B2B Marketing in COVID-19 times

Okay, so now that the first blast of realization that we’re in a new world has sunk in, maybe it’s time to ask some questions, like:

  • Should B2B brands be marketing at all during the COVID-19 crisis?
  • If so, what does good marketing look like now?
  • If not, what should we be doing with our time and what remains of our budgets?

This Worrying From Home series will try to grapple with these and related questions.

Not very much is clear yet but a few things seem to be true:

The lines that determine what is tasteful and what is tone deaf are different for every brand and every situation.

A lot will come down to how relevant your products and services are to your customers and prospects right now. Harry touched on this in Post 1: The Clumsy Art of Being Busy In a God-Damn Pandemic.

We’ll explore it further.

The lines are different for different people.

One person’s helpful is another person’s profiteering.

There is no one approach that will be right for everyone. And to make it even tougher:

The lines are moving all the time.

Just as the COVID-19 situation itself changes every day, the things that seem appropriate and relevant one day may feel crass or self-serving the next.

There are two main kinds of risk.

The risk of selling too hard or appearing to be exploiting the crisis for gain is very real. Trigger this response and it will stay with people, damaging your brand—perhaps rightly— for a long time.

Then there’s the risk of ignoring the whole situation and pretending it’s business-as-usual. The other bookend in the Shelf of Risk. Also crass and tone deaf.

I was guilty of this when I chose to publish the non-COVID-related blog post that was scheduled to run last Monday (about “sessionizing” your content).

I thought, “Well, we certainly don’t want to leap in and try to tackle the COVID thing so soon. And we do aim to post every Monday, so… publish.”

I didn’t think it through. The moment I shared it on LinkedIn, I felt awkward as hell. As if I didn’t even know that the sky was falling. Or was pretending it didn’t matter.

Mistake.

Clearly, (I hope), this end of the risk spectrum is more forgivable than the other extreme. We didn’t show that we’re venal, we just showed that we can be deer-in-headlights dumb. (Guilty. Won’t be the last time.)

There is no playbook for this.

This is an unprecedented global crisis. There’s no roadmap for marketers or anyone else.

We’re all going to see brands and marketing teams get it wrong (like I did). Sometimes badly wrong (like Gal Gadot and friends may have done).

Here’s my plea: let’s be charitable with each other and give our fellow marketers the benefit of the doubt if at all possible.

We’re all scared. We’re all confused. We all want to protect our companies and preserve jobs.

This isn’t an ideal mindset for great decision-making. Add in some distorted cultural and team dynamics and things can come out all wrong even if the intentions are good.

Yes, we can call out when a brand gets it all wrong. That’s how we’ll all learn what right looks like.

But let’s not lynch anyone (in public). Kindness has always been the antidote to divisiveness. Today, every opportunity to choose kindness is too important to squander.

In the coming days and weeks, we plan* to look at some examples of B2B (and consumer) marketing and to try to figure out why some of it is really good, some of it leaves a bad taste and some of it is downright offensive.

We hope you’ll join the conversation. But let’s be nice.


*I say we ‘plan’ to do this because… things may change. tomorrow or next week, it might feel like a really bad idea. Or we might just get swamped trying to help our clients navigate these new seas…

Comments

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused so many damages in the world and I hope things get better with time. I am currently on the research on the updates of this virus in the world so this got me to your blog. I do love the relevant details you have here. Thanks a lot. Please get information from my blog too.

Saw this BMW snafu that made me think of your reason article Doug. https://www.teslarati.com/tesla-rival-bmw-car-community-covid-19-ad-reaction/

There’s certainly a very fine line that needs to be trod during these times.

    Thanks for sharing that, Lauren.
    A great example of stumbling over the taste line.

    They responded fast, withdrew it and apologized, so that’s good anyway!

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