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The Changes in Ads We See During a Crisis

During a crisis, mindsets change, daily routines change, and privileges change. Everyday activities have to be canceled and normal purchasing patterns are out of wack. Business models in almost every industry are adapting to the changes, and companies are learning that many of the secondary values they add are now becoming much more important to their customers. The smartest companies are updating their ads strategy to promote this shift in benefits.

For any companies considering running ads during a crisis, consider:

  • Offer direct explanations of your value
  • Promote your corporate empathy
  • Embrace your online value

Each industry has its protocol for handling crises. However, these have been the most common shifts we see in advertising strategy during a wide-spread crisis.

Credit: JetBlue Twitter

More empathy

Fewer ads are running that don’t have some sort of emotional pull. That pull doesn’t have to be doom and gloom – it could be to band together, or find your happiness where you can. The goal behind this is to acknowledge the current climate without seeming pessimistic. Companies want to seem informed without positioning themselves too close to the stress or negative feelings of the issue at hand

There is more leniency promotion

Companies promote their new temporary policies that can help lessen the financial blow of a widespread crisis. The goal here is to prove to consumers that a business is listening to the pain points of their customers and doing what they can to provide simple solutions. For example, airlines have been promoting their new cancellation and exchange policies on their social, so people have peace of mind that they won’t lose money when changing their travel plans. These ads are promoting how to get money back instead of spending money, but they cover serious ground in increasing customer satisfaction in a time of high-stress.

Promotion of internal culture

We also see companies promoting their internal company culture as well as what affects customers. As brands look for meaningful and purposeful ways to engage during a crisis, the most productive companies know how you behave is more meaningful than what you say. Companies will back their employees financially during a major crisis have great reasons for sharing updates and information on how they are putting their team’s interests first. Not only is it a strong message, but employees will feel proud to engage, share and talk about the messaging. A company that hasn’t been very supportive of its employees wouldn’t get the same reaction and their audience would see through the vague messaging.

Credit: Google Twitter

More Action

More discounts or sales will be promoting donating a percentage of the money to charity, or with every product purchase, they will donate a product to communities in need. The reasoning behind this is people are much more conscious of the way they spend their money during a crisis. Some people have to be more conservative with their spending, or and others want to only support brands and companies that need support. By adding a message of charity, people believe they are spending their money productively, and helping their communities with their consumer choices.

There are more promoted posts that are targeted not towards selling products, but instead highlighting how companies are working to fix the crisis. For example, during the spread of the Coronavirus, communication platforms like Google are offering free or heavily discounted subscriptions for businesses and schools to stay connected. This is a great opportunity to promote Corporate Social Responsibility, as well as grow a base of loyal customers for when the crisis passes.

Credit: The MendiCo IG


The health industry knows as well as anyone that the key to improved mental well-being is through consistent exercise and a healthy diet. Companies in the wellness industry are ramping up promotions of their values that are available to individuals stuck in their homes. We’ve seen a surge in at-home workout materials during crises, from yoga mats to big-ticket items like Peloton bikes. These companies know that stressed-out individuals will turn to exercise to fill their day, so they want to be there the moment the mood strikes. It’s also a great time to gain new customers because many people are using the time of social distancing to jump back into an exercise routine, while others who exercise regularly need to adjust their typical process. Both of these demographics benefit from the extra messaging of at-home fitness and wellness.

At-home fitness programs and fitness influencers have seen this crisis as an opportunity to push their programs with a major shift in the workout location. Instead of equipment or gym workouts, fitness gurus are promoting their in-house, bodyweight workouts. If users don’t need any equipment to participate, there are fewer hurdles to jump to be able to start the program.

Other wellness products like vitamins and health food brands ramp up their promotions to catch people during the post-baked goods hangover. While the first half of social distancing may be dedicated to trying new cookie recipes, these ads have a goal of reminding you that when your daily activities are severely limited, focusing on health is a great way to sustain a good mood.

Credit: ThriveMarket

Focus on essential items

As individuals step back from what is non-essential and start to hyper-prioritize their spending habits, promotion for essential items increases. Ads for toilet paper subscriptions pop up, or promotions for staple goods like bulk flour. Things that don’t usually need to promote their presence are getting in front of consumer’s faces to remind them to keep their pantries and laundry closets fully-stocked with the essentials.

During a pandemic crisis, there is a notable increase in cleaning supplies, disinfectant wipes, soaps, and any other germ-killing items. On top of that, the specific model that is making a big push is the green cleaner subscription program. These types of subscriptions have a 2-in-1 value proposition of not only promotion germ-killing products but also not having to enter the crowds to get your products. These ads are leaning into the values people are prioritizing, and probably get great results off of that strategy.

Direct Messaging

Just as companies are focusing on promoting essential items, they are promoting with essential language. There is a decrease in an abstract or indirect tone of voice, and companies dialing down to a need-to-know strategy for why to buy a product. This is for 2 main reasons.

Companies don’t currently want to beat around the bush for how their products benefit consumers. They want to add direct value and information, as well as not miss out on purchases because of playing coy. If a product can help an individual in the current situation, they are making that know.

The second reason is that a coy, cute, or cheeky messaging sounds tone-deaf and out-of-touch in the current climate. If you are promoting jokes, you may be seen as uncaring. Most ads are staying away from playful messaging, and either leaning towards empathetic and optimistic, or informational and value-driven.

Credit: Chipotle IG Story ad

Promote Online value

One major consequence (of many) of Coronavirus is that customers can’t visit a majority of businesses in person. That means the businesses that will thrive are the ones that embrace their online value – and highlight that online value. Arguably the most-promoted theme in the ads we see right now is the online value and availability. If a company can still run their store or service seamlessly online, they are letting their audience know.

Delivery Value

We are seeing a large increase in ads promoting the availability of or even free door-to-door delivery. Restaurants that didn’t historically put a lot of effort into their takeout strategy have jumped on the wagon and made sure their food is available to all the people on lockdown. Related to this, third-party delivery services have been promoting discounts on their delivery services to support restaurants and their contract workers alike.

Subscription Value

Grocery stores and other aspects of the food industry have also been jumping on the online value train. Online produce and grocery orders and subscription boxes are promoting their subscriptions as a sure-fire way to get grocery staples without leaving the house.

Digital Value

Companies that would otherwise offer their services or events in-person are promoting digital versions of their events. Whether it is taking a conference online, IG Live yoga classes, digital concerts or online interviews with thought-leaders, companies are finding ways to stay involved and hold their domain expertise. For example, B2B companies are hosting more webinars to discuss the current climate. This not only keeps its customers involved in their content with relevant value but also sets the company as a thought leader for related topics in the future.

During crises, several things are bound to change. What businesses can offer, and how they offer it is no exception. While there are greater limitations to how and what businesses can serve their customers, smart companies are finding the silver linings and working them to their advantage.  

If you have any questions about updating your social ads strategy, reach out to our team! 

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