April 6, 2020 By Amy A - UX Architect,

It has been a dicey world within the brand and social messaging spectrum, even before the Coronavirus pandemic emerged. Now it seems every brand, celebrity, and Facebook friend is posting their take on the pandemic. With so much content flying around, brands are struggling to decide how best to communicate to their customers in the context of the world around us without coming across as inauthentic or too salesy while remaining topically relevant to people's everyday lives.

The coronavirus pandemic is a global issue, affecting everyone’s daily life in some way. Mentioning it in your blog posts and ads may feel risky or even controversial. With so much content being distributed on the subject, you may feel that you’ll get lost in the shuffle.

However, failing to acknowledge it will make your brand appear tone-deaf. It is better to be one of thousands offering encouragement than one of a few doing nothing. Remember, it’s not so much about the impact that you may receive in terms of sales or brand awareness as it is simply of showing empathy, encouragement and providing meaningful solutions for your customers. In the long run, it’s a winning formula for loyal customers.

Here are 5 strategy tips you can use to develop meaningful and contextually relevant content as well as avoid the pitfalls that could infuriate your customers.


Tip #1 - Recognize the impact on your customers’ life. This promoted tweet from Southwest Airlines ran during the first week of lockdown in California. The ad made their followers feel frustrated instead of inspired.

Southwest Airlines Tweet - Social Media in Pandemic Times

And it’s not just social media, it’s all channels.

While spring has come upon us and summer is around the corner, a seasonal brand such as Modcloth.com’s with a happy-go-lucky brand message on their homepage can come across as out of touch with how people feel right now.

FireShot Capture 154 - Women's Clothing_ Dresses, Tops, Skirts & Shoes - ModCloth - www.modcloth.com

Marketing messages rely on context: social media posts, commercials, and display ads that were funny or cute last week may strike a sour note with users today. A poorly timed ad may cause momentary frustration or worse, widespread backlash that could hurt your business for an extended period of time.

Now is a good time to double check your previously scheduled tactics and upcoming marketing communications calendar if you haven’t done so already. You may even want to remove recent posts that may be dated but with a scroll of the thumb may present mixed messages. Check to ensure they are on message with today’s environment and still have an effective call to action.


Tip #2 - Ramp up your content machine and distribute it for free if you typically charge a fee. Lots of freelancers are available for work right now, and they can be more cost effective than media and more relevant than ads to get consumers attention.

Twenty-one states are in some phase of lockdown, including all of California’s 40 million residents. Many of the residents of these locked down areas are house-bound, and look to digital media for connection to the outside world, whether that is entertainment, shopping, or simply staying connected with their friends and family.

When the crisis is over, customers will remember the companies that helped meet their need for distraction. Even if your business is a physical store, consider distributing some fun, educational, activity based and/or how to content related to your brand.

  • Gyms and athletic brands can offer remote trainer sessions and workout tips
  • Beauty brands can create hair, makeup or nail tutorials that are just right for moment
  • Baby companies can offer crafts, games, or daily activities to keep kids engaged
  • Dating and matchmaker companies can find virtual ways to connect people from afar. There is plenty of extra time for quizzes.
Fitness Challenge - Youtube - Social Media during COVID19


Tip #3 - Even if you don’t sell products that Amazon or the government has deemed essential, it is important to be transparent about what’s going on with your business. Every company has a different response to the stay at home orders based on which operations are essential and which operations can be conducted remotely. Customers are aware of changes, but don’t always know what to expect. Make it easy to find the most current information by taking advantage of all your digital outlets. Keep your customers updated on store hours, closures, delays, and online business. Vons grocery is a straightforward example of how the store makes the latest information front and center on their website.

Vons - Online Grocery Delivery During COVID19


Tip #4 - Defer to experts when you need to. Although community health affects everyone, it is a complex topic with intricacies that can only be understood by experts. Refer your customers to credible sources like the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization for critical information. If you want to share health information, like proper handwashing technique or tips for social distancing, make sure you have researched the topic with a credible source.

The Google Doodle for March 20, 2020 is a well-researched illustration of proper handwashing technique.

Google Doodle - Social Media during COVID-19


Tip #5 - Surprise and delight customers with unexpected promotions or giveaways. Step away from the ordinary when keeping customers engaged or trying to drive sales or lead generation initiatives. Discounting may be easy and effective, but now is a great time to try something different and unique rather than just a % off this or $ off of that. Brighten your customer’s day by giving them something they never would have expected, something that goes above and beyond your typical offering. The ancillary benefit is that it may also help you get recognized across channels you hadn’t intended.

For example, Popeyes Chicken recently announced a giveaway of Free Netflix for 1,000 customers. While Popeyes has nothing to do with movies, combining dinner and movies is a great way to capture people’s attention and be relevant at the same time.

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