COVID-19 & Brand Activations

What can Brands do while we are all isolating?

COVID-19 & Brand Activations

It’s here. The entire world is firmly in the midst of an unprecedented response to the growing COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Schools and businesses are closed, sporting events, music festivals and other large gatherings have been cancelled or postponed en masse. Phrases like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” are now parts of our everyday vernacular. It’s our new normal, at least for the foreseeable future.

As we all are feeling the effects and making immediate changes in our lives to try and keep ourselves and our families safe, brands too are having to take innovative action to survive and remain profitable during this global crisis. Not only does that include pulling back on promotions and sponsorships for events that have been cancelled or delayed, it also means altering communications that may have been relevant and acceptable a mere few weeks ago, but may carry increased sensitivity or scrutiny now.

While it’s unclear when the mandated social distancing might end, it is certain that there will be no events, large or small, taking place in the next three to six months.

So, where do brands and experiential agencies go from here? The logical pivot is to go digital, but how?


This is an obvious thought. Several conferences and events have already moved to a digital format.

The media company, Girlboss, originally planned a one-day event in Los Angeles on April 25th. With over 1,300 attendees last year, Girlboss decided to live-stream the summit instead of cancelling it. So far they have over 13,000 RSVPs. They hope that revenue from lost ticket sales can be made up through increased sponsorship.

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While live-streaming provides the audience a convenient (and safe) way to consume content, the problem is that it isn’t always as engaging, and as a Brand your priority should still be to create that emotional spark with your consumers.

The question then becomes how can you make the digital experience more meaningful and establish an emotional connection with consumers? Some brands think they have an answer.

The popular restaurant chain, Chipotle, recently partnered with conference app Zoom to host virtual lunches. Complete with giveaways (think free burritos) and celebrity guest Q&A’s, Chipotle is also offering free delivery on orders over $10.

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The key here is to ensure that users are engaged rather than simply watching a screen.

Social media will clearly play a big part in how brands continue to talk and interact with consumers during the outbreak.

Popular social media platforms are even going as far as offering advice and resources to help brands communicate to its customers more appropriately.

  • The travel industry is using social platforms to communicate updates on flights, cruises, and hotel rooms
  • Many travel-based companies are also using digital to provide information regarding temporary changes in policy or measures being taken to create increased flexibility for travelers without financial burden
  • Producers of manufactured goods are taking to social platforms to address supply shortages and production delays
  • Small businesses are notifying their customers of their delivery and pick-up hours
  • While technically not Social Media, I’m sure you’ve probably been inundated with emails from every Brand you have ever interacted with
In this strange time, we know that brands and agencies are scrambling to figure out what to do next. Marketing plans will need to adapt and become more distinct and creative in order to reach consumers in their homes effectively. While hopefully, in the near future, things will return to normal, it is important to consider that the strategies and tactics being developed during this time will undoubtedly shape how we create campaigns in the future.