All our April marketing ideas in one place – to inform your May and future planning

Time for augmented reality? Connecting with our audience. And being a memorable brand. We’ve collected all the weekly marketing ideas from April 2020 into a single post. To inform your May planning and inspire your future marketing, too.


April was a highly unusual and often tumultuous month around the world. With the unprecedented humanitarian event of the global COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, entire economies ground to halt. And this had some interesting effects on marketing. We simply couldn’t practice “marketing as usual” due to movement, income and budget restrictions – not to mention the need for social distancing.

But April 2020 did push all of us to be more creative. To pursue new avenues and generally push the envelope. So, pandemic or not, this collection hosts some of the most innovative, budget-savvy and empathy-rich marketing ideas you’re likely to see in one place. Good to keep in mind for going forward, regardless of the pandemic.



One thing COVID-19 did was bring the focus back to locally produced goods and services. People know that lockdowns hit everyone hard, and they seem to be actively looking to support local businesses.

You can already see evidence of this trend in the Craft and Design Institute’s initiative to help small businesses showcase and sell their goods online at and SA company Denny Mushroom’s campaign to help local restaurant owners at their new support-your-local website.

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The renewed local focus creates an opportunity for brands and products that have a proud homegrown heritage, but it might also nudge retailers to start stocking shelves with more local goods. It’s also a chance for businesses to appeal to their consumers with their real-world local stories.


During April, SA email supplier Everlytic picked up that email open rates were soaring well above even the annual Black Friday craze. And the company’s managing director JD Engelbrecht says it showed businesses that they should keep talking to their customers:

“It is a scary time – we know, but not the time to cut brand marketing spend. Brand building is and always has been a long-term investment. Those businesses that hold their nerve now will be the ones that will survive this period.”

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For brands that thrive on live sporting and events sponsorships and branding, e-sports presents a new avenue. Initially viewed as only for gamers and geeks, the whole movement of online sporting and gaming events has grown into a billion-dollar industry in recent years. And now, during COVID-19 and lockdowns, it’s absolutely blowing up across the US, Europe and Asia, with every reason to believe it could boom in the rest of the world soon.


The global pandemic has forced us all to evaluate what’s really important, according to Kantar’s Dr Sibongile Vilakazi, and it touches everything from how you interact with your customers (no one wants to be fobbed off on the phone when it feels like the world’s collapsing around them) to going back to basics and asking: Why are we doing this again?

Knowing your brand’s “why” is more important than ever right now. Get some more insights on the value of brand strategy.


Augmented reality (AR) has always been a cool-looking nice-to-have, but with lockdowns there’s reason to relook at it as a retail alternative. Instagram launched its new shopping feature last year, where you can use AR to see what personal items from make-up to sunglasses will look like on your face (using your device camera) before you buy.

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It seems there’s room for innovation here for all kinds of personal and clothing retail brands.


Amid quarantines and lockdowns in April, media saw a huge spike in online audiences. Worldwide, web browsing grew by 71%, TV 63% and social media 61%. And locally, Media 24 notes an 87% spike in traffic and soccer site KickOff something like 91% more views.

But at the same time, ad spend on these channels dwindled. So not many brands are using this massive amount of traffic to their advantage. And that means there’s room for a few brave brands to make a big difference right now by looking past the fear and leveraging online marketing opportunities. One of the big marketing ideas from April is to be prepared to spend when everyone doesn’t.

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As we moved from April to May, it became clear things weren’t just going back to “business as usual”. It was time to adapt. So our team took some pretty decent international research into self-assessing how the pandemic affects your business model and put it into a handy visual format that you can download and share with your team. See the visual guide to help your business survive the virus.

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We’ve said it before, leading with your brand is the key to marketing during COVID-19. And a few of SA’s brands did just that in April. By creating brand ads that don’t try to sell products, but instead focus on connecting what people need right now with their brand.

Watch Toyota urging people to stay home: 

The carmaker manages to distil the essence of their brand into a single video that immediately connects with people’s reality – staying home. They’re not trying to sell cars, they’re investing in the future – after lockdown, which car brand are you going to remember the most?

Same with Spur:

They’re closed, and they’re going to remain closed long after other industries reopen. But they’re not trying to sell burgers (they can’t). But they are connecting with people – sharing recipes for you to make at home. So, who do you think will be top of mind one day when restaurants reopen again?

You can get some pro awesome insights into brand marketing from our founder Christo Maritz.


Something weird happened during the April lockdown. Suddenly the lines between you, the person, and your brand, the business, got blurred. Maybe it’s all the Zoom meetings and the move to online. But all of a sudden, who you are as a person and what you do is no longer as distinct from your brand. Proof: Watch what happens when the President fails rather comically to put on a face mask on live TV. And the Ninja Turles memes ensued (even though there’s some that say his method was the correct way).

It’s both funny and not funny at the same time. And the same thing is happening in business. As Zoom meetings become the norm, how you present yourself is part of your brand. And the same goes for emails etc. PR pro Lunice Johnston gives some tips over at BizCommunity.


Unwittingly, the whole debate around what exactly are “essential goods” gave us an unprecedented insight into consumers’ minds. BMI Research did a quick, unpublished survey, and there were some surprises: Turns out people think restaurants, hardware and DIY products are more important than healthcare products. And they’d rather have baby products than clothes.

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Here are a few ranked: 1) groceries, 2) hardware DIY, 3) baby products, 4) clothing, 5) restaurants and takeaways, 6) healthcare. Unexpected and interesting insights – there’s more here


It’s not all living room webinars and awkward Zoom meetings in the time of COVID-19. Big events companies need to innovate to survive. So there could be big opportunities in sponsoring online events.

For example, the battling print media industry’s spectacles on Arena Events give you a chance to sponsor large and professional online gatherings – like the recent webinar led by Vodacom’s managing brand executive, for example. It’s high-calibre stuff, and it’s worth looking out for more opportunities at big events organisers moving online.


The pandemic has forced a lot of changes, but there’s still opportunity if you’re fast enough to seize it. A recent University of Columbia report found that COVID-19 poses a significant risk to those suffering from cardiovascular disease and hypertension. And the South African Rooibos Council was quick to note in a press release that Laager Rooibos is the only SA rooibos that carries the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa’s stamp of approval. So this should be a golden opportunity for the brand to tell their story.

But did they use the opportunity? We hadn’t seen anything on their social media in April. DID anyone see any marketing elsewhere? Here’s one of the more NB marketing ideas form April: Look out for where your brand can offer real value, and then please, please, please have the good sense to invest in telling your story effectively.

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If you still haven’t looked at how to move online, take the president’s Level 4 announcement as your cue that business is not going back to normal any time soon. The world might be irrevocably altered after today, so now’s the time to invest in online.

Whether it’s looking at e-commerce or developing content. Online is where it’s happening right now, and it will probably stay that way long after lockdown ends. Need help? Talk to us.


Something truly remarkable happened on social media in April. Immediately after minister Dlamini-Zuma’s no-cigarette announcement on Wednesday 29 April at 19:30, a group of South Africans created the Smokers Against SA Cigarette Ban Facebook group (now archived, because it grew too big for the founders to manage). And within 12 hours, overnight, the group had 20 000 members (at 8:00 on Thursday 30 April). Another 36 hours later (8:00 on 1 May), the group grew by 270% to 74 000 members.

And they’re not just inactive likes, either. One share of a Gareth Cliff post on the group has over 700 reactions and 500-plus shares on this group.

Now, clever marketers know that this kind of virality is not the aim of marketing – it’s too fickle and unpredictable. You might not be able to mobilise 20 000 people overnight, but what about 20 or 200? There another very important set of marketing ideas from April here for every business: It’s all about what your audience wants. This group is not pushing any specific agenda, it’s just a space for people to connect over a shared need and reality. And often businesses spend so much time and effort into trying to convey their own messages that they miss the opportunity to connect to the audience’s needs first.

What can we learn from this to improve our content marketing?

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SA retailers have reportedly seen up to 700% increase in online shopping, according to MyBroadband. And a new syndicated study by Nielsen shows that, of the 58% of SA’s population able to shop online, the rate of regular online shopping grew from just 1-2% in this market before lockdown to up to 36% today. That’s huge.

And Nielsen’s lead of SA retailing, Gareth Paterson, says there’s every reason to believe the current situation could cause a permanent trend. If you haven’t developed a seamless switch from offline to online yet, now’s the time.


There’s long been a debate about whether advertising in mainstream news media, which, let’s face it, can be quite gloomy at times, can have a negative impact on your brand. Not in reach of course, but in the association it creates between your brand and all the “bad news”. And we’ve noted before that the pandemic has caused people to look for hope instead.

This week, Facebook officially verified SA feel-good news source Good Things Guy, a site that focuses on telling real and often heartwarming stories of South Africans coming together and doing just that: good things. The verification is something publisher Brent Lindeque takes a sign they’re on the right track with the “good news” approach.


The tourism industry is probably one of the hardest-hit by the pandemic – if only because it’s likely to stay locked down well after other industries have restarted. But that hasn’t stopped Cape Town Tourism from being proactive is marketing itself to future travellers. Watch:


In its “We’re worth waiting for” video, the Love Cape Town brand is using the increased time people spend online to invest in tourism after lockdown. What are you doing to make sure you’re the first place people visit when they’re able to?

PS: Did you know we helped create the iconic Love Cape Town brand? See how Design Infestation executed the Cape Town Tourism rebrand.


Sticking with the Cape Town and tourism theme, many assumed thought that the lockdown over the Easter weekend would be devastating for destinations like the V&A. And, obviously, it was, but that doesn’t mean there were no opportunities. This Easter, we helped the V&A Waterfront still impact people’s lives by running a virtual Easter egg hunt.

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Sure, you couldn’t have people on location and buying, but the local media picked up the story and it provided countless families stuck at home with some excitement over Easter. We’ll be collating some results and posting later this week about the V&A virtual Easter egg hunt.


When UK health-snack brand Emily Crisps purchased their first outdoor ad in December 2019, they had no way of predicting what the reality would be in April 2020. With the UK going on lockdown, you can imagine no one is seeing their ads. But, unlike many other brands who just grumble and bemoan, they improvised by creating an online campaign that makes fun of themselves and their ads.



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Here’s us hoping that “one pigeon” is looking to try some delicious Real Veg Sticks…

A post shared by EMILY® (@emilysnacks) on


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EMILY sweet potato sticks, unfortunately not coming to a TV screen near you #fail

A post shared by EMILY® (@emilysnacks) on

Of course, this doesn’t have the same impact as a huge outdoor ad campaign would have under normal conditions. But Emily Crisps managed to salvage something from their spend – if nothing else, sharing these on their Instagram upped their average daily engagement on posts by up to 1000%. Not bad for making lemonade.

Launch in a new area, boost sales growth and up your competitiveness. Unlock the power of simplexity with our award-winning brand agency.



Our team scours the latest news and insights to bring you useful ideas based on actual trends in business and marketing every 7 days – see our marketing ideas this week. And then, to keep our overview scope broad and useful for you, we collect all of our trends-based marketing ideas into a monthly collective. If you want to share ideas or have a question about any of the ideas we’ve shared here, contact us at

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Also see all our marketing ideas from May and the best of marketing in June. And get all the big lessons from marketing in July.

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