HayDmitriy | Depositphotos.com

Situational Marketing During a Pandemic: Which Brands Have Managed to Shine During a Crisis?

8 min readJul 23, 2020


Economic recessions don’t necessarily mean total defeat for great brands. It is also a time of opportunities that clears the way for more flexibility and creative solutions for modern companies.

At Depositphotos, we noticed that the quarantine was an opportunity to encourage young artists to express themselves, and it became an impetus for creative exploration in the genre of portrait, still life, and collage for experienced professionals.

In this article, we want to talk about successful marketing cases related to a global lockdown and the ways brands have addressed topics related to the pandemic in their marketing. Should your company mention COVID-19 in creative campaigns of the second half of 2020 and beyond? How do you avoid overused visual tricks speaking about COVID-related issues? Look for the answers below.

Case #1. Nike’s iconic campaign on social distancing getting viral

Nike was the first brand to speak openly about the impact of a pandemic on sales. More than 60% of the brand’s factories, as well as more than half of Nike’s product distribution points, are located in China.

At the end of 2019, the brand was forced to close almost all their stores in China, which helped them adapt to the global lockdown earlier than others. Surprising fact: Nike managed to achieve a 30% increase in online sales in China before the quarantine there ended. As a result, when COVID-19 hit the US and Europe, Nike already had a roadmap. One of the most important steps made by Nike’s team was the closure of branded stores in certain countries and investments in online tools to increase audience loyalty.

In mid-March, Nike released a social advertising campaign Play Inside, Play for the World, which was instantly supported not only by official Nike’s partners (famous athletes) but also by other companies that produce sports goods.

In Spring 2020, Nike also began promoting apps for remote sports and personal training and increased the frequency of their online activity on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and other social media platforms.

Today, 80% of Nike stores in China are serving offline customers, while stores in Europe and the US have just started to open. At the same time, Nike managed to make the social campaign as versatile as possible. The NBA legend LeBron James became the hero of its sequel called Never Too Far Down, in which he talks about his sporting triumphs, inspiring sports enthusiasts not to quit sports because of failure.

At the same time, Nike made an official statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement by inverting the colors of their visuals on Twitter and other platforms. Nike also continued the same narrative in its summer ad campaigns. Thus, COVID-19 did not limit but enriched their communication.

A lesson to learn from Nike: think big with small deeds and don’t let COVID-19 become a one-off topic for hype only

Case #2. Apple face shields and COVID-19 tools

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple made the decision to do its part to help medical professionals. The brand has officially announced that in these months there are things more important to the world than electronic devices, and it is personal protective equipment (PPE), which is lacking in hospitals.

Masks, face shields, and gloves are among the much-needed PPEs. As lots of tech companies from the Valley donated face mask supplies, Apple decided to apply its design skills to create more technologically advanced and easier to carry face shields.

Apple’s new product is an example of ideal industrial design: the new shields are lightweight, easy to manufacture (1 million items per week) and transportable (they are thin and easily packaged in boxes of 100). It also takes less than 2 minutes to put one on.

Apple did not stop its social initiatives on face shields production. COVID-19 Mobility Trends Reports and Apple COVID-19 app are mobile tools designed to stop the pandemic. The first app tracks the contacts of iOS device users who use online maps and geolocation tracking. Apple uses encryption algorithms, so no one is able to trace a single user.

At the same time, Mobility Trends Reports is implemented in partnership with Google, from where information is also exported. This tool helps to track who the carrier of COVID-19 may have come into contact with.

Apple COVID-19 is an app you can use to get a recommendation, analyze suspicious symptoms, or check out disease statistics in your area. The project was launched in partnership with the US government.

A lesson to learn from Apple: stay helpful and look for ways to benefit society with your specific skills and knowledge

Case #3. Streaming video providers going free

Well, giving users free content to make them fall in love with your product and later convert them into paid customers is a classic strategy for a business. During a pandemic, such marketing tactics have become even more popular. The reason is that during this period, many more people were locked at home, therefore, they had time to look for new content and entertainment. And, yes, all of them were a little bored.

swisshippo | Depositphotos.com

Apple TV Plus, HBO, and Pornhub became pioneers of providing users with generous trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was Netflix that showed a smarter and more original approach: on this platform, you could watch a free series about how to protect yourself from viruses and not go crazy during a lockdown.

Do not forget about educational materials! Coursera, SkillShare, Harvard University, National Geographic, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, and many others made select courses free for everyone. You can check the full list of free online courses here. Commercial companies also made their training courses available for free (for example, photography classes by Nikon).

This year’s phenomenon is also the massive migration of museums, theaters, and galleries online. This migration has not always been aimed at popularizing the cultural institutions, but the online availability of useful and inspiring content is certainly the path to reach a wider audience.

Results? Well, we know the streaming industry is a revenue leader during the 2020 pandemic. For example, Netflix’s audience grew by 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, with another 10 million subscribers joining by the end of June.

A lesson to learn from content streamers: seize the opportunities and adapt to the situation; come up with short term solutions that will bring you long term results

Case #4 Airbnb spreading optimism

Streaming platforms, online games, and eCommerce are marketing niches that experienced significant customer and profit surges in 2020. International tourism and HoReCa are on the opposite side. Businesses in this area lost a lot of money in just a few weeks. They are expected to take at least a year to fully recover.

In the spring of 2020, Airbnb laid off nearly 2,000 employees (25% of the staff) and predicted that the company’s revenue would halve or decrease even more compared to 2019. Moreover, the founders of the company argue that tourism after this pandemic will never be the same.

The changes to the Airbnb global booking system haven’t been announced yet. But the company recently donated $10 million to support super hosts and paid $250 million in compensation to homeowners affected by the pandemic. All of these events are used by Airbnb as news feeds to make existing customers more loyal and acquire new ones.

Airbnb also helps tourists stay optimistic during quarantine. Online Experiences is the company’s new service that gives you the opportunity to enjoy an exciting international experience (like cooking an exotic dish) without leaving your home. A similar remote tourism tool has also been launched by enthusiasts in the Faroe Islands.

Remote tourism on the Faroe Islands

We would like to separately mention DoubleTree which is the US hotel chain owned by Hilton. Guests of the hotels of this chain adore the chocolate chip cookies, which are free at DoubleTree hotels. For decades, the recipe for cookies was kept secret, and culinary sites were only replenished on the way to repeat the mysterious recipe.

With the advent of quarantine, DoubleTree decided to share the secret of making delicious cookies so that everyone can relax at home and forget about the world’s problems at least for a moment. Vimeo users have watched this video over 750,000 times!

A lesson to learn from HoReCa: stabilize your business but don’t forget about its human side

Conclusion. On Do’s and Don’t of Marketing During a Pandemic

Answering the hottest question of these days about whether brands should address COVID-19 in communications during the second half of 2020, the Depositphotos team says “Yes, if you have a solid stance and it can help your subscribers”.

In July 2020, you can no longer surf above the curve of pandemic hype, as it has dissolved in a sea of ​​other, more recent news. Yes, adaptive quarantine is still the reality we live in. Yes, there are still new cases of COVID-19 being recorded around the world. However, the stress level of your customers is no longer as high as it was at the beginning of the pandemic.

zvkate | Depositphotos.com

How to talk about COVID-19 today? The world is changing daily. A few months ago, there was a shortage of personal protective equipment in the world, and today there are new challenges connected with tourism under conditions of extended, less strict quarantine.

We advise you to analyze the environment in which your target audience lives, their pain points and concerns, and find out how your brand can help them right now. Do you sell travel services in the region where quarantine ended? Help your tourists choose a safe place to stay. Do you organize concerts? Support artists who have recorded albums during the tough lockdown phase.

The Depositphotos library of stock photography, illustrations, and video is always there to help you make your next creative project (either connected to the global pandemic or not) inexpensive in terms of production costs.

andreygonchar | Depositphotos.com




An online platform for authentic stock photos, videos and vectors.