Marketing through Covid-19; what have we learnt?

Hmm, where do you start with this one? Best I start with my own experience. When the crisis hit, I don’t think I was alone in that pretty much all of us went into back brain mode of ‘under threat, fight, flight or freeze’. As a parent I not only had responsibilities to protect our family and home but also to secure the long-term future of our business.

We learned very quickly how to home school (well kind of!), how to improve our hygiene and socially distance to reduce spread, and how to access financial support to keep us going.

As everyone kept saying, these were unprecedented times. It was hard not to panic on occasions, but in amongst the virtual ‘noise’ during lockdown, with the prospect of a large recession looming it was the words of eminent marketers like Mark Ritson and Peter Field that kept me focused. I sat back and simply listened to the flurry of messaging being pushed out there. They reminded me to ‘go with history’, go with data from previous financial crashes. And history is littered with them, from the 1920s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even the noughties. If they teach us nothing else, it’s that companies who can maintain their marketing spend and campaigns during recessions while others reduce theirs will emerge with a bigger relative share of voice.

Field suggested advertisers should be putting money into long-term brand building as the role of such investment was for recovery, not now. The trick, of course, is in knowing which channels to cut and which to focus on.

Royal Mail† recently published a great eBook in which London Business School’s Patrick Barnes reflected on how some of the more long-term investments get culled when cost reduction is a priority. He said: “Direct mail (DM) can seem more costly than digital communications but it will often be more profitable over the long term – and without any of the reputational and other risks associated with some digital media. As always, consider the value of the investment and the risks, not just the cost.”

As many of you know, I am a huge advocate of the value of print in the marketing mix because it remains one of the greatest connections between companies and people, indeed when the PM wanted to rally the Great British public he wrote a letter delivered to every household. I’m not saying it’s a superior channel but it is good for brands. Around 70%† of people said mail for example, rather than email, made them feel valued and gave them a better impression of the company that sent it.

DM is an immersive experience, it can engage all five senses, and with digital printing it can be completely personalised. When welcomed, targeted, useful and engaging, DM is one of the best forms of communication. But equally, let us remind ourselves of the age-old synergy of integration. When appropriate, DM should be part of a marketing mix because the ROI of using more than one platform is incremental. Studies1 show that using two platforms can increase ROI by 19% rising to 35% with five platforms.

So, history and data definitely teach us something, indeed they’re an important part of the diagnosis process I referred to in my intro. As is our position relative to our target audience, get that wrong in deeds not just words and you could alienate customers and prospects. I read a really interesting piece of global research by Dynata2 that claimed that UK consumers were more likely to be loyal to brands that were more socially conscious during the pandemic.

It revealed that 60%2 of UK consumers (compared to 45% globally) would be more loyal to brands that provided free resources online e.g. home workouts, meditations, childrens’ education. Conversely, 51% claimed their loyalty would be negatively impacted for brands that take no social action during the pandemic.

This research was backed up by a study from Deloitte that revealed that one in five people had stopped buying from brands because of how they responded to the coronavirus i.e they didn’t provide safe working environments (this figure rose to 28% in 16-24 demographic highlighting the importance of brand purpose).

So, we’ve definitely learned a lot, and are still learning (to coin a very overused term right now) in this ‘new normal’. But it’s important to not forget the basics of brand management; diagnosis – strategy – tactics – diagnosis. Repeat. We, at Nutshell, have tried to stick with these guiding principles, or practice what we preach during the crisis, and have been lucky enough to be rewarded in business from both existing clients as well as new ones. What have you learnt during the crisis, we’d love to know, email me at

Source: Royal Mail, Market Reach Physically Irresistible

1 Source: Analytic Partners 2016

2 Source: ‘Walking a fine line: brand messaging during the crisis’ Dynata 2020