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The Future of Marketing vs. the Coronavirus

As the virus continues to spread, businesses and consumers alike are taking all the necessary precautions to avoid becoming infected. And as quarantines and other measures are beginning to disrupt the over-all market, it is not only wise, but necessary, for marketers and advertisers to be prepared for the possible changes that the outbreak will have on the industry. Even though it’s too soon to tell fully what is to come,  here are some predictions of changes we may see in the marketing world in the following months.

One first change that we can foresee is a tighter grip on information verification on Facebook. In times of vulnerability where accurate information is crucial, it’s of utmost importance that Facebook continues to fight against fake news and false information being spread on its platform in order to avoid further panic. This will happen in two ways: first, Facebook will act proactively by prioritizing content coming from verifiable and trustworthy sources such as the United Nation’s World Health Organization. For example, the social media platform has already begun doing so by giving the WHO free advertising spots. Second of all, Facebook will begin to put a stop to any effort that propagates false information, specifically ads that aim to take advantage of the current situation to drive sales through false claims that create a sense of panic or urgency. One example of this would be ads that claim there is a limited supply of certain sanitary supplies, or ads that claim that their product guarantees a cure or prevents infection.

Another change we’ll be able to witness is changes in consumer behavior thanks to isolating practices such as quarantines. More people will be forced to or will prefer to reduce their exposure to the virus by limiting human contact. With more people indoors, we will first be able to see a shift towards online consumerism. People will prefer to make their purchases via e-commerce. This lifestyle change will also affect consumer behavior by shifting when consumers are actively online and shopping.

Similarly, we’ll be able to see an increase in online forms of entertainment and communication. Events are currently being canceled and postponed back and forth, and many conferences like SXSW and Facebook’s FB have faced massive losses thanks to the virus. To minimize losses, both as a consumer and as an event organizers,  the show might have to go on by taking advantage of the affordances of a digital world such as live-streaming or virtual conferences in order to minimize health risks. Google Hangouts has already begun offering premium services to accommodate for larger online conferences for certain subscribers. It’s important to remember that interest and demand may still exist, it is simply a matter of changing our delivery. At the same time, it will be possible to see an increase in social media usage and streaming services such as Netflix, as well as videogames.

It’s still hard to determine the full impact the Coronavirus will have on ad spend since the impact will depend on how successfully the virus is contained and treated. There will be industries that will benefit from these changes and will be able to better adapt their marketing strategies, such as the ones mentioned above. Other industries, such as the tourism industry, will face more challenges and might have to resort to more drastic measures in order to survive such as adjusting, reallocating, postponing and even cutting back on their marketing and advertising budgets in a worst case scenario.