Pandemic Marketing: 4 Major Ways COVID-19 is Changing Digital Marketing

Are you sick of hearing about COVID-19 yet? It seems like everywhere you turn around you see or hear something about the global pandemic. In the business world, it’s all about “pandemic marketing”.

Sadly, many businesses have had a pretty rough go of it. Further, state and county regulations change quite quickly, requiring some businesses to either reopen, close, or alter their operations to adhere to new mandates.

Thankfully, San Diego marketing agencies seem to be adapting fairly well by focusing on content creation and the digital experience. But the marketing practices that worked well just a few months ago may not necessarily be relevant in the current landscape.

Consider the changes in online searches alone. While some industries like insurance, technology, and business services have remained relatively stable, consumer goods & services and healthcare have shot up dramatically between January and March. Furthermore, all B2B organic traffic has increased by 11% and B2C has grown by 31%.


This growth is certainly not by accident. Not only are these industries more relevant to consumers at this time, but many of them have also adapted their pandemic marketing strategies to the current situation.

Great marketers are able to pounce on these types of moments to capture their audience’s attention. While you should certainly not be capitalizing on the pandemic by inciting fear, there are other ways that you should be shifting your marketing message in response to COVID-19.

Let’s discuss.

1. Social Media Behaviors and Costs

It comes as no surprise that people are spending more time on social media these days. Many people simply have a bit more time on their hands – and these platforms are now one of the best ways to stay connected with friends and family until we can all safely meet up in person once again.

As a response, social media advertising has changed, too. According to a report from Social Bakers, brands have started to ramp up their ad spending and the worldwide CPC for Facebook ads has increased by 10%. But while ads might be a bit more expensive, they are also reaching wider audiences.


Consumers are also far more engaged and interactive with brands on social platforms than before. Sprout Social reports that brands are receiving an average of 44 more active engagements every day and 7.3 more interactions per post.

Of course, the content focus has changed a bit, too. Most brands are sharing COVID-19 related posts instead of traditional promotional content. And consumers seem to be responding very well – just take a look at the posts that have received the most interactions on Instagram.


Focusing on engagement and connection in your pandemic marketing plan is more important right now than promoting products or services. Unfortunately, sales for most industries are going to drop. But by staying connected to audiences now, you can ensure that they will remember your brand when they are ready to make a purchase.

2. Brand Positioning is Altered

The pandemic has changed consumer priorities. Money is tight for many people, and their needs have shifted. Consumers are now more interested in products that can be shipped quickly, used at home, help save money, or have a certain purpose – particularly for entertainment and personal improvement.

According to a recent report, 40% of consumers say that they would now be more willing to purchase from a less familiar brand due to lack of availability from other retailers.  Furthermore, 43% of consumers (and 56% of Millennials and Gen Z) are open to purchasing subscription services for product delivery or video streaming.

Therefore, brands need to adjust their pandemic marketing content and brand positioning to stay relevant. Now is the time to introduce yourself to wider audiences as they are more receptive to new brands!

You may also want to consider changing your marketing messaging a bit to stay relevant to the current situation.

Take food delivery services as an example. While convenience has always been a key selling point, many brands are now shifting to show why using their delivery service is a safer option. It allows people to stay in their homes, and is also a way to support small, local restaurants during this difficult time.


Industries hit hard by the pandemic are finding ways to shift their positioning, too. For instance, nearly all gyms and fitness studios have had to temporarily shut down. So now many fitness brands are focusing on digital experiences to stay connected with their members.

For instance, Pure Indoor Cycling is one small gym in San Diego that has adapted perfectly to the situation.


During quarantine, they launched an entirely digital platform with recorded and livestreamed classes from instructors. This allowed the gym to not only keep members engaged, but to also generate revenue – even while their location was closed.

Even as businesses are starting to open up, offering similar digital experiences can be a competitive advantage for many companies. However, it is imperative that your pandemic marketing messages show customers the advantages to using online services instead. These days, safety and convenience are going to really draw people in.

3. Digital Marketing is Becoming a Much Bigger Deal

Since people are spending more time online browsing the internet or on their phones, digital marketing is more important than ever before. Further, this is one of the only ways you will be directly interacting with customers, since they may not be going to your physical locations any time soon.

It is important to note how ad targeting strategies have changed a bit as a result of the pandemic. It is no surprise that keywords related to COVID-19 had a major surge this year – but pay attention to other searches that have increased, too.

Searches revolving around face masks spiked in late March, and most recently, interest in specific businesses and services like restaurants, beauty salons, and beaches have increased as people are looking to see what is open.


Now, these keywords might not necessarily fit in with your pandemic marketing strategy – but there are some ways to incorporate new search trends into your messaging.

Local search intent is crucial at this point in time – probably more than ever before. Customers are going to be searching for places or information located in their home towns since they cannot travel elsewhere. Therefore, it is time to really focus on San Diego marketing intent.

Remember too that people are far more receptive to supporting small, local businesses at this time. Use this to your advantage by keeping the focus of your marketing on the locality of your business.

4. Shift to Give, Give, Take Marketing

Many brands are offering extended free trials in light of the situation to help customers and clients as they are spending more time at home.

For example, Microsoft almost immediately offered free Enterprise trials for their Teams program for businesses that were adjusting to remote working situations. This not only helped to improve customer sentiment towards their brand, but it also gave them a huge batch of qualified leads they can convert later down the road.

This focus on giving is a great way to build emotional connections by showing that your company cares about consumers – in exchange for information that can be used to target them later or convert them into a paying customer.

But you do not necessarily have to give away product to make this strategy work. You can do it with marketing content, too. You simply need to give enough away to build relationships with customers and keep your brand at the forefront of their minds once they are ready to purchase.

For instance, Ahrefs is a company that provides SEO tools and services. During the pandemic, they switched their marketing efforts to focus on providing information as opposed to just services. This was most evident in their offer for unlimited access to an online course on business blogging for free – even though this course typically costs $800. That is certainly going to catch people’s attention!

By giving away this information, they are showing users just why their SEO services are so important and necessary. Therefore, if they decide to implement the advice offered in the course, they will certainly be looking into Ahrefs’ platform.


Consider ways that you can give to your customers before taking from them. Perhaps you can make some of your eBooks free in exchange for email address information or focus more on creating informational blog posts that draw leads in.


We are all adjusting to the “new normal” these days – and our pandemic marketing strategies may need to be a bit more flexible for the near future. Recent events have had a major impact on consumer behavior and your marketing messages need to follow suit.

What are some ways that you have altered your course as a direct result of the pandemic?

About Joanna

Joanna Besley is a Content Marketing Writer for E2M Solutions Inc., whose primary writing focus is on marketing topics and SEO. Outside of work, she enjoys exploring the San Diego area hikes, traveling outside of the country, and trying out new vegan restaurants.