If you’ve considered pressing pause on your marketing due to the global pandemic…we need to talk, because the need to stay present in this market is as important as ever. With stay-at-home orders lifting for many states and remaining in place for others, what the world wants right now is connection. Now is the time for action, staying true to your brand ethos, and your customers’ needs, while realizing your current and future marketing tactics will likely require a pivot.

While we’ve noticed some brands have gone “full stop” on marketing during coronavirus, we actually believe that if there was ever a time to connect with your customers, it’s now. This doesn’t mean that you re-activate your original 2020 marketing plan and put it on autopilot. Each campaign, each channel and each message should be scrutinized and reevaluated to ensure it’s not only sensitive to the current situation our country is dealing with, but that it’s staying on brand. At the end of the day, realize this – your audience follows you for a reason. They buy from you for a reason. They share your posts for a reason. They expect to get the same level of authenticity from you they’ve come to embrace.

According to a trust report put out by communications firm Edelman, based on interviews with over 12,000 people, 65% of respondents stated that a brand’s response during the crisis will have “a huge impact on their likelihood of purchasing in the future.” Your company’s reaction should not be taken lightly, but rather, treated with extreme discretion. There’s been far too many examples of those quickly jumping to get out the gate first with COVID ads related to social distancing, many of which have become indistinguishable, and subsequently have lost relevance, authenticity, and as we’re predicting down the road, customers.

There’s also been those who have decided to dust off old marketing behaviors and speak to their customers seemingly out of nowhere. Our two cents – don’t follow suit. Looking up long forgotten passwords to send COVID-19 sales emails to patrons who haven’t heard from you in 5+ years is the stuff of memes, and a trap you don’t want to fall into.

So what should you do? Take a look at your data, your customers, your brand values, your marketing strengths. What’s worked in the past? Capitalize on the information you have at hand to make the right decision for your company, but here’s a few other suggestions to consider.

When it comes to content marketing or social media marketing, you might want to take a look at user-generated content (UGC). Showcasing, with their granted permission, your customers’ creations on your own digital platforms is a great way to demonstrate that you’re engaged and invested. And don’t worry about production value or hiring the best director to win a web award. Brand edited, consumer produced home videos are in. Just take a look at Campbells or McDonalds.

UGC isn’t for you? Perhaps educating or informing is the right angle to explore. Returning to Edelman’s report, over 85% of respondents indicated that they want brands to use their power to educate, and 84% stated they want brand advertising during the crisis to focus on how those brands are helpful. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start rapidly uploading “How To” videos to your YouTube page. Thinking out of the box will get you just as far. Take Zappos for instance, who is utilizing their customer service agents to help patrons. Recently launching their “Customer Service for Anything” model, their teams are now aiding people across the country with all kinds of requests, whether it’s finding places to buy reliable masks or even helping the director of rehabilitation innovation at a hospital find pulse oximeters for patients monitoring COVID-19 symptoms remotely. True story.

Capitalize on your strengths. No one’s expecting you to all of a sudden become the king or queen of every single social platform, while simultaneously pumping out a steady stream of YouTube content, crafting daily blogs, cranking out the best coronavirus creative ads and throwing weekly branded virtual events with celebrity attendees online. Make the wise decision to stay true to your already well-performing marketing vehicles and keep things simple.

One of the most revered Twitter handles run by Wendy’s is sticking to what they know, using the account to make fun brand announcements (like their recent virtual treasure hunt) and serving up witty remarks to give followers a much needed laugh. Or take a peek at Patrón who waited weeks after the stay at home orders were issued until Cinco de Mayo (which only makes sense for a tequila brand) to give fans virtual margarita lessons from twenty top bartenders from the comfort of their homes instead of hounding them with ads to buy, buy, buy (even though tequila sales are naturally up right now). And if you’re running any kind of messaging telling people to buy your products or services right now as if it was November 2019… we strongly encourage you to reconsider.

Still out of ideas? Listen to your customers! Whether they’ve filled out product surveys in the past, sent in emails or handwritten notes with suggestions, or just constantly comment on your IG channel, take a look at what they’re saying as fodder for ways you can deliver on their needs and wants. Jumping on the hilarious request of a 93-year-old woman asking for more beer has only gotten Coors more respect, with effort (and budget) on their side at a bare minimum. Even if you’re contemplating a new campaign and can’t agree on option A or B internally, poll your audience. Getting them involved in the decision-making process and being transparent on what’s going on behind the scenes can work in your favor, just like it has for several restaurants and bakeries who are sharing fan favorite recipes online for folks to add to their #quarantinecooking list of accomplishments.

If there’s one consistent theme here that we can emphasize, it’s staying true to your brand. So go ahead and revisit your brand values and why you started the business or decided to work for your company in the first place. Look at why your fans love you and use it all as a roadmap. By keeping things real, we’ll come out of this thing on top. And now that we’ve written about margaritas…it’s officially stay-at-home happy hour time. Cheers.