Events such as economic recessions and pandemics, change the trajectory of governments, economies and businesses — potentially altering the course of history. With Covid-19, we are already seeing early signs of a shift in how consumers and businesses behave. Remote working is being encouraged by companies, supply chains are getting disrupted globally and retail stores are running out of dry goods and toilet paper en masse.

As shopping behaviour, events, conferences, sports and our general livelihoods are upended, brands are having to respond and adapt quickly to the changing landscape.

The question for marketers has changed from “will my company be affected” to “how will it be affected”.

The first thing all brands should understand is speed is of the essence; it’s all about minimising the negative impact. Hopefully by now you should have a priority list of what is essential and non-essential activity and your budgets are are a reflection of this. You may have to sacrifice some programs of work over others and know that taking a hit is inevitable.

The aim is to soften the blow and innovate

I’ve always believed the best marketing in terms of impacting attitudes (and ultimately, behaviour) is through adding value or being useful. So, in a way, this situation is a perfect chance to show true empathy to your customers and undertake marketing which is completely focused on your customers.

In terms of thinking creatively – we could all take a leaf out of Absolut Vodka’s book. The brand’s Absolut Nights event undertook a one-off live stream clubbing event that social media users could enjoy from home. Viewers could and order vodka directly to their house through the app and even tip the DJs through the video-sharing app’s integrated payment functionality.

Nike has adapted to this new world by posting more at-home workouts to the Nike Training Club app, including various household items such as water jugs as alternative weights.

For brands in the retail space, offer zero cost delivery. If an event doesn’t go ahead, maybe you could facilitate an alternative means of consuming it. For example, if this happens to a music event, how about streaming an ‘at home’ concert where all the acts perform an acoustic set from their own houses? Or how about producing a video series about what they’ve been doing instead due to their event being cancelled?

If you’re in sports maybe run competitions for fans offering the chance to play against some of the team’s players in a streamed e-sports match featuring the two teams from a cancelled fixture.

Overall, the move from going out to staying in will see people have more time on their hands and consume more media. Thus, the likes of media consumption, streaming services, video conferencing. One can see how digital will come even more to the fore as a method to engage fans through content.

Play the long game

Leading on from this, it’s important not to compromise long-term relationships or reputation by reacting overly negatively. Hopefully, the virus will be a short-term hit: indeed, this is more likely to be the case given the more drastic the measures taken by government and authorities.

In short, it’s a case of being practical and level-headed about managing the situation but being incredibly creative about making the best of it to fill the void for customers.