Greece.
Work from home/
Source: Euro2Day, Capit al, K at himerini, To Vima, Naut ermporiki, Ta Nea , EDYTE, Eleyt heros Typos, Skai
As expected, interest in coronavirus is extreme in Greece too. Like in
other countries affected by the virus, fmcg and online services are
the winners of this period.
* Dat a refers t o w eek 24/2 -1/3 2020, dat a might differ w eek by w eek.
It’s not the first time brands
go through a crash test
Back in the Great Recession times most brands
went through a long period of consecutive crash
tests. Their sales dropped, their value was
questioned, and their workforce was weakened.
No one knew how long this period would last,
and the future seemed rather uncertain. One
thing was for sure; the brands that would adjust
to the situation faster would win the game. And
that’s what happened.
Great brands like Domino’s remained great by
taking rigorous business decisions, innovating
and communicating their offer by showing
relevance. At the same time, long forgotten
brands like Lego and Converse (bought by Nike)
managed to revive by playing on an emotional
tone and by bringing the nostalgia of better
iPhone was also introduced by Apple in 2007.
However, its value and fan base grew larger in
the recession. An extremely pricy smartphone
was selling like crazy in times when big
companies were closing, and people were losing
their jobs. Was it a gamble for Apple? Not really.
The brand rode the wave of new
technologies and gave consumers a
beautifully designed product. A product that
allowed them to make more than phone calls
and send e-mails. A gadget that would help
them communicate better and entertain
iPhone was not just a new brand emerging in
recession. It was also a disruptive brand to
the mobile phone category. Brands like
Blackberry and Alcatel almost disappeared
after their introduction to the market. Why
was that? And how different was the
challenge Blackberry faced back then to what
brands face in a time of financial crisis oran
unpredictable event, like coronavirus?
Like Blackberry or Nokia, brands that wait
and not innovate andadapt when things
disrupt their businesses stop being relevant
do. Being proactive is one of the great values a brand must have to tackle
any temporary challenges and last in the longer term. To be proactive
you need to constantly investigate consumers’ needs and wants and to
answer them, even if you must readjust your business offer. To be
proactive you need to be and behave as a leader and not as a follower.
Jeff Bezos read societal and consumer needs and wants and built a
retail colossus while being in the recession period. Amazon grew sales
by 28% in 2009, a rough year in sales for many businesses. Continuous
innovation and an offer of relevant services as well as a long-term focus
helped the brand become number one in brand value (source).
On the other hand, Lego managed to make a comeback in the market
not only due to its nostalgic and positive cues but also due to its
expansion to other markets (primarily Asia). Additionally, the brand
profited by celebrities’ reinforcement, like David Beckham who
admitted building a Lego Taj Mahal during his downtime. As a result,
Lego’s sales increased by 663%.
Domino’s pizza had to fight recession and a brand scandal at the same
time. Due to customer dissatisfaction the brand had to withdraw its
recipe and create a new one. The brand proactively embraced change
and created a new campaign that doubled its profit in the fourth
quarter of 2009.
Great brands are
Source: Investopedia, 2019
do. Another way to survive difficult times of crisis is to bring your brand values closer
to what consumers need. In recession period, or in the coronavirus dystopia we
currently live in, consumers feel the need for empathy, solidarity and support by
brands. In other words, brands need to show their human face. Of course, this
needs to be translated into corresponding communications and advertisement.
It is no surprise, that during the financial crisis we saw small brands rising and
becoming trendy. Innocent is one of them, founded by three Cambridge University
graduates who after spending six months working on smoothie recipes and £500
on fruit, they sold their drinks from a stall at a music festival in London. People
were asked to put their empty bottles in a "yes" or "no" bin depending on whether
they thought the three should quit their jobs to make smoothies. At the end of the
festival the "yes" bin was full. Maurice Pinto, a wealthy American businessman,
decided to invest £250,000 and in 2009 Coca Cola acquired part of their business.
What was in the recipe of Innocent Drinks that made it successful? Was it the
juice? Sure, it played an important role, but it was the human, fun and down to
earth communication they used along the way.
At the same time, Tom’s a shoes brand introduced itself to the market with the
new unique model ‘one for one’. For every pair of shoes someone’s buy, one pair
of shoes will be given to a poor kid in an underprivileged area. With this
proposition at the core of its communications, Tom’s humanized approach spoke to
consumers’ minds and created a huge success forthe brand. In fact, in the Brand
World Value Index research, Toms Shoes ranked higher than Nike in the millennial
values in times of crisis
Source: W ikipedia, 2020, Brand W orld Value Index, Fast Company 2016.
What would you say if one month ago someone told you that LVMH
would make hand sanitizers? You would probably think he is crazy. In
frenzied times like these, crazy things happen…or maybe not so crazy.
As stated before, adjustment and adaptation are the key answers to
overcoming challenges. When a brand goes out of its comfort zone to
meet consumers’ emerging needs it is for two reasons. The first reason
is the actual need to contribute to society at extreme periods like this
one, and the second one is the need to stay present in people’s minds.
LVMH and Bewdog ‘distill’ sanitizers in their factories, Lush invites you
to its shops to wash your hands, Defected Records host virtual music
festivals and Pornhub offers free content to the much-suffered Italians.
All these actions are great ways to contribute to society but also to
advertise the brands as those who rise to the occasion.
Consumers appreciate brands who are present to their needs. They
feel closer to brands who understand them and show it to them.
Therefore, it is important to communicate your brand, even when
conversion is out of question. Building your brandimage is a long-
term process, and it shouldn’t be affected by anytype of
Source: The drum.com 2020
SOV>SOM: Companies cutting investment
by 50% for 1 year before returning to
normal weight take up to 2 years to
recover lost share. Those that increase
exposure during downturn can gain up to
3x more share in the first 2 years of
Source: Binet and Field 2013, Coronavirus t rends, Google, 2020
Share of market
Historically share of voice has driven share of market
correlates to market
Tackling in house boredom
We see the same pattern in Greece, where brands
communicate with consumers at both an emotional
and a rational level. Amstel and Audi use their
propositions to speak about solidarity, encouragement
and responsibility. Audi also offers an alternative to in-
house boredom by introducing a challenge on social
media. Tapping into the increasing cooking trend,
Papadopoulou biscuits company offers recipes on
their social media account.
When conversion is not possible there is always room
for building brand perceptions. This is an opportunity
for brands to shift their minds from going after sales to
thinking brand first.
rational comms help
get closer to the
Adjust Communicate Try Identify Empathize
Six steps to
Moving forward brands will need to:
Do everything you
need to adjust to
business or taking
Continue to be
present. It is very
important to stay
top of mind with
consumers in the
Try new things for
your business. This
stepping out of
your comfort zone
services that are
part of your offer.
might be here to
why you are still
not be selling right
now but your
should still be
In hard times like
this one, it is
important to show
your empathy to
the society. Be
sure that your
Marketing is not only about talking;
marketing is also about doing.
Communication during the corona
crisis should and can be
both relevant and useful.
We must combine left and right brain,
data & feelings, in order to make
decisive, empathetic actions.
General Manager, adjust.
Marketing Strategist, MSc.
Bonus: adjust. for COVID-19
created a Messenger
chatbot called “Na me
prosexo”, which givesusers a
daily smart / healthy tip.
created by the Ops & Data teams
of adjust. That inform users of the
current COVID-19statusin Greece
#menoumespiti giphy sticker
pack givesus a fun
ourselvesthrough SoMe while
“Να με Προσέχω”
Healthy tips chat bot