5 Expert updates, 6 insights and 6 ideas on how to stay awesome and add real value with your marketing during COVID-19

From picking the right channel to saying stuff that actually matters – yes, you can (and should) add value to stakeholders with your marketing during COVID-19 and lockdown. 

Let’s face it, the global pandemic is perhaps THE unprecedented humanitarian challenge of our time. We’re all people, all afraid and starting to see the financial impact. But we’ve also learned by now that it’s absolutely vital to keep marketing during a crisis (especially if downturn or recession looms), albeit a little differently, definitely smarter – see studies of over 100 years proving this a little lower down.

And now South Africa’s extended lockdown with a further two weeks until end April 2020.

With that in mind, we bring you a special look at marketing that really matters during COVID-19: We have 5 super-quick news updates, 6 vital insights for brands and 6 ideas on marketing that makes a difference. PLUS: A special Design Infestation campaign: We’ll create your feel-good artwork to bring hope to customers and colleagues for FREE.

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Where are the good places to be marketing right now?


Ok, maybe we could all have predicted this one. In fact, US measurement company Nielsen did – they said lockdown measures around the world would lead to a 60% rise in media consumption. Not a bad guess: Today Statistica shows a 67% rise in news media consumption worldwide, with a 51% rise in streaming services, and 45% in social media, TV and messenger apps each – see it here.

In South Africa specifically, it’s 61% total media with TV (39%) lagging behind online and social media (45%). But who’s benefiting? Ironically, it’s worth noting that many traditional news media outlets who’ve so furiously been reporting on the COVID-19 issue are now feeling the backlash of the frenzy they helped fire, with companies pulling advertising and the likes of Mail & Guardian recently even asking for business and consumers to keep supporting them financially.

In fact, while many say traditional media should be the go-to in times of crisis – here’s an infographic on how COVID-19 dominates media today – you just can’t deny the impact of online content and the socials.


Undeniably the heavyweight in media attention during COVID-19, especially in South Africa; reports range from between 45% and 46% increase in social media use worldwide. And it’s not just Facebook, YouTube and Instagram either. So, there’s a lot of good reason to be on social media right now. But be warned, it’s a crowded space and some of the rules have changed – see this COVID-19 social media analysis.


Demand for traditional print media, magazines and especially local newspapers have also soared. But you run into problems when it comes to distribution, as the editor of one Caxton local paper found out recently.


Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio recently commissioned a survey where a staggering 90% of 17000 responders said they’re more likely to listen to the radio during the lockdown. That’s amazing but, of course, far from empirical, though Statistica does note SA recorded 36% rise in people listening to the radio.

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The knee-jerk reaction to a crisis is to cut costs. And often you’re tempted to slash the marketing budget or halt altogether. This is, of course, a big mistake – there’s loads of evidence that shows marketing is actually vital in a crisis.

During the 1923 US recession, Roland S. Vaile reported that of 200 tracked companies, those that continued advertising came out of the recession 20% ahead while their peers were 7% behind. And it repeated itself through the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s – in fact, here’s over a century’s worth of data on the topic. Studies during slumps of the 80s and 90s show companies marketing aggressively grew sales up 50% to even 275% in the middle of a recession. And in 2008/2009, Harvard Business Review found that the guys who actually managed to grow did so by cutting only operating costs and redoubling marketing to existing loyal customers.

And it’s not just in the US, here are some helpful findings from researchers in Nigeria.

According to Forbes, a time of crisis calls for reevaluating your brand’s value proposition. See more on doing this under brand strategy


There isn’t time anymore for painstakingly planned and executed shoots (if even because we’re all at home now) or projects that take weeks of back-and-forth to execute. And your same-old content could seem completely out of place in a world where everything has changed – can’t show groups of people, touching or anything outdoors right now, right?

Your content needs to tie in with what people are feeling and needing right now. 


People have been inundated with COVID-19 reports and insights over the past few weeks. And, quite frankly, they’re getting tired of it. Your policy updates, working hours and even “helpful” hygiene tips aren’t winning you any favour. Not to mention brands grabbing at the opportunity to profiteer of the media hype around the pandemic.

The fact is that people aren’t looking for expert medical advice from banks and retailers any more than they want fashion advice from the WHO. So look carefully at where you belong in all of this. Where can you really add value?


What people need now above all else is empathy. The whole world has suddenly changed. It’s less about the specs and fancy features of the latest new phone and more about the bare essentials. Unless, of course, it’s about what the phone offers you: a way to stay connected with loved ones, friends and the world around you.

People are responding to humility right now. Truth and relatability. So it’s a great time to re-assess and get back to the essence of your brand. What are you really here for? That’s where the real touchpoints lie.


Agentur Loop said it beautifully: We’re finally seeing the end of the ‘But we’ve always done marketing like this’ sentiment. Your personas and perfectly planned strategies of everything before January 2020 is now out the window. Outlooks, needs and emotions have all radically changed. As have our immediate environments.

You might be physically inhibited from producing the same content you’ve done in the past due to lockdowns. Now’s the time to look for new solutions and maybe even mediums.

Look for bridges. How can you connect your brand with your customers’ needs in new ways?


Physical distance aside, empathy and a sense of shared experience are really important right now. And that extends to everyone in your sector. You on your own might not feel adequate to make a big enough impact, but what about your competitors? What if you stood alongside them and banded together to try and make something a little better?

Collaborating in new ways (even with rivals) is a great way to showcase yourself and your role in your industry. And, you probably get to keep an eye on what your rivals are doing, too.

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Once we get past the business-as-usual adjustments and crisis management, what’s left? Not all products and services will sell right now. So it might be time to be more generous. There are numerous reports of factory owners refitting their plants to produce ventilators and hand sanitiser right now. They can actually help. And they do.

How can you help? Really help. It’s not just factories; think information, funds, education, food, essentials. There’s a whole lot of people who can use a hand right now.


One way to stand out right now is to talk directly to people’s needs with your marketing, without tagging on the coronavirus moniker. Figure out what people need, give it to them and don’t tell them it’s about COVID-19 at all.

When Disney recently announced it’s releasing Frozen 2 earlier than expected on DisneyPlus, for example, we all knew they were doing it because of lockdowns and quarantine. But they never actually mentioned COVID-19 in the announcements. They chose to lead with the benefit: Something cool for the kids when you’re stuck inside.


Ok, so on-location and even studio-based shoots, videos are all off the table for now. How can you improvise? Is from-home an option? What about animations instead of films, creative and graphic wordplay instead of lifestyle shots?

It’s time to get really creative with your content. And we can help – see our brand design solutions.


One of the biggest taboos right now is talking about “business restructure” in response to the crisis. Rumours of retrenchments, cuts and forcing unpaid leave aren’t going to do your brand any favours. What people are responding to is brands who take care of their people, who strive to give hope.

And that means taking measures to ensure that your employees are actually OK. Be a beacon of calm, help where you can. Sometimes the most PR-able actions are closer to home.


We know everything’s changed. So why not change with it? Can you approach your carefully laid marketing plans in a new way? What are the real opportunities here?

Right now, brand positioning experts are probably better suited to helping really distil your brand and find a new way to showcase your value. So think brand more than just marketing.

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We at Design Infestation would like to offer our design services free of charge to companies who want to spread a little hope right now. If you want to communicate any inspirational content to share with your friends, colleagues or consumers to help them through the crisis with information, messages of hope or any “feel-good” messaging, send us your brief and we’ll execute it for you.

The only prerequisite is that it be a design that’s meant to really help people cope – think beyond “wash your hands” and more along the lines of “I’m here for you”.

You can send your “spread some hope” requests to us at design@infestation.co.za.


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