B2C Brands: COVID-19 Crash Course in Digital Marketing

April 15, 2020

6 Minute Read
COVID-19 Crash Course in Digital Marketing

There’s no escaping it: in the blink of an eye, the world changed. As the coronavirus swept through our nation, amidst “stay at home” executive orders, overnight, consumer behavior drastically changed. And just like that, B2C brands had to throw out their 2020 digital marketing playbooks and follow suit.


For weeks, B2C brands have feverishly tread unknown waters, adjusting priorities and shifting goals just trying to stay afloat. But, if there is one good thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s how the world came together to navigate these uncharted waters with an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

New game, new rules: This is the perfect time to get creative and come up with new ways to focus on retaining relationships you already have with your current customers. Right now, people want to feel reassured… and know they matter to you.

Think of how you can give back to them for being so loyal to you: if you’re able, offer a free service or give them a break on their invoices; if that isn’t an option, simply let them know you’re thinking of them and that we are all “in this together.”

Focus on outreach

There are many activities you can do right now to meet your current customers’ new and sudden needs – while positioning your business to also acquire new customers:

  • Pause ads that may seem tone-deaf in our current reality
    • Only run ads with copy recognizing your audiences’ situations
    • Review and rethink everything – backtrack now to see what is out there
    • Run ad copy past other eyes to get multiple perspectives on it
    • Create brand guidelines for voice and tone for your writers
  • Pivot ad copy to focus on virtual engagement and brand awareness
    • Engage your audience through materials that help them learn more about your product and how it can meet their needs right now
    • If your ad CTA involves in-person contact, shift it to “download brochure” or “download guide”
    • This also helps build leads and a first-party audience as users need to enter basic information to get the download
  • If your business works with in-person appointments (such as a car dealership or repair shop), focus messaging to make it clear appointments are flexible
    • Make it easier for customers to schedule on their time and let them know they can reschedule as needed

Adjust ad spend and budget

With uncertainty around COVID-19, many a business have been put on edge. The easy route – but not the smartest – could be to stop marketing efforts and pause ad spend. We strongly advise against this course of action and instead, shift budgets. 

It’s important to think critically and strategically about your business – both today and down the road. This strategy includes your ad and paid search budget. Ads no longer relevant (or possibly insensitive to the times) should be shifted to ads for products now relevant. For example:

  • In the restaurant biz… put money toward ads for your carryout service rather than reservations
  • More on the retail side… invest in ads for your eCommerce site or online order and curbside pickup
  • Got groceries… advertise delivery or other services that limit contact
  • In it for fitness… build your business (and membership) online and offer virtual classes

In short, put money where there is opportunity.

Update event and location pages with COVID-19 specifics

Search engines have risen to the challenge. Both Google and Bing have adopted new COVID-19 schema for events and announcements. Your business should jump on the bandwagon and update every event and location page to reflect this new schema.

Regarding COVID-19 business-related updates, Bing states: “A label showing your special announcements related to the COVID-19 pandemic with a link to your site for more details may be used on web results for your official website and in local listings shown on the SERP or map experiences.”

Use negative keywords

If you haven’t used negative keywords, you want to use them now. For example, you may want an ad to show for COVID-19 or coronavirus. By eliminating searches with keywords that don’t match the intent behind your ad, you hone your targeting to maximize your ad investment.

Focus on virtual engagement

Despite all the chaos and the speed of change, as stated earlier, this is the perfect time to engage with and keep your customers through these times. A great way to do this is and reinforce loyalty, is to focus on virtual engagement:

  • Host online events for your customers to attend
  • Create and share fun and inspirational videos – have fun with it – people love humor
  • Get social and engage with your customers online… create open-ended discussions on social media – maybe throw in a “This is Zack here taking over our social media for the afternoon…”
  • Another awesome idea and one people really love to see is to share how you – and your business – are helping in the community
  • Welcome newbies… host special “new to our brand” events or giveaways to encourage not-yet-customers to take an interest in your brand

Your audience could be at home watching TV, streaming Netflix, or browsing YouTube…or they could be engaged with your content. Keep your audience engaged virtually by creating an online schedule for delivery so everyone knows when and where to find you.

Above all, make sure your messaging, whether ad copy, social media post or content on your site, is genuine and true to your brand.


While you’re sitting at home, counting the dogs who walk by and thinking of ways to reinvigorate your brand during the coronavirus lockdown, try something new: a new marketing technology or new social media platform or channel… you know, the one you’ve been dying to create and work on but weren’t sure how to get started or didn’t have the time to do it. Now is the time!

Whatever you do, do something. When we all – yes, all – put our 2020 playbooks into action, none of us thought we’d be throwing them out a couple of months later… but we did and we’re here – together. Let’s get creative, make new plans and turn the COVID-19 pandemic into a has-been.

Erica Carpenter - VP Client Strategy

Erica Carpenter

As Vice President of Client Strategy, Erica oversees the management of BFO’s Paid Media, Organic Search, and Analytics products and helps foster the development of digital strategy for our clients. She has a solid background in digital marketing having worked with some of the top startups in the country including Fortune 100’s. She has expertise in a variety of different verticals but most prominently travel, hospitality, auto, and retail.