How Should We Even Think About Marketing In Times of Fear?

Marketing in fear
Marketing in fear

COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on American lives and economy alike. In times like this, it helps to name what we’re feeling: fear, anxiety, uncertainty, grief. But we also have to stay positive and prepared in order to survive and thrive.

If you’re a regular reader of our content, you may have noticed that in light of my own feelings, I’ve been focused on basically a “business as usual” approach. That’s what helps me: consistency. Creating content, helping our customers, taking walks, even doing yoga – and bourbon. Maybe a little too much of that.

But I’ve been talking to a lot of marketers who are unsure how to market in these times of fear and uncertainty. Should we even be doing marketing at all?

There are some common sense and practical tips to marketing during the crisis we’re facing but there is no clear roadmap.

I wrote an article about what to do if you’re marketing event gets canceled after speaking to a very anxious marketing event organizer. And someone commented that I was being opportunistic. So I went back to my normal marketing of helpful, practical advice.

But then I started feeling like it’s worse NOT to address what we’re all feeling about our work as marketers: is marketing even appropriate in times of worldwide fear?

I have said so many times: ask most people what marketing is, and they will answer “advertising” or “promotion.” But it is so much more than that! Marketing should be a conversation. Our approach should be one of helping over selling.

So I don’t know if anyone should really be advertising right now. When I saw an ad for a truck last night, it just seemed a little weird when all the car dealerships are closed.

But this Guinness ad for St. Patrick’s Day was awesome:

So what should marketers do in times of fear?

I don’t think we should stop everything and wait it out. But my advice for most marketers who aren’t selling beer, bread or toilet paper is to stop selling and blindly pushing your product.

Stick to your content marketing plan! Aside from this article and the event cancellation one, we’ve kept our regularly scheduled content running.

I spent a lot of time putting together the data and analysis in the article on the results of our approach to marketing ourselves.

And even now, our clients are increasing their spend with us and creating more helpful content. Not all of it is based on the virus. Just helpful tips on working at home, dealing with stress, staying positive. Our clients range from technology to healthcare to finance.

And they are all sticking to the plan. Creating thought leadership. And activating their employees.

What else should YOU be doing besides creating great content:

1. Love Your Customers!

My advice is to reach out to every one of your customers now. Or have your sales and client service teams send personal notes to check in on your customers. Maybe you think they don’t want to hear from you. But now is the best time to thank them for their support and their business. Sure maybe your CEO wants to send an email to everyone about the crisis. But we’ve seen enough of those. just check in. Ask how they are holding up.

2. Reconsider Your Marketing Mix

I would seriously consider pulling any outbound advertising. Shift those funds into content promotion. Amplify your best thought leadership. Share your articles. We do this for a number of our clients and many are doubling down on content promotion.

Your annual event is probably not happening if it hasn’t been canceled already. Consider how to make it an amazing virtual experience. Bring in experts in your industry to speak to the latest trends. Get your customers to share their success. And PLEASE create a plan to use all that content and re-purpose it into articles you can share on your website.

Webinars are certainly another great place to start. Setup monthly sessions to stay connected with your prospects. One thing that may be a concern: so many companies are making this shift. Think about how you can be different? Use professional speakers. Conduct an ask-me-anything. Maybe even offer a prospect some free advice or assessments.

Thinking about your marketing culture and mission might seem like the last thing you want you and your team working on. But long term thinking is exactly what we all need to do right now. Maybe even conduct a brand storytelling session on who your hero is (it should be your customers), what villain can you help them defeat?

3. Connect with Your Team

Get together with your marketing colleagues and brainstorm new ideas. Reach out to your best friends in the sales organization and find out what needs to be updated. Get time with executives and stakeholders across the company to reset expectations.

Everyone is feeling the same way: worried, anxious, afraid. So reach out and connect with them personally. If you don’t already have one, check into the opportunity for mental health services for your company. make sure everyone is aware of tele-health options for doctors. This may sound like HR stuff, but we’re great communicators in marketing. Let’s help everyone out!

4. Stay Positive and Optimistic

Things will get better. I try and find the stories of hope that keep me positive. I think about all the healthcare workers putting their lives at risk to help others. I think about all the volunteers who have signed up to offer free mental health support.

Marketing doesn’t seem nearly as important as all that right. So let’s keep it in perspective. We still have an important job to do. But like those on the front lines of every crisis, let’s just try and help out a little more – even in our marketing!

How can I help you?

  • Shoot me any burning questions you have about content or digital marketing in general.
  • Want a free assessment of your site’s content? Just let me know!
  • Looking for free ideas on pandemic-related content? We can help with that too.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.