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Four great PR and marketing campaigns that adapted to COVID-19

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, approaches towards PR and marketing have drastically transformed.

In a very short space of time the world changed and, as a result, advertising techniques did too, meaning that brands had to quickly rethink the messages they were putting out to the world.

Marketing and PR campaigns are often planned months in advance – right down to the last detail – and, as nobody could have predicted a global lockdown, many organisations found themselves having to adapt their pre-planned campaigns as part of a complete marketing overhaul.

In such unprecedented times, it would have been very easy for brands to misjudge the public mood and get it all wrong. Striking the right balance of keeping messaging in line with the seriousness of the pandemic whilst still keeping consumers interested was imperative, and some brands got it spot on.

BrewDog

BrewDog, the multinational brewery and pub chain based in Scotland, reacted brilliantly to the coronavirus pandemic and the panic buying that came with it. In response to the national shortage of hand sanitiser, BrewDog decided to start producing its very own ‘Punk Hand Sanitiser’ at its distillery in Aberdeen.

BrewDog was one of the first companies to adopt this initiative in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and many other alcohol producers soon followed suit.

With all of its pubs and bars closed, BrewDog took the opportunity to make the best out of this unprecedented situation by using staff from its closed bars to package the hand sanitiser. Its small beer bottles also came in handy for packaging, as it struggled to source dispensers due to them being in such great demand.

BrewDog has now packaged and donated over 50,000 units of its Punk Hand Sanitiser to the NHS and local charities, demonstrating its capability to adapt in the face of adversity. Not only this, but the brand provided a practical solution to a genuine problem, helping to bring trust and authority in a time of uncertainty, whilst also taking this opportunity to offer positive creativity.

Heinz Tomato Ketchup 

During the coronavirus lockdown, many people found themselves with a lot more time on their hands and turned to alternative forms of entertainment. As people searched for things to do to cure their boredom, the word ‘puzzle’ appeared at the top of Google searches, so Heinz took advantage of this as part of their COVID-19 advertising campaign.

The result was a 570-piece jigsaw puzzle with identical ‘Heinz red’ coloured pieces; the only difference between each one being the shape. Heinz launched the campaign on its social media channels, giving followers the chance to win one of 57 puzzles which was a play on Heinz’s 57 varieties.

The campaign proved so popular that Heinz then decided to sell the puzzles in the US and Canada, pledging to donate the equivalent of 107,000 meals to a food bank network from proceeds.

David Chalbert, senior brand manager for Heinz Tomato Ketchup, said: “Heinz is known for its iconic slow-pouring ketchup and, in a period when everyone has a little more time on their hands and puzzle popularity has skyrocketed, we wanted to help pass the time by connecting the two.”

The campaign struck the balance perfectly between creating humour and still doing something positive to help during the pandemic, and Heinz simultaneously showed creativity whilst most definitely staying on brand.

Apple

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Apple was working hard to create its ‘Creativity Goes On’ campaign which highlighted how people were using Apple products to stay creative during the pandemic.

The minute-and-a-half-long video advert was created in just two weeks and included a montage of people drawing pictures on their iPads, producing video content on their MacBooks, and using FaceTime to stay connected and share ideas.

Apple even got celebrities on board with the campaign, featuring John Krasinski working on his YouTube show, Oprah Winfrey speaking to her viewers, and Lily James taking part in children’s storytelling.

Using music that pulls on the heartstrings along with authentic clips of the public, the result was a morale-boosting ad which expressed how Apple users can be resilient in challenging times by using their creativity to learn, play, create and teach.

Emily Snacks

Emily Snacks, creators of premium, natural snacks made from real fruit and veg, took perhaps the most humorous approach to their COVID-19 marketing campaign.

As a developing brand, its first outdoor advertising campaign was due to run in April; exactly the same time as the UK lockdown was introduced and everyone was told to stay at home- very unlucky!

Taking less than a week to turn it around, the company adapted their campaign and called out their marketing misfortune with a series of tongue-in-cheek posters. The posters featured phrases such as ‘Our first ever poster, seen by a runner and one pigeon. Typical.’ and ‘Do an ad when it’s warmer, they said. More people will see it, they said. Pfft.’

Using humour and honesty, the company also addressed their misfortune on Instagram, saying: “Oh the irony. Our very first Emily outdoor ad campaign goes live around the UK today… and we hope none of you guys will see it!”

In spite of the lockdown, the campaign ran for two weeks from 15th April on digital six-sheets across the UK and, despite the lack of people on the streets, it proved very popular; getting thousands of views, likes, comments and shares on social media.

These inspiring and positive COVID-19 campaigns prove that, by using creativity and maintaining a positive brand presence, organisations can adapt and remain relevant in times of uncertainty and crisis. By doing so, and recognising the challenges they’re facing, these are the organisations that will strengthen consumer/brand relationships and prosper long into the future.