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Put Your Brand on Display During COVID-19


In early March, in the wake of COVID-19, hundreds of thousands of companies went remote. They went from working in physical offices to working remotely from home. What do you think happens when millions of people are suddenly working from home while the national news machine kicks into overdrive covering a global pandemic?

You guessed it—a gigantic spike in website traffic to media and news websites! Comscore analyzed traffic across 40 select news sites, and March 9-15, 2020 was a record breaker—traffic was up by more than 100 million visits than the next highest week. Every time someone visits a page of a news site like The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post, ads display:

More visits to a site, and more pages per visit, mean more display advertising inventory. At the same time, uncertainty surrounding the economy means that demand for ads hasn’t necessarily increased at the same rate traffic has, so ad prices, in some cases, are low.

Think about all the advertising inventory that went to restaurants and live entertainment. Do you think restaurants are buying lots of display ads right now? That’s a negative, Ghostrider.

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, while traffic is increasing across news sites and government sites, the number of people searching Google for things like electrician, HVAC contractor, lawyer, plumber, roofer, etc. is either flat or, in many cases, down.

The result of all of this is one group of business owners panicking because their lead volume from PPC is flat or declining while another group, under the advisement of companies like Blue Corona, is quietly adjusting their strategy to take advantage of the situation.

Shifting Consumer Behavior Calls for a Shift in Strategy

At Blue Corona, we use our proprietary software to monitor things like search volume, cost per click (CPC), cost per lead (CPL), and cost per acquisition or sale (CPA) on an hourly basis by industry and by geographic area. We use this data to advise our clients on the best ways to maximize their marketing ROI.

When we saw the combination of search volumes decreasing, display ad inventory increasing, and overall advertising demand decreasing, we advised some of our clients to shift their strategies. Specifically, we explained to them that we believed they could cost-effectively strengthen their brand as well as increase sales by temporarily shifting their unused search advertising budget to the Google Display Network and, in some cases, social media advertising.

We are still in the early stages of the test, but so far it is generating some very promising results. (Note: If you’d like to discuss what we’ve seen so far, please reach out, and we’ll connect you with one of our Digital Marketing Strategists.)

COVID-19 Advertising Considerations

If you own a company and manage your own marketing and you’re thinking about pivoting your digital strategy in this direction, I’d encourage you to ask yourself a few key questions:

What am I trying to accomplish, and who is my target audience?

Before you initiate any advertising or marketing campaign, you need to be clear about what you are trying to accomplish. Are you trying to retain or generate repeat business from current and former customers? Are you searching for prospective new customers? Maybe you’re trying to accomplish both.

Whatever your goal is, define it clearly. Your goal determines your target audience. Display advertising offers a number of different ways to target specific audiences. For example, you can target audiences based on affinity—what they’re passionate about. You can target audiences based on detailed demographic information or whether they are in-market (have recently looked for whatever it is you sell).

One form of targeting that is extremely cost-effective is remarketing. This form of display ad targeting allows you to strategically position your ads in front of audiences who have previously visited your website (or mobile app) as they browse news sites within Google’s Display Network.

You can learn more about the benefits of remarketing by visiting the links below:

Do I have the right tracking protocols in place?

Before you run any advertising campaign or marketing program, you need to make sure you have clearly defined goals as well as the right tracking technologies in place to measure success. One of the advantages of digital marketing is that you can collect very specific details related to performance. For example, with one of our display advertising programs, we can tell you which ads and which ad placements produced the most and best website visits and leads, because we track everything all the way through a confirmed sale.

Do I have the right ad copy and creative (for the audience and the situation)?

Advertising works best when it is targeted and when the ad copy and creative match the context in which the ad is displayed. I don’t know about you, but I’m unlikely to be in a comedic mood when I’m reading an article about the rising U.S. death toll from COVID-19.

WSJ display ad not relevant to COVID-19

Contrast the ad above with the ad on the page below:

WSJ display ads relevant to COVID-19

Do you see the difference?

One ad is tone-deaf to our current reality. The other ad is much better aligned—it would be highly relevant to a business owner with employees working remotely due to COVID-19.

For maximum results, your ad’s messaging and creative should be customized to your target audience and to the context. Digital marketing’s targeting and reach are powerful, but with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can blast banner ads all over the web with the click of a button doesn’t mean you should!

Create multiple versions of your ads and match your creative to your target audiences and the contexts in which the ads will run. Never forget that during times of crisis, you need to look at each of your ads through a PR lens.

Have you created a logical customer journey or sales funnel?

There are many other questions you should be asking, but the final one I will throw your way relates to what happens after someone clicks your ad. The best advertising and marketing programs are built with a defined customer journey in mind.

We have a remodeling company client in the Midwest. When COVID-19 hit, they refocused their ads on the idea that we’re all at home dreaming and thinking vs. doing. They have multiple sets of display ads. One set encourages consumers to click the ad to download a “Look Book”—a collection of great remodeling ideas. Another set remind consumers that remodeling is a process that starts with ideas and design—ideation and design can happen now; the remodeling can happen later. Brainstorming and the design process can take place virtually and remotely. Now that’s good marketing.

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospect. What is on their mind and how are they feeling when they see your ad? What messaging and creative would lure their attention away from whatever they are reading and compel them to click your ad? When they click your ad, what do they see on the landing page? What value are you delivering? What action should they take? What happens after they complete the form on your website?

The best companies think very carefully about the customer journey. They recognize that every interaction between a prospect or customer and your business is a critical moment of truth. Great outcomes happen when these moments are carefully thought through, choreographed, and executed with excellence.

Closing Thoughts

Where there is attention, there is a marketing opportunity. Attention is to marketing what fish are to fishing. The first rule in fishing is “fish where the fish are.” The second rule in fishing is “don’t forget rule number one.” If you take nothing else from this article, make it this: Where there’s attention, there’s a marketing opportunity.

The emergence of COVID-19 as a global pandemic has resulted in all sorts of shifts in human behavior—from people working from home and social distancing to hoarding toilet paper and spending exorbitant amounts of time on news websites. At the same time, Google searches for keywords like electrician, plumber, remodeler, etc. have also gone down in many markets across the U.S. There’s an opportunity for some of you to shift your digital strategy and put your brand on display.

People across the U.S. are stuck at home. They are voraciously consuming digital content. At the same time, lots of advertisers have pulled out of the market. Combine these two things and you have a lot of advertising inventory with fewer buyers, which means lower prices.

With a crisis like COVID-19, smart business owners put their brand—and their heart—on display.


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