The Marketer’s Resource Guide to Coronavirus Response

April 13, 2020

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect all aspects of business and day-to-day life, how do we communicate with our customers? What are brands doing — quickly — to adapt their advertising and processes? And how do I prepare to justify advertising in this climate?

In any time of crisis, strategizing different approaches to marketing, management, and culture are necessary measures for marketers to make. Marketers play a large role in how society functions, through influencing what products people buy, cultural ideas, and access to information.

As COVID-19 will cause widespread and unanticipated economic and cultural changes, marketers need to learn quickly how to navigate these changes, mitigate potential losses, and support their consumers and employees in the best way possible.

In a 24/7 news cycle in a fast-changing landscape, it might feel overwhelming as a marketer keeping up with the latest information — and misinformation — especially as marketers want to respond in a way that both soothes and informs their consumers without causing panic or stress or appearing tone deaf.

As the marketing industry comes together we have carefully curated the resources below to help you adapt to what's needed now during this sensitive and turbulent time. We've given you some resources on what's needed in the long-term.

Brand Examples

  • P&G, TikTok and Grey Make a Difference with #DistanceDance Campaign. Campaign US, April 2020.
    When the Ohio governor asked P&G for help appealing to the public to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, the brand quickly launched a fundraising campaign in partnership with TikTok star Charli D'Amelio. The 15 year old influencer choreographed the "Distance Dance" and within two weeks the video garnered 8 billion views and 1.7 million imitation dances from celebrities, sports figures, families and children. "Our intent is to be useful by encouraging people to keep their distance and stay home," said Pritchard. "We wanted to find a creative way to engage people and inspire them to take action so they could stay safe and healthy."


  • NIKE Transforms Air Sneaker into PPE for Frontline Health Care Workers. Design Boom, April 8, 2020.
    NIKE is making personal protective equipment (PPE) out of repurposed materials for footwear and apparel. in an ongoing effort to assist those at the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sportswear giant is pivoting its resources to create full-face shields and powered, air-purifying respirator (PAPR) lenses. NIKE’s version of the full-face shield transforms elements of the brand’s footwear and apparel into much-needed PPE. collar padding once destined for shoes is repurposed; cords originally earmarked for apparel reconsidered; and, most important, the TPU component of a NIKE signature — the NIKE air soles — reimagined.

  • Crisis Marketing: How Brands are Addressing the Coronavirus. Think with Google, April 2020.
    Whatever crisis response guidebooks that may have existed weeks ago now seem to be from another era, and even the most nimble advertisers are asking, “How do we meet this unprecedented moment?” While the answer to that question will be different for every brand, many have responded with meaningful approaches to give audiences a reason to believe that we’ll get through this crisis and move forward together. Examples from Cottonelle, McDonald’s, Ford, Walgreen’s, IKEA, and Guinness and the effective ways they’re showing up during the coronavirus pandemic in recent weeks.
  • Ford Reads the Culture Right with New Coronavirus Response Advertising. Fast Company, March 17, 2020.
    This is not the time for a peppy car ad, so Ford worked quickly with Wieden + Kennedy New York to pivot from its original March Madness ads to create two new ads around providing Ford Credit customers some breathing room around their car payments. With taglines like “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now,” the spots also remind the audience how the company has weathered crises in the past.

  • Brands That Show Their Human Side Will Thrive During Turbulent Times. Resonate, March 31, 2020.
    From companies that are increasing hourly pay to brands and retailers donating time and money to those who need it most, which brands are successfully tapping into consumer values and earning the trust of consumers? On the other hand, which companies have failed to do so, and what are the consequences? This looks at the positive efforts of Chipotle’s, Lowe’s, Anheuser-Busch, and Airbnb.

Crisis Planning, Management, and Messaging

  • Does Your Website Have a Coronavirus COVID-19 Advisory Notice and What Should It Contain? Smart Insights, March 16, 2020.
    With website examples from Starbucks, Nike, Tui, and HubSpot, this article notes that leading brands websites tend to cover, at a minimum:
    • The impact on customers
    • How employees are being protected through social distancing
    • How customer service will be affected
    • The location of changes to service
    • A minimum time the action will be taken for
  • Beware of Virtue Signaling in Brand Communications About COVID-19. Social Media Today, March 17, 2020.
    Brands should first consider what customers need and want to hear from an organization before crafting communications during the COVID-19 crisis, avoiding “virtue signaling”, i.e., conspicuous expression of values, especially if taking actions that are to be normally expected (e.g., keeping employees safe).
  • The Future is Not What it Used to Be: Thoughts on the Shape of the Next Normal. McKinsey, April 2020.
    Dealing with the coronavirus crisis and its aftermath could be the imperative of our times. It's impossible to know what will happen, but is possible to consider the lessons of the past, both distant and recent, and on that basis, to think constructively about the future. This article discusses seven elements for business leaders to consider as they plan for the next normal.

Justifying Advertising in a Recession/Crisis

  • What Happens When Brands Go Dark? ARF, Winter 2018.
    Kantar Millward Brown’s analysis indicates that brands can “go dark” — i.e., stop or suspend TV advertising — for approximately six months with little deleterious effect. However, longer periods off-air are likely to weaken brand health. And once decline sets in, it may be hard to reverse. Supporting a brand in other media may provide some protection in the absence of TV. But overall, the best way to ensure long-term brand health is to maintain levels of spend. Below is a chart from an earlier, classic study by Millward Brown.

For help with your questions about marketing during the COVID-19 crisis, email

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"The Marketer's Resource Guide to Coronavirus Response." ANA, March 2020.