My take-aways on strategic advertising in a time of crisis

Advertising has always provided interesting challenges for breaking through the noise, creating relevant content for consumers and sustaining customer brand loyalty. However, 2020 has been the test of a lifetime for digital advertising pros as they adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. Here are some of the lessons learned during these tumultuous times:

Take time to evaluate how your strategy must change.

When a crisis breaks out, your digital advertising teams must ask a series of important questions to make the best strategic decisions for the brand moving forward.

First, avoid unforced errors by immediately undertaking a marketing audit to ensure existing messages are appropriate for the new environment. Next, consider: How is your customer base affected by unfolding events? How can your company demonstrate service and commitment to customers, your community, and any relief efforts taking place?

Make sure your messages include accountability and transparency for the way the crisis may be impacting your company’s operations. Online pet product retailer Chewy is an excellent example: in an earnings statement released after widespread stay-at-home orders were issued in the United States, their CEO described how a surge in demand predictably increased their delivery times beyond what customers regularly expected.

Because Chewy proactively communicated these impacts to customers through their website, emails, and social media throughout the buying process, customer sentiment remained positive while they scaled up to meet the increased demand.

Don’t look to advertising budgets as your first cost-savings measure.

When the company’s financial outlook is uncertain, many companies may be inclined to reduce advertising budgets, but with opportunities to capture ongoing and growing revenue that may be a counterproductive decision. While your company may realize an immediate cost savings, this decision could hurt revenues in the long run. Instead, reevaluate your digital advertising strategy, considering what channels will provide the most value, and concentrate your spending there.

Report relevant results.

Comparing year-over-year or month-over-month results will not provide an accurate picture of digital marketing performance in crisis environments. Campaigns taking place in April 2020 are very different than campaigns that took place in April 2019. The same can be said for February 2020 campaigns compared to March 2020 campaigns. Changing times require changing data.

While corporate leaders may still expect the same reports you provided before, consider also providing them with a day-over-day report beginning the day the crisis started to ensure they are getting an accurate picture of your efforts. This method of reporting will also give your team the insight to be responsive to rapidly changing events.

These takeaways from the challenges of advertising during a crisis will equip you to build and execute effective strategies for your brand or company. The key is to adapt, be transparent, and remember that successful campaigns are always worth the investment.