How COVID-19 Impacted Marketing & Advertising?

Be fearless, be patient, be strong

Photo by Michael Walter on Unsplash

What a time to be alive, isn’t it?

It’s the 21st century, the year of 2020, and guess what the current global trend is? No, it’s not Coronavirus, pfft. It’s fear. The fear of the dark, the fear of what’s next, the fear of others around us, the fear of fear itself.

“Be greedy when other people are fearful”

— Warren Buffett

While the world prepped for a nuclear attack, technological disruption or an alien’s invasion, it instead, got hit by a simple flu-like virus — the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19.

We’ve read and heard about all kinds of plagues and pandemics in our history textbooks, but no one in their wildest minds thought something like an invisible virus would shut the world down. The Great Pause they call it…

Everyone is told to stay home, self distance from others and wash your hands like crazy.

Photo by Tai's Captures on Unsplash

In that mindset of fear, toilet paper and sanitizers sold faster than iPhones or Nike’s new Jordans. Wearing masks and gloves outside the house is normal. And guess what, no one’s going to say God bless if you sneeze in public, they’d abuse you instead.

And whilst the world shut down and formed a new order, the internet did not. Instead, the internet thrived.

The world wide web, a portal to another world, was already an alternate reality and a crucial commodity of the world for consumers like you and me. We rely on it everyday for communication, entertainment, news, music, TV, work and play. And with us sitting at home doing nothing, its user bandwidth was bound to increase.

So what’s changed?

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they have consumed more content since the outbreak.”

With increased screen consumption from all over the globe, reports state that news consumption, TV watching and Digital streaming increased and it is allowing people to binge hours and hours of feel-good or escapist content.

E-commerce websites like Amazon, eBay and other e-businesses are heavily relied upon for online shopping. Online food services are thriving more than ever. Communication software like Skype, Zoom, Slack are vital saviors for businesses and schools to be operational. And other forms of media spread messages curb keep stress and anxiety so we’re distracted from the outside reality.

“Broadcast TV and online video streaming platforms like YouTube and TikTok are winning more screen time as primary mediums for all generations and genders.”

Social media is booming across all generations, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. Everyone’s becoming tech-savvy, social media friendly and diving deeper into the internet because now they have more time to spare.

People are reading digital newspapers, creating viral content in hopes of becoming the next sensation of the internet; Dalgona Coffee, music videos, funny memes, re-creating content from the past. And for those who didn’t use the internet as much, are now relying on it for work, play and pretty much everything else.

“Netflix boasts an 18% rise of paid subscriptions, and Spotify stands as the clear winner of music streaming.”

Food delivery services like Uber Eats, SkipTheDishes, Foodora, have been using social media and cashing out on words like “curbside pick-up”, “take out”, “free delivery”, “online food delivery” to avoid social contact and to promote its services to keep your tummy full during this crisis. Even local brick-mortar stores are forced to switch as an e-commerce business to keep running.

Everyone’s finally understanding the value and the potential of the Information Age.

What about the marketing and advertising industry?

Photo by Matt Pet on Unsplash

The virus affected every industry in a bad way. Only a few industries thrived — like healthcare, medicine, e-Commerce and internet companies.

The marketing industry on the other hand, has always adapted to any environment. Observe, learn and adapt. That’s the marketer’s mantra. And since everyone’s locked at home, glued to their screen and bored out of their minds, marketers know exactly how to keep the audience engaged during these worrying times.

Media houses and agencies spent their money on TV commercials, radio spots, billboards around the city with maximum reach, ads on social media and online websites helped spread the word about the Coronavirus. And all this is not just Canada, it’s all around the world.

“35% of consumers are more interested in hearing about online retail (excluding food) than they were before.”

Brands like Nike, Audi, MasterCard, Volvo, Google, Guinness and many others created creatives to spread the word and keep the consumer informed about the virus. Some big brands like McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Chiquita promoted social distancing with altered slogans and logos too.

Credit: The Coca Cola Company

Due to due lack of demand from retail stores, big conglomerates like Apple, Amazon, Google, Tesla and fashion related brands Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Zara, Nike used its factory to make medical gowns, gloves, masks and equipment for hospitals and the general public.

Brands active on social media leveraged this pandemic to their advantage. Instead of laying off employees, cutting wages and shutting stores, they instead put all their resources into creating more content for the world to feed on. To increase brand identities, awareness, sales and goodwill.

“The most preferred media consumption across Gen Z, Gen X, and boomers was online videos, music streaming, and online press.”

So yes, fear has played its part for the world to act differently. But the marketing industry is versatile. It analyzed the situation and leveraged it. Brands need to take this time to re-evaluate brand identity, recall and purpose.

Marketing companies need to use this time efficiently to create better brands, goods, services to make a better future for us and them. Because again, it’s not all about the fear, it’s also creativity to create a better world, no matter the situation.

“Creativity is the light that shows us what’s possible, the fuel that drives progress, the beauty that makes us human.”

— Tim Cook, Apple CEO

If you’ve got questions or concerns, drop me a message leave a comment!

Thank you for reading!

Also check out my other article 7 things you need to know about working in the Advertising and Marketing industry

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Burhanuddin Kapasi

Burhanuddin Kapasi


Self Improvement, Life Adventures and Consumer Tech | Advertising at Publicis Canada | Former News Editor Stuff Magazine India | Techno Geek