Sortlist Insights

Marketing & COVID-19 : Don’t Stop Communicating!


COVID-19 is hitting Europe since March 2020, and it didn’t take very long for the effects to be seen. No industry has really been spared, and marketing is no exception.

Just in a couple of weeks, we were able to see a large number of evolutions happening in the marketing landscape, and we felt the importance of compiling those changes in a single document: The marketing barometer – COVID-19 special edition.

Based on the data at our disposal, this analysis will introduce you to which marketing expertises have been growing thanks to the pandemic, and which expertises have been in decline for the last couple of weeks.

In order to push the analysis even further, we asked for agencies members of Sortlist to share their opinions and their views on how marketing will come out of this crisis. Among them, InsticomAltavia ACT, and WowLab all come back on the importance of maintaining a high level of communication as well as not stopping your marketing investments. In the following lines, you will be able to learn what those three agencies are recommending to reduce the risks induced by the current situation.

Communicating has never been so important 📢

Insticom: The opinion of Antoine Marthoz

Above all, don’t stop communicating!

  • « Unfortunately, we are canceling our media plan for this quarter, and probably for the rest of the year.»
  • « Because of the coronavirus, we are postponing the release of our new product. »
  • « Confinement is making us cancel our next press conference. »

Those are the emails we’ve been getting for the last 15 days.

Our case is no exception. The communication sector, and public relations more precisely, has been hit very hard by this coronavirus crisis. Overall, communication is often the first position that is suffering from cost minimization. What a mistake! How do you intend to reassure your stakeholders by remaining silent?


Our clients are contacting us to postpone their activities. Put under pressure, most companies are slowing down and reducing their investments. Without a doubt, such a reaction is totally understandable.

Regarding the repercussions of the virus on their business, we advise our clients to not necessarily communicate towards the outside. Except for health and food, every single sector is suffering from the current situation. The risk to damage their reputation is very small. The government is here to communicate on the virus, and we should limit the amount of noise in order to avoid confusion about the current crisis.

However, from an internal point of view, it’s quite the contrary. We vividly advise companies, no matter their size or area of expertise, to be transparent with their collaborators. Are there COVID-positive cases in their ranks? Are they heavily sick? What is the impact on the business viability? What about the salaries? It’s also important to show support for the collaborators, and most of all show gratitude for the ones who keep showing up to work, who take risks every day for the others. Underlining solidarity is crucial. Remaining silent will only create questions, even panic sometimes.

The idea is to be comforting and to show that even if the ship is going through a storm, someone is still holding the wheel.

Containment doesn’t mean ceasing professional activities, quite the contrary. Sure, the current situation forces companies to adapt, but the worst would be to do nothing.

Altavia ACT: The opinion of Benoît de Saedeleer

How to redefine your shopper experience in the era of containment… and beyond?

The 2020 coronavirus crisis has taken the majority of the global economy by surprise. As such, it fully deserves its « Black Swan » designation and it can be deduced that it will have major consequences for our world. As a brand, retailer, or agency, how can you react in such circumstances where uncertainty is the only constant?

First things first, cutting investment in communications can be an expensive decision. Many studies show that in addition to the decline in awareness, it delays post-crisis recovery. Do not stop communicating, instead, ask yourself the right questions which will help you to stay customer-obsessed. They will remember you for it.


Concretely, we invite you to ask yourself these 3 questions to reassess your shopper experience:

  1. What are the needs of my clients? COVID-19 will probably not create new trends, but it will accelerate those that were slowly taking place. Hygiene, online ordering, contactless delivery, video calls… Think about the impact of this crisis on the expectations of your audience. Restate your personas… or design new ones.
  2. What is your audience looking for? In a world where promotions and in-store time are limited, what is the unique selling proposition of your brand? Why would they choose you over anyone else?
  3. Where are they active and searching for what they need? What is the impact on online research and keywords that could lead to your product or service, which results appear first on Google? And on Amazon? What about a TikTok or Pinterest strategy?

Post-crisis, it will be necessary to redefine all new shopper expectations by rethinking priorities and leadership from a new perspective. The opportunity to start with a clean sheet will be a great time to rethink how we take care of ourselves, our employees, and our clients.

Stay safe & anticipate what’s next.

WowLab: The opinion of Gérald Kervyn

It’s not surprising to see a shift in the marketing trends. As experts in Strategic Marketing, we see that companies are seeking ways to remain connected with their clients. Good communication is more important than ever. First and foremost to show empathy. These are difficult times, and doing marketing, as usual, would not be a good idea.

This barometer also shows the importance of having a content strategy. Content is less aggressive and less intrusive than most online ads. More than ever, content is King, also from a Return on Investment point of view. A good content strategy keeps in mind the context in which your client is finding himself at the moment. We, therefore, recommend using this time to update your buyer personas. The needs of your clients, the reasons to buy your products and services have most probably changed in the last couple of weeks.


Even if your sales have stopped, don’t put your marketing on hold, because this could have a negative impact on your post-crisis acquisition strategy. Put your marketing into the current context. Link it to the objective your company wants to reach in 2020. Make a recap of your current marketing efforts. Have they still adapted to this era of growth hacking and marketing automation? Is your marketing really helping your sales department? Is it feeding your strategic objectives, even in times of crisis? The temptation can be great to only think short-term at the moment, but don’t forget your long-term goal. Always check if your sailing course is correct and your tools effective enough. You can’t choose the wind direction, but you can adapt your sails.


What we should keep in mind, it’s that this crisis should not make you stop your marketing investments or slow down your communication efforts. Quite the contrary, it’s the moment to take advantage of all the potential lying in digital tools in order to prepare for the post-crisis era and be ready to cease all the opportunities that will come out of these troubled times. Take advantage of the fact that a large number of people are now putting their attention online, and try to capture part of this attention to increase your brand’s visibility.

In any case, as we have seen earlier, the worst would be to do nothing. Today more than ever, it is crucial to be able to surround yourself with the best partners in order to go through this crisis as smoothly as possible.


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