Like no other crisis before, corona crisis crashed the stock market prices, paralyzed the planet, separeted people from each other and disrupted the world of marketing

 Coronavirus pandemic spread around the globe so rapidly that it took everyone unprepared including the world of marketing. One can say that the fancy marketing word „disruption“ became the unexpected weapon of coronavirus itself.

Break, splitting, interruption... these are all synonyms of the word „disruption“ which was until recently celebrated by the specialists for (digital) marketing. And in some strange ironic reversal of the fate, it came back as a boomerang to its creators.

The fall of web traffic and conversions

Marketing acencies were hit hard by the disruptive wave of coronavirus which made a strong impact on all segments of agency's life. In less than 10 days we started working from home. We temporarily closed our offices. Tried to coordinate with colleagues via online Zoom video conferences. Our clients have cancelled the campaigns in the middle of campaigns. And our budgets have thinned down waiting for some better times ahead.

However, even though the tidal wave of corona disruption hit the agencies, brands and clients, we all had to adapt after an initial shock. The soothing hashtag #stayathome came as a shock absorber and it became the key word of the year 2020.

The experts of all kinds invited brands and marketing people to treat the crisis lightly and do not try to exploit the fears of pandemic in marketing terms. Even the omniscient Facebook sharpened its algorithmic teeth and strenghtened its control over ad content while blocking and penalizing the „fear mongers“ among marketeers. But what really happenned to the world of marketing and digital conversions – what do analysts say?

Neil Patel - the owner of the world's famous SEO agency Ubersuggest - came up with the analytics  of the digital advertising and web traffic which was done by the algorythms of his powerful SEO platform.

Patel pointed out that not only prices of shares dropped down but digital conversions and web traffic as well. All industries were hit hard in the domain of organic traffic on their web sites except for the health and pharmacy sectors, production and distribution of food as well as news industry. The most dramatic fall was registered in the sector of travel which was decimated by the general lockdown and closure of state borders.

The same could be said for digital conversions. Only food and drug distributors, news media, content and video conferencing companies like Netflix, Zoom, HBO and Disney did good in these disruptive times.

Increase in visits to news portals and content platforms

Every crisis has its winners and Patel mentions that the well known news portals like Washington Post increased the conversions thanks to their policy of limited-access articles. For example when you wanted to read some of their articles related to new interesting discoveries about pandemic you would get a pop-up window with the invitation to subscribe. And who wouldn't do it in order to get the full information about the hot topic?

Streaming giant Netflix on the other hand did not have to make any additional efforts to get more subscribers. This popular content platform for the streaming of TV series and movies gained 16 million new users in the first quarter of the year because people stayed at home and had more spare time to binge-watch their favourite shows and films. What's even more interesting and paradoxical, Netflix has decreased the quality of its streaming service in Europe in order to avoid the overcrowding of their servers. And you know what? Nobody complained about lower customer service or lower quality product!

To freeze or to increase promotional activities – what to do?

And what about big brands and corporations? Generally speaking they chose two different approaches in their reactions to corona crisis. Some decided to withdraw from all marketing activities while others opted to get even closer to their consumers.

Coca Cola, for instance, withdrew completely from commercial activities in United Kingdom. They decided to freeze all their promotional activities in second quarter waiting for the crisis to go away. In addition to that, Coca Cola cancelled its operations and sponsorships related to Premier League and Euro 2020. British advertising agencies like Ogilvy, Wieden + Kennedy, McCann and MediaCom were taken aback by this decision of a giant corporation. Industry insiders predict that the economic earthquake in British advertising industry will take away thousands of working posts because of Coca Cola's withdrawal.

However, Coca Cola did not suspend all its activites in USA for example. Over there the demand for their beloved drink has increased due to panic consumerism and stockpiling caused by the measures of social distance. Coca Cola's billboard appeared in the New York City's Times Square with the message: „Staying apart is the best way to stay united.“ But company detected some distribution chain problems in other parts of the world which makes sense of Coca Cola's caution when it comes to spending bucks on advertising in these unstable times.

Well, why don't you double down and beat the trouble?

Other brands decided to take the path completely different from Coca Cola's. They continued with their promotional activities as before addressing the new situation along the way. So the always agile Ikea decided to offer some hope and consolation to their consumers with the message of togetherness. Let's discover our homes anew, said their messages on social media channels, because our homes are our oldest friends and acquaintances. In the spirit of omnipresent #stayathome hashtag (which will be remembered as the defining hashtag of our era), Ikea invited consumers to enjoy in the comfort of their home – the only stable, safe and peaceful place in this turbulent time of collapsing social ties and bonds.    

Other brands also decided to stay with their consumers. Merzedes-Benz organized its own Motor Sow in USA after the cancellation of the famous Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The fans and drivers of Merzedes cars were invited to show their own cars on display over the Zoom platform while the big brand decided to sponsor Americn Red Cross after the show. Reebok also decided to pursue social media initiative with their campaign #ReebokLove in which they encourged fans to nominate „everyday heroes“ from their immediate surroundings (for instance delivery men, postmen, doctors, nurses...). They wanted to promote the heroism of these people and their courageous efforts to help community in the age of pandemic. 

To withdraw or not? Or to be even more present than ever? The answer to this question shoud be answered by each brand separately regardless of the fact if it's a big producer of soft drinks or Swedish furniture company. 

Mr. Neil Patel will definitely be closer to the second solution. Recently he appealed to all marketeers with the simple and paradoxical message – now is the right time to double down your promotional activites! Patel explains that the competition is now hesitating, many brands withdraw from the media spotlight thus leaving you more space for visibility and exposure.

Lets' hope that his advice will be answered with the approval of many brands amd companies so negative economic consequences of corona crisis could be mitigated.


Selected works