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Crisis Marketing Made Simple

While it is a difficult time to do business, here are some practical and simple actions that companies can take to maximize crisis marketing today.

Crisis Marketing Made Simple

In times of social and economical crisis, it is understandable for companies to have an initial reaction to pause or postpone marketing, reining back on all deemed areas of expense.

This is often the human reaction to changing circumstances.

And in most cases, this is not an effective marketing strategy during a time of crisis.

This article explores practical and simple actions that companies can take to maximize crisis marketing in difficult times.

I am not suggesting that marketing is simple during challenging times for companies and consumers.

However, there are new and changing marketing opportunities to take action on, plus many important roles for marketing to fulfill.

Here is a good related read to this topic looking at keeping SEO customers during times of crisis.

It Is Not Business as Usual

Things have changed over the past few weeks:

  • Consumers are more vulnerable.
  • Behaviors have changed.
  • People are altering how and where they spend.
  • Audiences are not the same.
  • Competitive environments are evolving.
  • New trends have emerged.

Now is the time for businesses to distill their offerings back to the fundamentals:

  • Who are they for? (Has that changed?)
  • What are the benefits? (Are they more important during a crisis?)
  • How are they positioned? (Does this reflect current needs?).
  • Why do they matter? (During instability, people will shift focus to essentials so this point is key).

John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz have this to say in their Harvard Business Review article titled How to Market in a Downturn.

“During recessions it’s more important than ever to remember that loyal customers are the primary, enduring source of cash flow and organic growth. Marketing isn’t optional—it’s a “good cost,” essential to bringing in revenues from these key customers and others.”

A New Way of Talking with Your Audience

Brands that truly understand their audience will always succeed during periods of instability.

The main reason for this is that credibility, support, expertise, and authority all become increasingly important to people when circumstances change.

Too often brands are so buried in data that they forget the people behind the clicks and the conversions.

It is useful to invest in people understanding and data-led research when business scenarios change.

This will enable your business to react quickly to changing situations and maximize the emerging opportunities before others do within your competitive space.

Looking at spending attitudes in a crisis, your audience will be:

  • Increasing time evaluating alternatives.
  • Pausing or placing added limitations on impulsive spending.
  • Forward planning and moving set aside funds to future timeframes.
  • Placing increased emphasis on deals/promotions/offers.
  • Seeking reliable and trusted sources of information.
  • Wanting reassurance that they are doing the right thing.

The above are simply a handful of the volume of humanistic modifications that have occurred over the past few weeks related to the current social and economical changes spanning the globe.

Most businesses will have been founded out of necessity, providing something of perceived value and solving identified audience wants, needs and pain points.

All of this business necessity still exists, however, the conversation surrounding them has to change.

Businesses need to be more sensitive towards the people buying their products and services.

Make it clear why they still have a place in these changing times, and make everything easy to take action on commercially and psychologically.

Moving Marketing Budgets

All companies have a financial obligation to maximize every aspect of marketing investment, and this becomes far more critical during times of crisis.

Agile movement of marketing focus, media spend, and holistic marketing expenditure all impact total marketing return on investment (ROI) and return on advertising spend (ROAS).

The largest marketing outlay for most businesses will be paid advertising.

Companies will be considering switching off paid expenditure at the moment, but that would be a mistake.

Paid marketing, like all marketing at present, requires reassessment, review, and repositioning to maximize the returns.

In almost all cases, pausing spend in this area should not be the go-to decision without serious consideration.

Factors to consider for paid media spend in times of crisis include:

  • Content remarketing of key audience articles.
  • “Always-on” high ROI and ROAS advertising campaigns.
  • New trend experiments and budget reallocation.
  • Brand maximization of market share.
  • Media spend wastage reduction and account refinements.
  • Promotions, special offers, and discount intent targeting.
  • So much more.

The Resurgence of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

One interesting change that is happening across most industries is the added emphasis placed on SEO.

Fundamentally this stems from SEO taking on some of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintaining an always-on approach to search visibility, especially when media budgets are being streamlined.

What this means to companies of all sizes is that the often overlooked value that SEO provides is beginning to be realized again and brought back to the fore.

As a long-standing (circa 2003) SEO evangelist myself, this trend is pleasant to see, despite the unwanted circumstances in place leading to this change.

Practically speaking, this resurgence towards increased SEO focus is seen in many ways such as:

  • New content creation targeting changing search behavior and latest industry trends.
  • Increased keyword and topic targeting to replace any removed PPC term focus and dovetail with paid strategy and tactical changes.
  • Additional audience aware content items reflecting audience needs, help, and support.
  • Increased genuine location and community involvement (value-based brand and location optimization).
  • Targeting of postponing/delayed search intent (for example delayed holidays and future bookings).
  • More.


In challenging times, it is understandable that people’s initial reactions to changing circumstances and marketing spend or focus, may not always be the right choice for the business.

It is useful to try to:

  • Take a short period of time to assess the situation.
  • Look at the data.
  • Discuss with specialists potential challenges they may have to any initial strategic thoughts before solidifying them completely.

Often this provides a brief time frame to become slightly more objective.

Take onboard alternative approaches and some of the fairly simple crisis marketing actions identified in this post.

I hope this post proves useful during the current challenges that businesses face and helps more companies come through these times with a stronger and effective marketing approach that works hard for the investment made.

More Resources:

VIP CONTRIBUTOR Lee Wilson Service Operations Director at Vertical Leap

Lee Wilson is Service Operations Director at Vertical Leap, and has led digital marketing departments since the early 2000’s. He’s ...

Crisis Marketing Made Simple

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