Impact of COVID-19 on Marketing Leadership

Category: Ideas, Strategy, Trends

COVID-19 is impacting every person and business around the world, transforming our lives in ways we never imagined. Such uncommon times challenge even the most seasoned marketing professionals, demanding they pivot and constantly course-correct or risk failure.

In a survey done by Edelman recently, 71% of respondents agreed that if during this time “they perceive a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever” while 77% also said, “They want brands only to speak about products in ways that show they are aware of the crisis and the impact on people’s lives.” This demands marketing that’s like walking a tightrope!

With Coronavirus impacting the experiential industry, marketers are seeking new ways to plan, design, and execute brand experiences as they navigate these uncharted waters. How can we keep our personal and work-families safe, while leading our organizations successfully through this unpredictable market?


In a panel discussion organized by Currnt, We explored the pandemic’s impact on marketing leaders, their marketing plans, events, and tradeshows, what they’re doing to minimize the impact and what questions are on their minds. Here’s what we discovered:


The demand and focus has changed

While some businesses scramble to keep pace with demand, others have seen revenue dry up. The focus is no longer on business development. It is on customer support and retention. Marketing is shifting from selling to non-revenue serving, by reaching out to clients and being human. Nike did an outstanding job in their recent commercial about “playing for the world” and utilised its roster of athlete endorsers to further their humane campaign.

Leaders are balancing personal impact and fiscal responsibilities

While leading remote teams, management has had to put people before profits and enable people to work in new ways. Leadership needs to practice a sense of urgency, adaptability, calmness, empathy, and prioritization while managing through a crisis situation.


They are learning to lead fragmented teams while using new tools

It’s not only a balancing act of IQ and EQ for leaders in this situation. It is an exercise in building resilience and a stronger team. Social distancing is challenging leaders to adjust their management style through the use of new tools and resources. The hope is this will also be beneficial in the long-run once work returns to the new normal—whatever that will be.


Marketing plans are being revamped as we speak

The plans that were put in place at the beginning of the first quarter of 2020 no longer apply in this new environment. Marketers have been forced to start over, with planning and messaging evolving day by day. Many organizations are turning to digital options in an effort to rapidly respond to, communicate with, and stay connected to their consumers and customers.

DoubleTree, an American hotel chain owned by Hilton, is famous for the chocolate chip cookies it serves guests at check-in. The recipe had been a corporate secret, with lovers of the cookies forced to try to replicate them using unofficial copycat recipes. What did DoubleTree do as an extraordinary act for its regular guests stuck at home? They revealed the recipe and according to DoubleTree SVP and global head Shawn McAteer, “A warm chocolate chip cookie can’t solve everything, but it can bring a moment of comfort and happiness.”

The video containing the recipe has been viewed nearly 250,000 times, with fans posting the cookies they baked using the recipe on social media, and numerous online and offline media outlets have covered the news. Now that’s agile marketing with a heart.

The focus is now about developing a robust plan to bounce back when life gets back to normal. Plus: all marketing communication is about being sensitive to the situation and not sounding too opportunistic. Content that’s being churned out at this point is designed to help make sense of the chaos and is immensely shareable. Businesses are working with industry partners to co-brand and distribute content that is helpful and empathetic.


In-person trade shows and events are not an option

It is still too soon to know when in-person events may return. Most have been canceled through the summer with many events going virtual with live streaming. Although some organizations are hoping in-person trade shows will return in the fall, others believe it will be much longer than that.


#Concern: Virtual is unable to replicate social and human experiences

Some believe in-person contact is no longer important in the business environment. Yet, others believe face-to-face human contact is essential for building trust with prospective buyers involved in major purchases. There is a concern about the ability to create the serendipity of walking a show floor within a virtual event. And, of course, nobody knows how well online event methods will survive after the pandemic has ended.


Shifting approaches to overcome the loss of live events

Many organizations have come to rely on events for new business development and are being negatively impacted by the absence of these events during what is typically a busy season. In an effort to mitigate their losses, they are adapting their events to digital platforms that enable the usual volume of participants. This, combined with innovative ways of engaging their audiences while revamping their marketing materials and methods, makes it possible. Some are even more successful, with less overhead and more profit, than previously hosted live events.


Where do we go from here?

Marketing leaders have worked through the initial questions and challenges of transitioning to a remote workforce as well as the continuously evolving market conditions. But there are still so many questions to wrestle with including:

– How do I keep employees motivated and safe both personally and professionally?

– How do we create the “buying consensus” required for large B2B decisions and purchases while people are physically apart? Will video conferencing be a realistic solution for these sorts of strategic problems?

– How do I create a rebound plan when I can’t visualize the new business normal?

These are just a few of the questions marketing leaders are contemplating at this time, but it is still too soon to tell how this will all unfold.

If you are looking for a partner to help you get back to business under the new social distancing parameters, simply send us a message and we will get right in touch. 



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