Five things advertisers should consider amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

The billboard, measuring 30 by 90 metres by Lona Group
The billboard, measuring 30 by 90 metres by Lona Group in Abuja

The COVID-19 pandemic has created enormous challenges for the business community, including those in the advertising industry.

Amidst the huge human toll and ongoing suffering, businesses are having to change the way they operate, as well as the way they market their products and services.

Given the gravity of the current situation and the worldwide panic surrounding it, it’s easy for advertisers to make critical mistakes or blunders that could stay with them long after the coronavirus crisis has passed.

Here are five things all advertisers should consider when navigating the tricky waters of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. The public is deeply worried.

Marketing in the midst of a global pandemic is always a delicate proposition. First and foremost, you need to know where people are coming from and what they are focused on because their needs have understandably changed. For the time being, people are rightly concerned about their health and the health of their families, and everything else is taking a back seat.

You can respond by ratcheting back sales pitches and providing reassuring messages instead. Let people know what safety and sanitation precautions your business is taking to alleviate their concerns. There will be plenty of time to sell products when the COVID-19 crisis has passed, but for now, a more understanding tone is the right approach.

2. People are concerned about finances.

The COVID-19 crisis has had a far-reaching ripple effect throughout the economy that has sent the stock market reeling. This means that even as people worry about their personal health and that of their loved ones, they’re also stressed about their finances — from credit card bills to owed taxes.

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As an advertiser, you can respond to these concerns by offering special pricing, new financing deals, and other incentives designed to set people’s minds at ease. From car dealers offering a break in payments for COVID-19 patients to landlords being flexible on rent, these messages resonate strongly in these troubled times. Being human and transparent is key.

3. Businesses are expected to do their part.

If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that everyone is in this together. From the restaurant on the corner to the big airlines, every business is navigating this crisis in its own way.

At the same time, businesses are expected to do their part, so use this opportunity to talk about what you’re doing to help. Many businesses have already announced that they are continuing to pay their employees and providing additional sick time, and these marketing messages can be very powerful.

4. Shoppers are focused on the basics.

As the COVID-19 crisis ramps up and people practice social distancing, consumers are pulling back. Shoppers are focused on the basics — the items they need to sustain themselves and their families in this time of travel restrictions and worries about disease transmission.

You can respond to this new reality by focusing your marketing efforts on the products in highest demand. Prioritise your online shopping channels to serve customers who are staying in. If this is done well, you might even see your cash flow improve during these challenging financial times.

5. Branding can set the tone for future sales.

Demand is likely to remain subdued during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, but that doesn’t mean it’s going away. Indeed, financial experts expect a spike in shopping and product demand once a vaccine is developed or a solid treatment is found.

As an advertiser, you can prepare for that pent-up interest by building your brand and creating bonds with your community. From helping out with local needs to being visible and active on social media and other online channels, there are things you can do to enhance your brand awareness and be ready for the shopping spree to come.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a new landscape for businesses everywhere, with some firms prohibited from operating and others working harder than ever to meet demands. Advertising in the heart of all this has created its own set of challenges, but following the five guidelines listed above will help.

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Seyi Tinubu is an entrepreneur, father, and husband to the most loving wife, Layal Tinubu.

He is the CEO of an out-of-home advertising company, Loatsad Promomedia Ltd, Co-Founder of Noella Foundation, Patron to STL Polo Team, and Member of the Board of several organsations.

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