Marketing during a crisis – How brands should determine whether to pause a campaign
When the world grapples with the aftermath of a natural disaster, a domestic terrorist attack, or a global pandemic, brands may need to “pause” their marketing efforts. Read the room properly so as not to appear selfish, tone-deaf, or opportunistic. It’s beautiful when they nail it. If they don’t, the results can be dire. Brands need to determine how they would market, or if they should continue their marketing efforts, during a crisis.
Brands should pause their campaigns during:
- Natural disasters. Pausing a campaign after a natural disaster is common, but brands can also pause in anticipation of dangerous situations.
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced many brands to pause their marketing campaigns. Of course, the scale of the conflict, the countries involved, and the relationship between those countries and the marketed population should all be considered in the response.
- Business scandals. If your brand is hit by a major scandal or PR nightmare, pause your marketing campaigns and give people a chance to express their displeasure or anger by unsubscribing or marking your campaigns as spam.
- Civil protests.
Brands should also ask themselves these questions:
- Are we being authentic?
One of the challenges with social media is the need for authenticity. As a company, it can be difficult to make a brand statement without coming across as being a people-pleaser. Companies create ads and hashtags that say essential employees are ‘heroes’ or statements alluding to the idea that they are there for you but don’t offer their employees a form of hazard pay, the option not to work, the proper equipment, or adequate job safety. This type of advertising draws negative attention to the company and makes it difficult to be seen as authentic in the future. Don’t jump on the bandwagon if you’re not ready to have your business and its processes compared to other businesses and labour standards.
- Should we advertise now?
Businesses often sponsor charities, community initiatives, and giveaways. This is a great way to show your support and give back during a crisis. However, some companies use these efforts as a promotional tool, and here’s where a problem can arise: Is your product or service related to this? If not, it may not be the time to drive brand awareness.
- Is the copy suitable?
As marketers, we love attention-grabbing copy like puns, humour, sincerity, boldness, thought-provoking, inspirational, and eye-catching copy. Copywriters find new ways to grab people’s attention in a sea of uniformity. But what if the copy is attention-grabbing because it is tone-deaf? What if, throughout the approval process, not one person raised their hand and said, “That’s not appropriate,” and the ad got negative attention? Or what if someone did raise the alarm, and no one listened? This would have dire consequences for the brand.
- Marketers should ask questions like should our products and services be part of that conversation, or are we trying to distract them from more important things?
Some brands should advertise during specific crises as their products or services may be useful. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, brands that offered safety equipment should have advertised as their products were extremely useful for essential workers. But, brands that offer luxury items or non-essential goods would not be useful and would be creating campaigns that are tone-deaf.
Brands should also pause specific triggered campaigns. Or at least you should review them to ensure they don’t contain offensive text or images in the context of what’s happening. Pausing a campaign may be daunting for a brand as this means the loss of revenue, but it may protect the brand’s image in the long run.