Marketing in a crisis
“Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.”
This quote from Warren Buffett is particularly appropriate right now, not just for investors however, it's also appropriate for companies and Marketers to think about. During a crisis and the associated uncertainty, there's a natural tendency to pull back on Marketing investments, mainly because it's easy. Unlike rent, salary or utilities, marketing investments are often planned and paid for month to month and are easier to turn up and down.
However, do not cut your marketing spend and activities during the current crisis. You should maintain or increase your marketing spend, in order to put some distance between you and your competitors while they are pulling back. However, I would take the opportunity to revisit your campaigns, ads and media mix and make sure they are strategic and appropriate for the new environment. There's a great report out from Forrester that talks about tweaking your media mix in the current crisis environment . During the current pandemic, fewer people are going out and driving around, however online activity from people stuck at home has increased significantly, so it makes sense to shift marketing spend from Out of Home (OOH) to Digital Marketing. I always recommend Digital Marketing & Advertising, as it is much easier to track impact and ROI, however during the current crisis it makes even more sense to prioritize digital activities.
Another great study that highlights the connection between Marketing & Sales during a crisis is this report which analyzes the relationship between Marketing and R&D spend and Net Sales during and after the 2001 & 2008 financial crises. It uses Turkey as an example, and some of the equations are a bit dry, but it's very clear that maintaining a strategic marketing spend, and R&D as well, through a crisis is very important in increasing Net Sales.
During a crisis, there is also a bit of unease about self-promotion. Is it OK to promote my business right now? What will people think, and will my brand be negatively impacted? There is some validity to these questions, but if the promotion is done in the right way, focusing on providing value, then it can be appropriate and can stay true to the brand. A good example of what I would call appropriate marketing during the current crisis is from Cottonelle. Even though their products were sold out everywhere, they started a campaign called #ShareaSquare and pledged $1 million and one million rolls of toilet paper to United Way's COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund. And for everyone who uses the hashtag #ShareASquare, the brand is donating an additional $1 up to $100K. Contrast this with Lysol who launched ads in March for products that were sold out everywhere, infuriating people who couldn’t buy them but still saw ads, and it didn't even mention the Coronavirus, only saying it was effective against H3N2.
So, in summary, be active, be strategic and brand appropriate and even increase your marketing spend online when others are pulling back, and this will help differentiate your business even more as things now hopefully begin to turn around.