As we move forward into the New Year it appears that the pandemic will be with us for a little longer and by now just about every industry has had to make a pivot in changing the way they do business. For most companies this means finding more creative ways to communicate with their audience. In-store, print, online and all other avenues of commercial advertising have had to shift gears by integrating the subject of Covid into their branding strategy.

If you have made it out and about in the era of Covid you may have noticed that many companies have taken a variety of stances when it comes to the subject and while most have decided to inform customers, others have seized the moment.

“Crisis marketing” is definitely not as novel as the Corona virus but the global scale and uncertainty around it is a first for us all. The first step in adapting to the “new normal” is reflecting on your brand and asking the question “Can we still do this? That was certainly a question brands like Toyota, Olive Garden and KFC had to ask. I mean even if you chicken is finger licking good, is it really a safe practice to do so. Or if you are Toyota and your messaging is “Let’s go places”, you may want to rethink things considering we’ve been told that staying home saves lives.

KFC —  It’s Finger Lickin’ Good Campaign

Brands have been uncertain about how to advertise in a sensitive way in order to not alienate consumers struggling to come to grips with the pandemic, while maintaining a healthy business. Without being able to continue with “business as usual”, many brands looked to create unique Covid specific campaigns.

Those who made the pivot into advertising with Covid in mind, are the ones that sympathize with their audience and develop solidarity by creating a narrative of “we are in this together”. Here are a few standouts that embrace the change and forge ahead.


“Creativity Goes On.” Apple’s commercial format should be played out right now. Instead, it’s comforting. This ad shows the U.S. during coronavirus lockdown. There’s some people social distancing at a park and John Krasinski putting together his Some Good News web show. And, of course, there’s Oprah. Beneath it all is a positive message: You can still be creative.

Apple — “Creativity Goes On.”
Burger King

One of the few advertisers to strike the right tone during this lockdown, Burger King revels in the absurdity of staying home and watching TV to be a responsible citizen.

Burger King’s — Social Distancing Whopper
Burger King’s — Stay Home of the Whopper

In the initial days of Covid-19 shelter in place and self-quarantine in the U.S., many marketers donated their ad time to PSAs urging self-quarantine, social distancing, and improved hand washing. Companies are leading fundraising efforts to support research and those impacted by the pandemic.

Netflix, for example, created a $100 million coronavirus relief fund to help members of the creative community who have been affected by the pandemic.

Netflix —  Launches Ad Campaign Spotlighting Out-of-Work Crew members

And for its part, Spotify introduced new features on its platform that enable artists to fundraise directly from their fans via their Spotify artist profile pages. The list of private organizations that are participating in efforts to support small businesses, first responders, hospitals, impacted workers, and victims of the virus will likely continue.

Spotify’s Official — Covid Quarantine Party
Spotify — COVID-19 Music Relief

The real question with all of this is what does post Covid advertising look like and what have companies learned from a year of crisis marketing. As the world transitions to another ‘new normal’ after Covid, advertisers will need to further learn and shift their focus onto consumer needs even more. Brands will have to be more creative than ever in order to help solve consumer problems and needs. As we enter into 2021 it is evident more than ever that we are truly in this together and hopefully we will soon get back to a place where advertisements can be fun, creative and best of all pandemic free.

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  1. Collections: COVID-19 Ads
  2. Netflix Creates $100 Million Coronavirus Relief Fund
  3. Spotify adds fundraising features and a COVID-19 news hub to address the health crisis

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Branding 2020 - Crisis Marketing, a sign of the times

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