Coronavirus (COVID19) has turned the world upside down. Just about anything and everything you can think of has been affected in some way, shape, or form. The coronavirus ripple effect spreads with unimaginable speed, covering unfathomable grounds. Fast and far. Unimaginable. Unfathomable. Combined, those concepts feel nearly impossible to process. All of which leads to a feeling of immense uncertainty. It’s felt by everyone. All walks of life. What should we do? What should we say? What happens next!?!

 In times of immense uncertainty, I turn to the bedrock of what I know to be certain. The fundamentals. The basics. The brass tacks. And while I’m certainly no expert on coronavirus marketing (who is), I am a creative director with two decades of experience under his belt. I’m a neighbor to many wonderfully diverse individuals. And I’m a father of two beautiful girls. Based on that, here’s what I know:

  • In advertising, and in life, lean into empathy
  • Never pass up the opportunity to lend a helping hand
  • Be relentlessly true to yourself, your people – and your brand

Based on what I know, here are a few recommendations to help your brand rise above the current chaos of coronavirus. It’s not radical thinking. It’s fundamental.


Unfortunately, it’s become quite the buzzword. Perhaps even gotten a little played out in marketing circles. If so, that’s unfortunate, because it really is a foundational element in connecting with consumers. If you don’t understand them, if you can’t put yourself in their shoes, how can you effectively speak to them … let alone connect with them? So, get out of the conference rooms and into some family rooms ­– your consumer’s family rooms (not literally, of course). Then listen, listen, listen, listen, listen.

Now, seeing as we live in a rather siloed world right now, hands-on listening is out of the question. So we can start with a bit of high-level social listening. What are people going through right now? What are their immediate challenges? Their long-term concerns? What are they thinking and feeling?

Sourced via  WHITE64 social listening tools, the following is a list of key challenges and concerns people are wrestling with due to COVID19:

  • Supporting small businesses, especially local restaurants
  • How to #selfcare while in quarantine
  • Balancing work from home with kids or roommates
  • Managing anxiety or loneliness
  • Getting the latest and most reliable information from the government and brands
  • Finding activities to keep busy – for individual adults and their children
  • The capacity and state of the healthcare system
  • Recession fears and job loss impacts
  • Home workouts and how to stay active while social distancing
  • Lastly, this concern is picking up speed, how to protect, support and thank medical professionals

Now that we’ve listened, how can your brand, your company, your product or service authentically address any of these concerns? That question leads us into service … lending a helping hand.


I’d wager there are many companies out there that want to do their part. They want to help. But they’re playing this one with extreme caution. That’s entirely understandable and, in fact, quite prudent. This is where the simple equation of relevance + substance comes into play. Does your brand, product, or service genuinely solve for any of the social listening challenges listed above? This can’t be a stretch. Either you fit, or you don’t. Round peg. Round hole. If it does, consider how you’ll message this outwardly in an empathetic manner that’s also true to your brand.

For example, some of the latest work from Ford Motor Company. Ford already has a credit program that provides financial relief to buyers affected by federal and local disasters. Now, it’s providing the same relief to those who have had their lives are upended by COVID-19. Furthermore, Ford isn’t looking to pump the breaks on their brand or their current marketing efforts (Built Ford Proud). Rather, they’re firing on all cylinders, reinforcing their brand ethos, providing legitimate financial relief, and broadcasting a message that makes you feel damn good during shit times. On top of that, Ford is donating $500,000 to Michigan nonprofit groups and assisting with food delivery for senior citizens and children without access to school meals.

That’s some sincere relevance + substance.


Clearly, Ford isn’t the only company offering messages of support during these trying times. Here for you. By your side. In this together. We’ll be hearing a lot of that in the coming days.  And there’s nothing wrong with messages of hope and support. However, if that message doesn’t ring true to your unique brand, it will get lost in the support shuffle. Worse yet, it could come across as insincere and potentially turn off loyal brand advocates.

For example, set against an onslaught of coronavirus updates and an overwhelming tone of serious measures, Steak-Umm has stuck to their guns and stayed true to their brand.

Steak Umm

While humor might feel like the definitively wrong direction to take right now … brand relevant levity is an absolute gift. Steak-Umm know what they are. They know what their brand is. And thanks to their brand honesty, they’re providing some much-needed relief in the form of laughter, or even a simple smile.

Bottom line: During times of extreme uncertainty, turn to what you’re certain of. Now is not the time to stray from what you are, what your brand stands for. More than ever, it’s time to lean on it for support – yours, and your consumers.