Should Marketing Mention the Coronavirus?

Let’s face it – marketers are always on the lookout for new opportunities to sell products and services to consumers. This is true in bad times as in good. However, marketers must also be sensitive to what is happening in consumers’ lives and in the general marketplace. It is not wise (or ethical) to take advantage of someone’s suffering or fear in order to make a sale.

It can be tough though. Retail sales have been declining since March and had their largest drop in April as employees worked from home and stores and restaurants were shuttered. Shopping has also shifted from brick-and-mortar stores to online and ecommerce. People are nervous and anxious about their current situation, and about their future. They are also isolated at home and crave human connection. What should a marketer do?

This brings us back to basics: focus on the target market. What is the message the customers want to hear, need to hear, and will respond to positively? Messages should be calm and positive, not scaring to consumers. Stay with the basics of marketing principles: understand the customer, stay connected, alter the tone of messages, stick to the facts, and listen.

Stay connected with consumers. Be honest. Be safe.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: What is their opinion about marketers’ responsibility in times of crisis?
  2. Specifically for the coronavirus pandemic, should companies promote their goods and services by using a painful situation to their advantage?
  3. Show a video about marketing during crisis: https://youtu.be/vmEJZ08rBoM
  4. Divide students into teams. Have each team research how various companies are addressing the coronavirus pandemic in their advertising and marketing. (Suggestions: Nike, Coca-Cola, Toyota, Tide, etc.)
  5. What is being done correctly? What should be changed?
  6. In teams, assign a product to the teams and have the students develop a marketing campaign that uses the pandemic in a way that shows a value to consumers.

Source: Ad Week; New York Times; other news sources

 

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