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Business Strategy

How to Pivot Your Marketing Plan During COVID-19

Empty shelves at store during COVID-19

When your business does not pay the electrical bill, your lights are shut off. Skip the lease payment, and you’re evicted. Miss payroll, employees quit. However, what happens when you neglect to advertise? Many business owners haven’t properly considered the implications behind that question. When funds are tight, the first budget cut is often to marketing. Now, COVID-19 is forcing business owners to reconsider this knee-jerk reaction.

Pre-pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon to hear, “I am already busy and I don’t need to promote my product right now.” Yes, marketing helps drive demand and ultimately demand will increase sales, but there are many other reasons to commit dollars to advertising. Demand is usually highest when there is an increased need for that product or service. If you are not serving the consumer, then they will search for a new brand, and brand allegiance can be fickle. If consumers find a new alternative to your product, who’s to say they’ll return to you later? That’s why sometimes it’s critical just to maintain mental product availability when you’re not able to provide actual product availability.

This was a big reason why Procter & Gamble continued to promote Charmin during the onset of COVID-19. Clearly, toilet paper was in extreme demand as people hoarded packages at home. It was nearly impossible to find on the store shelves, yet Procter & Gamble CEO John Moeller said, “we need to work hard to ensure that we maintain mental and physical ability to the greatest extent possible, so that those consumers return to their beloved interested brands when they are available.” Let that sink in: Procter & Gamble promoted Charmin when it could not be found on the shelves.

Marketing can also fill a need left by social distancing. Boy Scouts of America found themselves in an unusual situation when they realized they would no longer gain access to the students and the schools for their annual Fall Round Up. They turned to Insight Creative for clever marketing ideas to still reach the young scouts and their parents. A digital media buy including video pre-roll, streaming and Over-The-Top ads on Hulu, Netflix and other streaming apps provided the work-around they needed. Plus, the ads guaranteed the audience and geo-area desired.

In a world of virtual meetings, distance learning and cancelled vacations, people yearn for normalcy. They still want to shop and use the products they’ve learned to love and trust, plus they’ve found a renewed sense of enjoyment in the outdoors, family time, cooking and more. This presents a new valuable opportunity to speak to a familiar audience and new crop of customers. Consumer needs haven’t been eliminated … they’ve just evolved. Communicate that you’ve evolved too.

Bottomline, if your business is stuck with some difficult financial decisions, don’t assume eliminating your marketing budget is the answer. The implications might be much larger than you realize.