3 ways brands have adapted their advertising to the coronavirus pandemic

Apr 6 2020, 1:00 pm

A certain level of risk comes with starting a business, which is something entrepreneurs prepare themselves for. However, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has left many brands unsure of their next move.

All major sporting and entertainment events are cancelled for the foreseeable future. Restaurants, spas, and retail stores have closed their doors, and travel is postponed as airlines cut flights.

The continued spread of the coronavirus is impacting all industries, and many advertising strategies that were drawn up months ago are no longer usable.

“It’s a new world for everyone, including marketers,” says Neil Malik, director of client services at Hive Labs, Daily Hive’s content studio. “No brand wants to risk looking like the crowd of oblivious college students on a beach during spring break.”

Malik explains that everyone is waiting for the first sign of stability before they react accordingly with updated messaging. “However, the brands who wait the longest, risk losing out in the end,” he adds.

During a webinar focused on “Telling Your Brand’s Story in A Crisis,” Jerrid Grimm, co-founder of Pressboard, stressed the importance of being careful with marketing messaging. He noted that some brands have made big mistakes recently, and explained why you shouldn’t put out an ad simply because you already bought space for it.

“We’ve been trained as marketers to place our company, our product, and our services as the hero of our advertising creative,” says Grimm. “That’s fine during normal times, but during a crisis, our messaging needs to adapt. The new heroes of this crisis are medical workers, grocery store staff, parents homeschooling their kids, your customers. Your brand has moved from hero to supporting character, and that’s an important distinction to avoid coming across as tone-deaf or opportunistic.”

Campaigns launched in the coming weeks need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, communicating only relevant and valuable information to the target audience. That being said, here are three positive ways brands have adapted their advertising to-date.

Pivoting a product

Brands without a contingency plan have put their foot on the brake pedal and continue to hold that position. Meanwhile, others have taken an agile approach and pivoted their product — without having to destroy pre-existing marketing plans.

Access MBA is a case in point for the latter. The client came to Hive Labs earlier this year to create branded written content for their One-to-One MBA event which was due to take place in Calgary. Instead of cancelling the event, Access MBA chose to host it online and followed through with updated marketing content.

Focusing on the new

Although this is a time of uncertainty for brands around the globe, it provides a unique opportunity for them to demonstrate their value and how best they can support their community.

Restaurant company Earls is using this time to implement new services for customers who may need them. This includes a Happy Hour at Home menu and a market service called Earls Grocery.

Beauty brand NuFace is adjusting its social media strategies to balance out the promotion of its product and provide insight into how the team is staying well at home. The brand’s founder Tera Peterson used to do free house calls to influencers in LA to demo product — this is now being done virtually.


Increasing social media spend

Being quarantined at home means we’re spending a generous amount of time on social media. For brands, this means potentially more eyes on a product or service ad than ever before. Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, Instacart, and Uber Eats are among brands that have boosted spending on social media during the coronavirus pandemic.

To maintain sales, and help customers save money when shopping online, a lot of brands are turning to social promotion to boost awareness of free shipping offers. This includes those that have been forced to close retail locations like Aritzia, Frank And Oak, and lululemon.

At present, it’s unclear when social distancing measures will ease, and whether consumer habits will return to what we once knew as “normal.” One thing, however, is certain: now is the time for brands to be more socially aware and strategic in their approach.

To read more about the current content marketing landscape, or to learn more about working with Hive Labs, visit

Catriona HughesCatriona Hughes

+ Hive Labs